Bible Cross-References
by Jason

Poor in Spirit

Mark 2:17 – Jesus came to heal the sick, not the healthy.

Romans 3:10 – There is none good, no not one.

Luke 18:9-14 – The parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee.

Mourn

Isaiah 66:2 – God looks with favor on the contrite and humble.

2 Corinthians 7:10 – Godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation.

Psalm 30:5 – Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the mourning.

John 14:26 – The Holy Spirit is the comforter.

Meek

Matthew 11:29 – Jesus’ Example

Galatians 5:23 – Fruit of the Spirit

Ephesians 4:1-3 – Walk in humility and gentleness

Isaiah 66:2 – God looks with favor upon the meek.

Psalm 37:9-11 – Meek and wicked contrasted

Isaiah 11:4 – God will give a favorable decision in regards to the meek.

Proverbs 26:3-12 – Lists all the faults and results of being a fool. Then says that being prideful is worse.

Zephaniah 2:3 – What does this verse command us to do? What is the result? How does this relate with inheriting the earth? Firstly, we are to seek the Lord and seek humility. It is not just something that “happens” We need to search it out and pursue this quality. We also will be spared from God’s wrath and judgment.

2 Timothy 2:25 – We need to be meek to our opponents and those who disagree with us.

Titus 3:2 – This verse shows a major quality of meekness, to show “every consideration for all men.”

Psalms 37 – This portion of Scripture mentions inheriting the land or the earth five times. This Psalm of David contrasts the end of the wicked and the end of the righteous. The wicked will be cut off. They will perish. They will have no blessing or reward from God. They will vanish from the world. The righteous will be blessed. These will be rewarded and will be blessed eternally. They will inherit the earth and the land in it.

Righteousness

Psalms 107:5,9 – The hunger and thirst are spiritual from our soul, not physical.

Psalms 86:11-13 – What makes us long for righteousness? David longed for righteousness. It wasn’t that he longed for it first and then God gave it to Him. First God showed His mercy to David and then David longed to be righteous and faithful to God.

Romans 7:24 – Can you think of anyone in the Bible who longed for righteousness? Paul longed for righteousness. It was a constant battle that he waged in his mind. He also recognized that it came from God, not himself. So the key was putting himself to death. He desperately wanted to be righteous and he also realized that the final step of that process for us isn’t complete until we die and receive a new body (not the body of death).

The nature of the righteousness(God looks at all believers as being righteous because we are justified by faith. This is positional righteousness. We need to hunger for practical righteousness. Righteousness is conforming to God’s standards inside and out.)

Romans 10:3 – Do unbelievers long to be “good” or righteous? Are they all satisfied? What’s the difference between their longing and the longing of a true believer? Can anyone besides a child of God long for His righteousness? This verse sheds light on the kind of righteousness that is being referred to in Matthew. It is not the self-righteousness of the Pharisees that is gained from following certain rituals and outward rules. It is the righteousness of God that stems from having a right relationship with Him. As we come to know God more and more it naturally produces in us a strong desire to be holy as He is. True righteousness is not something that can be faked or that can come through our own sheer effort. It only comes from God.

Philippians 3:9 – This righteousness comes by faith, not by personal effort and its source is God, not us.

2 Peter 2:8 – Lot was called righteous because his soul was tormented by sin. Is yours?

Matthew 25:34-40 – What will true righteousness look like? It looks like this, showing compassion and kindness to others. Helping and encouraging people with no thought of return. Having the right motivation. Looking out for those who have less than we do.

1 Peter 1:15-16 – What is our standard for righteous behavior? God is the standard! And He has laid out that standard for us in His Word! Normally the question isn’t how to be righteous. We know how to. We just fall into temptation and don’t do it.

________________

Inductive Bible Study

Lector Prep

by Greg Warnusz
Lector's Notes

First Reading

Your proclamation should capture the awe which the visionary John is trying to convey. He’s telling us details of a scene we can’t hope to witness in this life. It’s not your grade school essay about your family’s summer vacation. Read the passage to yourself several times and try to imagine the scene in your own mind. My father once said that when they make a movie of the Book of Revelation, it should be a Cecil B. DeMille production. Well, there’s your assignment: All the grandeur of a Hollywood epic, conveyed with your voice alone.

Second Reading

The sentence structure is such that a slow, slow proclamation is in order. Let your voice express the connection between “us” and “him” [Jesus], as the two whom “the world” cannot recognize. And contrast the “now” with what “shall be”. Without help from your preacher, your congregation won’t know that background, won’t choose a side in the conflict. But by your tone of voice you can make them wonder “what we shall become” that has not yet been revealed. You can make them suspect there’s something to be proud of in the fact that the world doesn’t understand us. You can make them want to be pure (although purity here is less about sexual morality than about a right understanding of Jesus as the Christ, and loving relationships with our sisters and brothers in Christ).

Visit LectorPrep.org to read about the historical situation, and a theological reflection for each reading.
Intro to Readings

First Reading

For persecuted early Christians, in language crafted to conceal its meaning from the persecutors, we hear a confident prediction of God’s triumph.

Second Reading

For communities struggling with doctrinal disputes and membership issues, a Christian sage offers some consoling advice at the highest level.

Gospel

Like a new Moses, Jesus ascends a mount in order to deliver a new law. It will contrast significantly with the old.

