“He went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him.” Mt 5:1
Every year on the feast of all Saints we read about Jesus, the new Moses, who goes up the mountain to proclaim the fullness of the commandments. Something very new and very old is happening. While not abrogating the commandments as we know them, Jesus offers his followers a new way to fulfill them. Blessed are the poor, he commands, and those who mourn, who are meek and merciful, and are peacemakers. While it will always be important to honor the one God, to keep the Sabbath, to honor our parents, and not to covet another’s wife or goods, how we live these values becomes central to the Christian life. No longer can we honor only those from our tribe or the keepers of the covenant. Now we have to be alert to those whose lives have been heavy with sorrow and grief, but who continue to remember not to exalt themselves, and live simply for the sake of God's reign.
St. John says it clearly. We cannot say we love God and hate our neighbor. (1 John 4:20) Furthermore, everyone is our neighbor, including those who have hurt us or ignored God's law. And St. Luke will echo a parallel value. If we only invite our friends and family to banquets, we don’t fulfill the new law. We must also make room for the poor, the crippled, and the lame.
These new demands of Jesus are important. We know this because Jesus sits down on the mountain top. Rabbis, just like the Pope speaking from the chair of Peter, sat down when they wanted to speak authoritatively. Jesus' hearers would have known this, and although scholars suggest that the beatitudes are a compilation of Jesus’ sermons and were probably not spoken at one time, the gospel scribes put them together to emphasize their importance. More important, if these wonderful reminders of the Christian life are a compilation then we can be sure that Jesus spoke them at different times and we have only to pick one of the beatitudes today and live it well. While eventually, it might be important to live them all over the course of our lives, today we are honoring all those people, many of whom we knew, who lived one of them heroically each day. They are the saints of God whom we honor today.
Today is a good day to think about the simple gestures we might use to live the gospel. We might sit down when someone wants to speak with us, and even find a quiet, private place for the conversation. While our sitting down might not have the power of Jesus’ gesture, those who benefit from our willingness to stop and listen will appreciate our attentiveness. If we live the Gospel transparently, we can leave the rest to God.
Today, ask God to make you a saint and to live simply and openly the good news of Jesus Christ.