The gospel reading for today’s liturgy comes from near the end of the long, two chapter section in Matthew’s gospel known to us as the “sermon on the mount.” As is clear from today’s selection, the “sermon” is probably not a sermon as we might understand the term. We would expect a sermon to have a beginning, middle and end focusing on one topic.
We can readily see from today’s reading that is not the intention of Matthew the gospel writer in this “sermon.” Rather, chapters 5 through 7, contain some key statements of Jesus given for those who would answer the call to discipleship, including the Beatitudes and the Our Father prayer. Yet the “sermon” itself is really a series of Jesus’ statements most likely said at various times during Jesus’ public life and covering a wide variety of topics.
Jesus tells us today that the Law and the Prophets (a shorthand for the entire Hebrew Bible) is contained in the well-known aphorism, “do to others whatever you would have them do to you.” Coupled with the earlier expression of the Beatitudes (in chapter 5) and Matthew’s expression of the Our Father (in chapter 6), here we are challenged and encouraged to live our lives effectively in relation to those around us.
How often have we heard this and similar expressions of the “golden rule” and in the very hearing of it been challenged to look into our actions to see if we live out the command properly? One way of understanding the “sermon on the mount” is to see it as Jesus’ way of inviting us to incorporate into our lives the way that Jesus wants us to live so that we can “enter through the narrow gate” (of heaven). Today’s gospel reading gets our attention as it reminds us that indeed the gate is narrow and “those that find it are few!”
Am I one of those “few?” I’m afraid that I will never know for certain the answer to this most pressing question. But I do have some control in the matter. That control comes from continually taking seriously the demands of treating others as I would wish to be treated.
Today’s gospel reading has with it the call (demand?) to look outside of myself towards others and the way that I am towards them, the way that I treat them. My prayer is that I can accept this call and live it out, knowing that hearing the call may be the beginning of opening myself to the work of Jesus in my heart and in my actions especially towards others.
I certainly find consolation in that thought because the focus is on Jesus the caller and not so much on me the responder. My prayer is that I continue to allow myself to be opened to the Spirit of Christ in my life – however that Spirit comes to me: through the beatitudes, the Our Father, or Jesus’ rendition of the Golden Rule (all segments of the so-called sermon on the mount).
Thank you, Lord Jesus, for your call to discipleship in our world today. Help each of us to respond with generosity to your ongoing call in our lives, a call to wholeness and holiness as we relate to one another and to You.
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