Fr. Fleming
Fr. Hawkswell
Fr. Hoisington
Fr. Kavanaugh, SJ
Fr. Ligato
Msgr. Pellegrino
Fr. Smiga
Fr. John Thornhill, sm
Jamie Waters
and more


Fr. Tony’s Homilies

Overview
1st & 2nd Reading
Gospel Exegesis
Life Messages
Homily Illustrations
Jokes of the Week


Faith Sharing
Discussion
Bible Study

Over 50 questions each week from which to pick and choose.

Larry Broding
Fr. Eamon Tobin
Fr. Clement Thibodeau
Vince Contreras

INTROFIRSTPSALMSECONDGOSPELCHURCH FATHERS
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First Reading

commentary

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. — Rev 7:9

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Responsorial Psalm

Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD? — Psalm 24:3

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Second Reading

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. — 1 John 3:2

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Gospel

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" — Matthew 5:1-3

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commentary

After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands. — Rev 7:9

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First Reading

Revelation 7:2-4, 9-14

Reflections

Fr. Thibodeau and Sr. McGlone’s Reflections will return next Sunday.
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Hope during persecution

FIRST READING—The Book of Revelation was written to give hope to the early Christians who were experiencing terrible persecution under the Emperor Domitian (81-96 AD). Today’s reading contains excerpts from two visions portraying in vivid imagery the salvation of the just.

In the first vision, John has a glimpse of the last terrible days when a final assault on the earth is brought on by every evil power. But before this terror and devastation happens, the faithful will be marked with the seal of God to protect them and bring them home safely to heaven.

The figure 144,000 is symbolic and by no meansimplies that only 144,000 persons will be saved.

The second vision takes place in heaven. It begins by mentioning “agreat multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and tongue.” (This speaks to the universality of God’s people.) These people standing now before the throne of God are martyrs and those who have remained faithful to God during a time of great persecution and trial. Their salvation comes from God who enabled them to remain faithful during a time of great trial. This vision is intended to give hope to all those currently going through a time of great trial and persecution. It is as if John is saying: “You remain faithful and you too will stand before the Lamb on the throne of God.”

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.

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Videos

The Word Exposed - 1st Reading (Cardinal Tagle)
SOURCE: JesComTV

Commentaries

Life Recovery Bible

Saved by God’s grace

This vast multitude from all races and nations is the harvest Christ envisioned from his great commission (see Matthew 28:19). They are truly thankful and worshipful toward God, greatly appreciating the salvation and recovery he has promised. The white garments they wear speak not only of the purity of their lifestyle but also of their redemption through the blood of Christ.

By entering recovery, admitting our sins and failures, accepting God’s forgiveness through Jesus Christ, and obeying God we can join this joyful throng of people who have been saved by God’s wonderful grace.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
New Collegeville Bible Commentary

The great multitude

The process of marking the servants of God with a seal (Rev 7: 2-3) is for their protection. In the Greco-Roman world, people branded slaves on the forehead to indicate ownership. Likewise, in Ezekiel 9: 1-3 the Lord tells Ezekiel to put a mark on the forehead of the people who grieve over the terrible things that were happening in Jerusalem. Thus the sealing of the servants of God sets them apart as belonging to God and, therefore, under God’s protection. The number sealed—144,000, or 12,000 from each tribe—should be understood symbolically: perfection or fullness (12) multiplied by fullness (12), multiplied again by a number too great to count (1,000). In other words, John is not witnessing the sealing of a relatively small gathering of the elect, but an unbelievably massive crowd of people, a sea of humanity!

A great multitude standing before the throne of God and the Lamb (7:9): The crowd that John sees is most likely the 144,000 who were sealed in the preceding scene (see Rev 7:1-8). They are wearing robes of victory and crying out in praise and thanksgiving for the source of their salvation, namely, God and the Lamb (Rev 7:9-10).

Their palm branches are symbols of victory in war (cf. 1 Macc 13:51;2 Macc 10:7) but are also reminiscent of the feast of Tabernacles, when Jews gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate the harvest festival and build booths or tents in remembrance of God’s loving care during the Exodus. This feast also anticipates the messianic age, when God’s kingdom will be fully manifest and everyone will come to Jerusalem to worship God, and the whole city will be as holy as the temple (see Zech 14: 16-21).

SOURCE: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken, Liturgical Press (2017),
God's Justice Bible

A multicolored kingdom

The cultural diversity in this worship scene is remarkable: every tribe and people and language is present. Integral to God’s justice project is racial reconciliation. Indeed God’s kingdom is a multicolored kingdom!

SOURCE:  God’s Justice – The Holy Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil. Biblica., Zondervan. (2016).
Africa Bible Commentary

The angel coming up from the east

As is typical of apocalyptic literature, this vision takes us back to answer the question, What is the fate of believers during the terrible happenings described in chapter 6? The answer to the question is revealed in the vision of another angel coming up from the east (Rev 7:2). The east is where the day dawns and light is first seen, and thus it often symbolizes a source of blessing. The Garden of Eden was located in the east (Gen 2:8), it was from this direction that the glory came to the temple (Ezek 43:2) and the wise men who came with the news that the Christ was born came from the east (Matt 2:1-2).

