We have started our serious journey this year into the treasures of the gospel according to Matthew. This gospel is the first in the order of the gospels as we find in the bible, and also the first in the order of liturgical readings as we find in our ABC Sunday Lectionary. For the church, the gospel of Matthew is the gospel par excellence because of its content, style and above all, its message.

Today Matthew takes us to the mountain and there, to listen to Jesus. Matthew was writing in the year 80-90 AD to both Jews and Gentiles who converted to Christianity. To this mixed group of believers, what was Jesus’ message? The gospel gives us the teachings of Jesus in magnificent sermons, the first of which is the Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5:1-12a).

Jesus gives this teaching to his disciples as the lawgiver and teacher of the New Covenant. If the Old Covenant had Moses as the lawgiver, then Christians have a greater one, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is “God with us.”

The beatitudes, eight of them, stand next to the Ten Commandments in the heart of Christians as clear expressions of God’s will. The word beatitudes come from beatus or blessed, the word that Jesus used to start every utterance in this day’s gospel. 

Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those who  hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the clean of heart, the peacemakers, and those persecuted for righteousness. We can take each of these and preach on these in a retreat or extended 8-Sunday homily. But the most important thing to remember is that these are the ways Jesus offers us to find blessedness or happiness in our lives today and in our relationship with God.

These days, do we still believe in the proclamation of Matthew, that Jesus is the greatest Teacher for our lives? Do we take to heart the teachings of Jesus and live by them? It is sad that today many believe more the rhetoric or politicians than the words of the Lord. Many refuse to listen to the church’s proclamation but are willing to absorb the reasoning of those who teach people to kill, to destroy human life in the womb, to weaken families, and to sow division and fear among the people.

If indeed we believe the beatitudes, we must even more so, believe in the One who spoke them, the Son of God who is our only Teacher in life! Who do you really believe, Jesus who shows us the path of joy or mere mortals whose words attract us towards suffering and death?