All Saints Day
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Sunday’s Gospel begins a series of excerpts from the Sermon on the Mount, the first of the five teaching blocks in the Gospel of Matthew. The Beatitudes, as given in this reading, are unfortunately, not situated in the context in which they were taught. Jesus had been ministering to the poor and distressed of Israel. In the midst of these people, he gives this teaching to his disciples (The painting by Annigoni illustrates this dramatically, see Visual Mediation). As we read the inspiring words of the Beatitudes, we need to be conscious that they were spoken in the midst of broken people, who did not feel very blessed, and they were spoken to new and insecure disciples, who did not feel very confident.
A good teacher, especially to adults, gives the class an idea of the goal which they hope to attain by the end of the course. At the very beginning of his teaching, Matthew has Jesus beautifully proclaim in the Beatitudes, the almost impossible ideal of the Christian Life.
The Beatitudes are written in a form of Hebrew poetry. Each Beatitude consists of two lines, in which the second line brings to its fulfilment the activity of the first line. It is important to remember this because we are likely to read the lines with our Western idea of cause and effect: if you act like this God will reward you with that. If we study the Beatitudes that way we end up in a mess for we see that what they promise often does not look like it is being fulfilled now.
Approaching the Beatitudes as poetry is a key to understanding them. Even if we ‘don’t read poetry’ we can remember that they are teaching greater truths than ordinary information: they are schooling our minds and hearts to look at the big picture. The background imagery comes from the Old Testament. It is in the person of Christ that they are truly embodied and, while they begin to express the blessing of the Christian life here and now, it is only in the fulfilment of salvation that they will be fully realised.