The seal of the living God

The angel has the seal of the living God. A seal was basically a mark of ownership (Eph 1:13-14). Here it marks those sealed as God’s and thus preserves them from the destruction that will fall on the world (6:1-8; Exod 12:23; Ezek 9:1-6). God’s own bear his mark elsewhere in this book (Rev 9:4; 14:1; 22:4). This angel shouts to the other four and commands them not to hurt earth, sea or trees until God’s servants are sealed on their foreheads (Rev 7:3). Even when facing persecution and martyrdom, believers can be certain that no plague or persecution can destroy them spiritually but that they will live in God’s presence for ever because they are his own possession (Rev 3: 10; Rom 8:35-39). The seal on God’s servants can be contrasted with the mark of the beast, which identifies those who bear it as beast worshippers and thus objects of God’s irreversible wrath (Rev 13:16-17; 14:9-11). By contrast, those who have the seal of God are his servants, who worship him with utter devotion and are the objects of his abiding grace. They will not be deluded by the beast (19:20).

SOURCE:  Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).
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The Saints in Heaven

In the Book of Revelation, St. John witnessed the never-ending banquet of God’s united family. Our earthly communion table is a foretaste of the heavenly banquet that awaits us if we persevere in faithful obedience (see CCC# 946-62; 1331). It is at the moment of the words of consecration, when Heaven and earth unite, that the “cloud of witnesses” of saints in Heaven (Heb 12:1) participates with us in liturgical worship and in anticipation of our joining them in glory.

Exploring the Text

Two groups of God's messengers/angles

The word “messenger” in Greek is angelos (in English, “angel” and in Hebrew malak).  According to Jewish tradition, there are two groups of God’s messengers/angles. Verses 1-3 represent both groups:

  1. The angels who are God’s agents for controlling the forces of nature (verse 1).
  2. The angels who stand in the Presence of God charged with conferring sanctification (verses 2-3).

When the angel Gabriel revealed himself to the priest Zechariah, he told the elderly priest, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God” (NAB); the New Jerusalem version has: I am Gabriel who, stand in God’s presence” (Lk 1:19; the word “stand” is in the singular), identifying himself as the second class of angelic being.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
The angel from the east

In verses 1-2, St. John has a vision of four messengers/angels charged with bringing judgment but restrained by another angel coming from the East.  It is the direction from which God’s actions in human history traditionally come (Is 41:1-4, 25; 46:11; Ez 43:1-3).  It is also the direction in which the desert Tabernacle and later the Jerusalem Temple faced (Ex 27:13; Num 3:38).  This powerful “messenger” comes from the east where the sun rises, and the “day” begins, perhaps signaling a “new day” or a “new age.”  He either comes, as some scholars suggest, as the representative of Christ or, as others suggest, as Christ Himself.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; Commentary used with permission.
The seal of the Spirit

The angel/messenger carries the seal of the living God (verse 3); in other words, He possesses the Holy Spirit without limit.  It is the same “seal of the Spirit” we receive in Christian Baptism.  In John 6:27, Jesus declared that He bore the mark of His Father’s seal;  also see Christians marked with a seal in 2 Corinthians 1:22 and the Church’s Catechism teaching in CCC 698, 1121, and 1295-96.

Historically and Biblically a seal was:

  1. A symbol of a person:  Persons of importance had personal seals either carved into a ring, or a small object or device and worn with a chain around their necks.  To show ownership or authority, their personal emblem could be impressed into wax on a document; such as when issuing an official command or a betrothal contract or a deed of sale.
  2. Roman soldiers received a mark or brand with their unit’s seal or the seal of the Emperor.
  3. Owners marked slaves with their seals in the form of a brand or tattoo.
  4. Trade guild members were sometimes sealed (tattooed) with a mark indicating their membership.
  5. A seal also authenticated a juridical act or document (like a will) and occasionally made it secret (see 1 Kng 21:8; Is 29:11; Jer 32:10).
  6. God’s holy prophets were marked or sealed by God (1 Kng 20:41; Is 44:5; Zec 13:6).
  7. Under the Old Covenants with Abraham and the Sinai Covenant, circumcision was a seal identifying membership in the covenant (Gen 17:9-12; Lev 12:3).
  8. In the New Covenant in Christ, the Christian receives an indelible mark or seal of the Lord by the power of the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders (CCC 1121; 1272-74, 1280).  This Dominicus character is necessary “for the day of redemption” (CCC 1274; Eph 4:30; 2 Cor 1:21-22).
Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; Commentary used with permission.
Passage compared to Ezekiel Chapters 7-9

This passage in Revelation verses 1-3 has the same imagery and message as Ezekiel Chapters 7-9 in which God gives Ezekiel a vision of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC, but not before those who are righteous have been marked with a taw (Ez 9:4).  The Hebrew letter taw (also spelled tav) is the last letter in the Hebrew alphabet, and it is in the form of a cruciform in ancient Hebrew.  The early Church Father, Tertullian, (writing between AD 197-220) believed that God gave Ezekiel “the very form of the cross, which He predicted would be the sign on our foreheads in the true Catholic Jerusalem” (Tertullian, Against Marcion, iii.22, The Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol III, pp. 340ff).

As mentioned earlier, in the ancient world, to mark anything with the “seal” of a person indicated ownership, or power, or authority, or a guarantee of protection.  In this case, all three cases apply.  As in the case of Ezekiel’s vision in Ez 9:4, which parallels John’s vision, the godly are marked as God’s possessions for protection by His authority and for the same purpose as in the Book of Ezekiel, in order for God’s judgment to be carried out against the apostates in Jerusalem to be destroyed.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Seal of God on the foreheads

The Seal of God on the foreheads (verse 3) also has special significance.  A mark on the forehead is a symbol of man restored to fellowship with God or a symbol of God’s protection.  One example of this was the High Priest in the Old Covenant who wore on his forehead a band with gold letters proclaiming that he was “holy,” meaning “sanctified” or “consecrated,” to Yahweh (Ex 28:36).  Then too, in Deuteronomy 6:6-8, God sealed all His people on the forehead and the hand with the law of God as they were commanded to wear the first profession of faith, called the Shema, in little boxes attached to their foreheads and warped with leather straps on their right hands.  These are called teffelim in Hebrew (or phylacteries in Greek) and are still worn by Orthodox Jews today.  The literal act of wearing the word of God on their foreheads and arms (commanded in Dt 6:8 and Dt 11:18) symbolized a life characterized by faithful obedience in thought and action to every word of God.  A third example would be the mark that God placed on the forehead of Cain in Genesis 4:15, So the LORD [Yahweh] put a mark on Cain, lest anyone should kill at sight.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Raised to new life in the New Covenant

Those of us raised to new life in the New Covenant, through our holy Baptism in the life of Jesus Christ, receive the seal of the Holy Spirit which forever marks us as believers and as the covenant-keeping bond-servants of our God. They are those sanctified and preserved from God’s wrath in the destruction of the ungodly enemies of God’s divine plan for humanity.   In our passage in Revelation, the sealing of the godly was not to save them from tribulation; just as in Ezekiel’s time those who were sealed still faced the exile to Babylon.  God’s messenger sealed the godly to preserve the true Israel of God as a holy seed and saved from the Old Israel to become the “first fruits” of a new Israel (see Rev 14:4) invited into the New Covenant promised by the prophet Jeremiah and Jesus at the Last Supper (Jer 31:31; Lk 22:20).  Even though the old Israel will perish, the New and holy Israel, the catholic= universal Church, is chosen and sealed with the Spirit of the living God.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
One hundred and forty-four thousand

Verse 4 tells us that the 144,000 to be sealed are 12,000 from each of the 12 tribes of Israel.  The number 144,000 is a symbolic number derived from 12 x 12 x 1000.  In the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture, 12 is the number of governmental perfection while 10, and its multiples, is a symbolic representation for the perfection of divine order.  The symbolic number 144,000 makes use of the perfect number 12 = divine perfection in (governmental) order.  12 is also the number of Israel, descended by the 12 physical fathers of Jacob/Israel.  The number of Israel is squared, then multiplied by 1,000 (the number 10 and its multiples reflect divine perfection in cardinal order).  Multiples of 10 always symbolize abundance in perfection of divine order (see Dt 1:11; 7:9; Ps 50:10; 68:17; 84:10; 90:4).  This symbolic number represents the ideal Israel.  It is Israel as it was meant to be in all its perfection and completeness as the holy army of God when each of the 12 tribes is able to field 12 full divisions in a numerically perfect divine army of holy soldiers for Yahweh!  The unit of a thousand was the basic military division of the camp of Israel (see Num 10:2-4, 35-36; 31:1-5, 48-54; 2 Sam 18:1; 1 Chr 12:20; 13:1; 15:25; 26:26; 27:1; 28:1; 29:6; 2 Chr 1:2; 17:14-19; Ps 68:17.  For more information on the symbolic use of numbers in Scripture, see The Significance of Numbers in Scripture.

It is unclear who the 144,000 represent.  Scripture tells us that they are collected from the 12 tribes of Israel, and God has specifically marked them as His.  There are various interpretations:

  1. Some commentators believe they are those who are the new Israel; those (Jews and Gentiles) baptized into the New Covenant which Paul speaks about in Galatians 6:15-16: It is not being circumcised or uncircumcised that matters; but what matters is a new creation.  Peace and mercy to all who follow this as their rule and to the Israel of God (also Gal 3:6-9, 29; 4:21-31; Rom 9:6-8).
  2. Other commentators interpret them as being Christians of Jewish background or those Jews who will become Christians; the holy remnant of old Israel who became the new Israel (Is 4:2-4; Ez Chapter 9; CCC 877).  The ones who inaugurated the new Israel are the descendants of Jacob who accepted Jesus as their Messiah, received His baptism, and spread His Gospel of salvation according to His command to the ends of the earth by bringing Gentiles into the New Covenant Kingdom throughout human history.  The Gentiles who become Christians appear in the next vision, and that is why most Biblical scholars think the second interpretation is more likely correct.

It is likely that these are the ones that Paul calls the “first-fruits” of the restoration in Romans 11:25-32; the Jews who accepted Jesus as the Messiah.  In John’s next vision the 144,000 are part of the great multitude “from every nation, race, people, and tongue.”  They are Jewish and Gentile Christians united in the one family of God.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Literary device of HEARING and SEEING

St. John uses the literary device of “hearing” then “seeing” (also used in Rev 1:10-13; 5:5-6; 6:1-8; in Is 6:9-10 and repeatedly in St. Mark’s Gospel).  In verse 4, John wrote:  4 I heard the number of those who had been marked with the seal, then After this, after hearing the number of the redeemed, I had a vision of a great multitude in verse 9. St. John heard the “things that are,” and now he sees “the things that are to come.”

In another sense, John has heard the people of God, and all of them are sealed and numbered; none of the elect is missing or unaccounted for, and the Church is perfectly symmetrical and whole.  But now, from another standpoint, the Church is innumerable, a great multitude which no one could count (verse 9).  From one perspective the Church is the New, True Israel of God: the lost sons of Jacob (Israel) gathered into Christ.  From another perspective, equally true, the Church is the whole world: a great uncountable multitude redeemed from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  Initially, John’s vision can only refer to a part of the whole: to those Jews who by accepting Christ as Messiah make up the original nucleus of the Universal Church.  But now in verses 9-12, he sees the whole Church without any differences or distinctions.  It is the fulfillment of the prophecy to Abraham in Genesis 15:5 that those who inherit the blessing of Abraham are as numberless as the stars of the heavens, and in Genesis 22:17-18 that the whole world will be blessed when the Church becomes the whole world!  The salvation of Israel alone was never God’s intention.  He sent His Son to save the world (Jn 3:16-17)!  It is what God the Father said to His Servant in planning the Covenant of Redemption in Isaiah 49:6, It is too little, he says, for you to be my servant, to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and restore the survivors of Israel; I will make you a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.

That the 144,000 receive God’s seal in the vision is not to suggest that the multitude wasn’t sealed previously.  That is why most scholars believe that the second vision looks forward in time.  In the earlier passage, it seems to be imperative that the faithful remnant is sealed because they are in imminent danger from the wrath this is shortly to come, just as the faithful remnant in the Ezekiel passage were in danger and must be sealed.  It helps to remember that St. John’s vision takes place in the heavenly Sanctuary, and in heaven, there is no passage of time; time is only for earthly living (Rev 4:1-3).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
Throne of God before the Lamb in worship

9 After this I had a vision of a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation, race, people, and tongue.  They stood before the throne and before the Lamb, wearing white robes and holding palm branches in their hands.  10 They cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation comes from our God, who is seated on the throne, and from the Lamb.”

In verses 9-10, the multitude of saints is standing before the throne of God and before the Lamb in worship.  They wear white robes symbolizing righteousness, and they carry palm branches.  Palm branches are a symbol of the restoration of God’s people to Paradise.  It was during the Feast of Tabernacles (the seventh of the seven annual Holy Days under the Old Sinai Covenant) that fell in the seventh month, that the people waved palm branches, built shelters out of palm branches, and they celebrated the building of the Tabernacle and the establishment of their divine liturgy.  It is probably not a coincidence that the word “tabernacle” occurs in this passage in verse 15.  It is also worth mentioning that four of the Holy Feasts of the Old Covenant are each fulfilled in the first Advent of Christ.  See the chart on the Seven Sacred Annual Feasts of the Old Covenant.  The palm branches also remind us of Palm Sunday (Passion Sunday) when the people waved palm branches as Jesus rode into the city of Jerusalem and shouted “Hosanna!” (Jn 12:13; Ps 118:25), fulfilling the prophecies of the prophets, especially Psalm 118:24-25 and Zechariah 9:9.  In Revelation 7:9-10, the multitude join in the heavenly liturgy with shouts of “Hosanna!” that means in Hebrew and Aramaic “Salvation” or “Save Us!” The crowd was repeating the cry for the Davidic Messiah from Psalm 118:25, and in St. John’s vision the saints take up the same acclamation.

11 All the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures.  12 They prostrated themselves before the throne, worshiped God, and exclaimed: “Amen.  Blessing and glory, wisdom and thanksgiving, honor, power, and might be to our God forever and ever.  Amen.” 

The New Jerusalem Version has the better and more literal translation of verse 12b from the Greek text: Amen.  Praise and glory and wisdom, thanksgiving and honor and power and strength to our God forever and ever.  Amen.

The proper position before Christ is on our knees.  Platitudes like: “it doesn’t matter if I kneel at the consecration or not,” or “after all it is what is in my heart that counts” are statements without meaning.  Our actions that display the intentions of our hearts!  In verse 12 the saints and angels are kneeling, and the saints and angels pronounce seven themes to God’s perfection (seven is one of the “perfect” numbers in the symbolic meaning of numbers in Scripture):  1) praise, 2) glory, 3) wisdom, 4) thanksgiving, 5) honor, 6) power, and 7) strength.

13 Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?”  I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.”  He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

One of the elders in the heavenly Sanctuary asks a question to get John to look for an answer.  When John confesses that he doesn’t know the answer, the elder explains that these are the ones who have endured the Great Tribulation, which is the “time of great distress.”  The great trial or tribulation is what Jesus warned his disciples about as He spoke to them on the Mt. of Olives in Matthew 24:20-21 and said: “Pray that you will not have to make your escape in winter or on a Sabbath.  For then there will be great distress, unparalleled since the world began, and such as will never be again” (also see Mk 13:19).   This is the Great Tribulation that Jesus stated would take place during their generation in Matthew 24:34 when He said: “In truth I tell you, before this generation has passed away, all these things will have taken place” (also see Mk 13:30 & Lk 21:32), but it also looks forward the tribulation of all Christian martyrs down through the Ages.

“…they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”

What is the difference between the way the world sees Christians who are poor and persecuted and the way God sees those persecuted for His sake?  God sees them as conquerors that have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  In their suffering, they have become united with Christ through His blood, and they are standing before God’s throne clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  This washing in blood to be made white is an ironic contrast.  It is the promise of the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:10: Blessed are those who are persecuted in the cause of uprightness: the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

The scene of the vast multitude of saints has comforted believers down through the centuries.  St. Pope John Paul II commented on this passage in Revelation 7:2-14: “The people dressed in white robes whom John sees with his prophetic eye are the redeemed, and they form a ‘great multitude’, which no one could count, and which is made up of people of the most varied backgrounds.  The blood of the Lamb, offered in sacrifice for all, has exercised its universal and most effective redemptive power in every corner of the earth, extending grace and salvation to that ‘great multitude.’ After undergoing the trials and being purified in the blood of Christ, they, the redeemed, are now safe in the Kingdom of God, whom they praise and bless forever and ever” (Homily, 1 November 1981).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Detail of one of the"The Communion of Saints" tapestries in the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles. (Photo/Victor Alemán) Related: Weaving the divine: Artist John Nava tells stories of faith in L.A. cathedral tapestries
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Who can ascend the mountain of the LORD? — Psalm 24:3

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Responsorial Psalm

Psalm 24:1bc-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

Reflections

Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Lord, this is the people that longs to see your face

RESPONSORIAL PSALM—The psalm has strong liturgical features, probably in celebration of the Ark’s coming to Jerusalem and God’s enthronement in the temple.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.

Commentary

Life Recovery Bible

God desires to support us

Some of us may feel that there is no power great enough to deliver us from the terrible circumstances we have fallen into. In these verses, however, we see a God who has enough power to create and control the entire universe.

We know from his Word that God desires to support us in the process of recovery from sin and its terrible consequences. God is more than able to help us overcome our dependency and lead us to freedom. We must bring our failures to him and ask him to help us deal with our defects of character.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
New Collegeville Bible Commentary

Criteria for access to the temple

The second part of the psalm is remarkably similar to Psalm 15. It opens with a question concerning the requirement for access to the place of worship.

  • Who may go up to the mountain of the LORD?
  • Who can stand in his holy place?

Here too Israel’s stringent purity code (cf. Lev 17–26) is set aside in favor of personal moral integrity. Proper social behavior and exclusive devotion to the God of Israel summarize the requirements for admission to the place of worship. This behavior and devotion also summarize the requirements for obedience to the law.

SOURCE: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken, Liturgical Press (2017).
God's Justice Bible

Whose Earth?

The earth and everything in it belong to the Lord. This fact is the foundation for all Christian ecological justice. We must answer to him for how we treat his possessions.

SOURCE: God’s Justice – The Holy Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil. Biblica., Zondervan. (2016).
Africa Bible Commentary

Acceptable worshippers

The worshippers who are coming to the temple on Mount Zion recognize the Lord’s sovereignty over all of creation, including their own lives. Now they want to know the requirements he has set for approaching the part of the earth that is particularly his, his holy place or palace. Recognition of the Lord as the creator should lead us to worship him in the way he has prescribed…

Acceptable worshippers must have clean hands, that is, they must be innocent and avoid harming others. Their thoughts must also be innocent, as shown by the requirement of a pure heart (24: 4a). A pure heart is one that is in a faithful relation to the Lord. This condition for access to the presence of the Lord was also emphasized by Jesus: ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God’ (Matt 5: 8).

This message is not often heard in African Christianity. Churches are full, the number of new Christians is increasing, but there is little change in society. There is a divorce between the joy of the worship on Sunday and people’s way of life during the week. The Israelites’ purpose in coming to the sanctuary was to receive blessing from God. But only those who meet the conditions of entrance will be blessed (24: 5-6). Mere presence in the sanctuary does not bring blessings. On the contrary, blessings come through our obedience to the word of God in our daily life, in our family, workplace and school. It is also worth noting that this blessing comes from God, not from any man or woman.

The African continent is full of people who proclaim themselves to be distributors of blessings, although no sign of blessing is perceived in their own lives. Such people are exploiting the flock and extorting money from them.

SOURCE:  Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).
Sunday Readingscommentary and homily help

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The Redeemed will see God’s Face

In the liturgy of worship in the Jerusalem Temple, this Psalm was sung on every first day of the week (our Sunday) in the Temple’s twice-daily liturgical worship services.  It is an encounter between the Lord, the King of Glory, and the righteous believer who has come to worship God in His holy place.  The poem, attributed to David of Bethlehem, the ancestor of Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 1:1), begins by proclaiming who the Lord is: He is the creator of the earth (verses 1-2).  The psalm then enumerates the conditions in which people can approach the Lord in His Temple: they are those who are sinless and whose hearts are clean (in a state of grace).  They are obedient to God and are not deceitful in their dealings with their neighbors; these can enter into God’s presence and receive His blessing (verses 3-5).

Exploring the Text

The Fathers of the Church

The Fathers of the Church saw this psalm as applied to the Christian’s soul as God’s Temple of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus (St. Ambrose, Expositio psalmi, 118.14; also see 1 Cor 3:10-17).  God is ready to enter the Temple of the Christian’s soul in the Sacrament of Baptism.  It is the Christian’s prayer that he/she will be prepared to open the gates of his/her soul in faith so Christ, the King of Glory, will enter in, carrying with Him the triumph of His Passion.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Source: Pope John Paul II rests during his vacation in the Italian Alps, in this picture released by the Vatican on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2000. CREDIT: Arturo Mari, The Associated Press Related: 23 Epic Photos of St. John Paul II Hiking in the Alps - Pope St. John Paul II was not only a pastor and great theologian, but also an athlete who loved the great outdoors! Below are some photos of him vacationing and hiking in the alps.
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Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed. We do know that when it is revealed we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. — 1 John 3:2

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Second Reading

1 John 3:1-3

Reflections

Fr. Thibodeau and Sr. McGlone’s Reflections will return next Sunday.
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

The mystery of God’s love

SECOND READING—John probes the mystery of God’s love revealed in and through Jesus Christ: “Beloved, see what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God.” It is amazing to realize that we are God’s children: “Yet so we are.” Our challenge is to become who we are through Baptism.

©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Used with permission.

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Videos

The Word Exposed - 2nd Reading (Cardinal Tagle)
SOURCE: JesComTV

Commentaries

Life Recovery Bible

God made us his children

Many of us struggle with shame. John tells us that as we live in Christ, trusting him for forgiveness and walking with him consistently, we will have no reason to be ashamed when Christ returns. We can rest assured that we are loved and acceptable because God himself has made us his children.

As his children, we long to be with him and to be like him. The ultimate step in recovery is for this longing to be fulfilled. In the meantime, the knowledge that Jesus is coming again provides powerful motivation to live a godly life and to know God better through prayer and meditation on his Word.

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
New Collegeville Bible Commentary

Transformation of God’s children now

The author of 1 John encourages the “children” (1 John 2:28) of the community to stand fast, for those who are righteous are begotten by God. The fact that they are children of God is proof of the Father’s great love for them (1 John 3:1). There is a tradition of adoption by God as sons and daughters (Gal 4: 15; Rom 8: 15), but the Johannine tradition posits an actual transformation as God’s children now, but it will be complete only at the time of Jesus’ return. The hope is that when what we are to become is revealed, we shall see God as he is; since he is pure, we must be pure (1 John 3:3:2-3).

SOURCE: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken, Liturgical Press (2017).
Africa Bible Commentary

What it means to be a child of God

John starts by stressing our great expectation that we shall be like him (1 John 3:2). We may not fully know what this will involve, but it is clearly a glorious state, well worth being excited about! This hope is our motivation for keeping ourselves in continual readiness. Followers of Christ also seek to be pure. As John says, Everyone who has this hope purifies himself just as he is pure (1 John 3:3) But what does it mean to be pure? In answer, John discusses four overlapping qualities that characterize a child of God.

  • Not being known by the world…
  • Doing what is right…
  • Loving one’s brother…
  • Not keeping on sinning
SOURCE: Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).
Sunday Readingscommentary

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We shall see God

St. John began his letter to the universal Church by pointing his readers to Jesus who changed everything by physically coming into the world (1 Jn 1:1-2).  In this part of his letter, he looks forward to when he and other Christians will see God even more clearly and be with Him more intimately than when they saw Him in Jesus.

St. John reminds us that the greatest sign of God’s love is the gift of His Son (Jn 3:16).  It is through our rebirth in water and the Spirit through the Sacrament of Baptism that Jesus has made Christians true children of God (1 Jn 3:1).  This special relationship is a present reality and is also part of the promised life that is to come in our future.  It is because of our transformed life in Christ that we have the hope of one day seeing God face to face (1 Jn 3:2).  In verse 3, St. John describes the belief in Christ’s return as so strong that, even in our waiting, we become pure as Jesus is pure.  God purifies us through our participation in the Sacraments that Christ gave us to keep us free from sin as we make our faith journey to union with the Most Holy Trinity in the heavenly Sanctuary where we shall “see him as he is.”  It is the promise Jesus made to us in the Beatitudes when He taught: 8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.

PHOTO CREDIT (TOP OF PAGE): Image of the beatific vision by Gustave Dore, from Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy.
SOURCE: Artist Exploration: Gustave DoréTo by Callum Thomas — Circle upon circle, like an extended telescope, the viewer can stare into the concentrated centre of the beatifica. His depiction of this moment from the Paradiso is also one of Dore’s most popular which is not surprising when considered the pull that this engraving has on a viewer.
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When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. He began to teach them, saying: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" — Matthew 5:1-3

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Gospel Reading

Mathew 5:1-12A

Reflections

Fr. Thibodeau’s Reflection will return next Sunday.
Fr. Eamon Tobin's Reflection

Qualities exemplified in the saints

GOSPEL—The Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5-7) is considered the heart of Jesus’ teaching. The Beatitudes (today’s Gospel) are considered to be the heart of the Sermon on the Mount. They list the qualities Christ wishes to see in his followers, qualities exemplified in the lives of the saints. Reflecting on the Beatitudes, Fr. Flor McCarthy writes.

The beatitudes are the badges of a disciple of Jesus. The things they stand for are very beautiful – things such as peace, goodness, joy, love, gentleness, compassion, mercy, integrity….A person who lives according to the beatitudes is already living in the kingdom of heaven. Eternal life will merely be the full blossoming of a plant that is green with life.

Used with permission granted by Dominican Publications, http://www.dominicanpublications.com. New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies, by Flor McCarthy.)
©2020 Fr. Eamon Tobin. Commentary used with permission.

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Sr. Mary McGlone's Reflection

The Beatitudes

GOSPEL—In the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels in Los Angeles, one can contemplate 25 tapestries that depict 135 wonderfully diverse saints. These holy people, Black, white, brown, male, female, young and old, appear in all their beautiful humanity, representing every era of our Christian history and myriad ministries and professions. Silently, they accompany the living who pray in the cathedral. Their diversity reminds us that we’re all called to sainthood.

The author of Revelation described God’s blessed people as 144,000 elects from Israel plus “a great multitude, which no one could count,” from the other nations. Although 144,000 sounds like a lot, the number is puny in comparison to what it symbolizes.

Twelve, the number of tribes of Israel, represents the entire Jewish people. The author squared that number and then multiplied it by 1,000. This total is but a conservative estimate of what God promised Abraham by saying that his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.

That number was then exceeded by the uncountable people from every other land and nation and tongue.

These people are wearing the white robes of victory, the sign that they have come through persecution as sharers in the blood of the lamb. Following Christ, they have been saved through although not from persecution. They are the people John calls the children of God, the ones whom Jesus describes as the blessed.

In what we call the Beatitudes, Jesus describes his followers’ blessed way of life in eight ways. One approach to understanding this teaching is to consider it as a threefold insight into a disciple’s interior dispositions; the way those dispositions are expressed in dealings with others; and the results for which Jesus’ disciples can hope.

The last of the beatitudes, articulated in two different ways, reminds Christians that Jesus is their model and that the more they imitate him, the more they can expect to share his sorrows, his sufferings and his joy.

Speaking about the attitudes that mark disciples, we hear Jesus call them to be poor in spirit, meek and pure of heart. These attitudes characterize a person who trusts in God for everything.

Jesus’ word “poor” depicts genuine beggars. The poor in spirit are people who delight in the realization that everything they have and are is a free gift from God. Those who cultivate that attitude sound like Jesus’ mother, who sang, “The Lord has done great things for me.”

Such an attitude is incompatible with pretension or lording it over others. It culminates in gratitude. The gratitude of the meek and poor in spirit leads inevitably to a purity of heart like that of Mary, who defined herself solely as “the handmaid of the Lord,” a person who decided that the entire purpose of her life was to respond to God’s great love.

Obviously, the attitudes Jesus described spring from a deep, loving relationship with God. Handmaids and servants of God are people who have opened themselves to feel with God’s heart. They hunger and thirst for justice because they long for the world to be as God created it to be: a milieu in which everyone and everything flourishes, in which the gifts of each enhance the life of all.

God’s handmaids and servants mourn over the chasm that separates what is from what ought to be. The poor in spirit are impelled to express mercy because they know that when they received mercy, it made them whole, brought them closer to others and made the world a better place.

The meek and merciful who hunger for justice are uniquely equipped to be peacemakers. Because they naturally seek to understand others’ deepest desires, their empathy breeds trust, and thus they can open others’ hearts to seek the good of the whole.

Jesus calls these people the blessed because they have caught onto his understanding of life. Learning from him, leaning on grace, each in their own unique way, they fulfill their potential as genuine human beings.

What we can note about them — whether they be the saints depicted on the tapestries or the ones who inhabit the streets where we live — is that they come in every shape, size, color and age. They are set apart, not by their intelligence, talent, education, work, mother tongue or culture, but by the fact that, like Jesus and Mary, they have accepted their life as a vocation to holiness, an opportunity to receive and spread God’s limitless love.

From Nov. 1 to Nov. 7, we are celebrating National Vocation Awareness Week, a reminder that each of us has a unique path to sainthood. Some few are called to religious life or priesthood; all are invited to live the joy of beatitude.

©2020 National Catholic Reporter. All Rights Reserved. Sr. Mary McGlone  is a Sister of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Her 2020 Reflections can be read at National Catholic Reporter website.

Podcasts

Bishop Robert Barron

The Communion of Saints

The magnificent diversity of the Saints indicates to us that we have been called to holiness. Holiness is about more than a kind of humanisn, but a deliberate and sincere discipline of life by which we imitate Christ and accept his presence in all the circumstances of our lives.

© Word on Fire / Bishop Robert Barron

Videos

Catholic Women Preach
Jessie is a regular columnist for U.S. Catholic magazine and retreat facilitator across the Midwest. She earned her Masters of Divinity degree at the Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary in Collegeville, Minnesota and Bachelor of Arts from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

God’s kingdom breaks in everywhere

God’s kingdom breaks in everywhere: on street corners and school yards, in sanctuaries and soup kitchens, among sinners and saints. God’s kingdom is among us. Can you see it? Do you feel it?

Someday, the kingdom will fully come over the whole world. All tears will be wiped away. We will all rejoice and be glad.

In the meantime, the divine delights in pulling back the veil once in a while. “This is what eternity will be like,” God whispers in moments of unexpected comfort or closeness with our Creator. These are in-breaking moments, when the kingdom of God breaks into the everyday ordinary, and we glimpse the glory to come.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus describes the coming of God’s kingdom — and who’s primed for it. The Beatitudes trend the line between already happening and still to come. Blessed ARE many people now: people who are poor, grieving, merciful, pure of heart. They WILL: see God. They WILL: be satisfied. The kingdom of heaven is theirs.

But when?

When will these kingdom promises fully actualize? That answer is clouded in mystery. God’s ways are not our ways. God’s time is not our time. But in-breaking moments fuel us with hope that fulfillment isn’t so far away. Holy people, past and present, bear witness to what WILL happen by living fully into what IS happening.

Take, for example, the Beatitude:

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

When I hear this Beatitude, I think of St. Mary Magdalene at the tomb. She’s mourning the death of Jesus, a dear friend. And suddenly the kingdom breaks in. The risen Jesus appears. He calls Mary’s name, a comforting reminder that nothing can separate her from the love of Christ.

I also think of a friend mourning the loss of his job. During this dark time, he received a sweet “thinking of you” note from a former colleague—and felt a moment of comfort. Remember, the kingdom can come in the smallest ways.

Or what about the Beatitude:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

St. Teresa of Calcutta comes to mind, a woman who brought a peaceful, steady presence into the chaotic throes of poverty. There’s a story of Mother Teresa walking the streets of London one night when she came across a man experiencing homelessness. The man did not notice her, until she reached for his hand. The man looked up at her and said, “It’s been a long time since I felt the warmth of a human hand.” Mother Teresa was a peacemaker – and the church named her a child of God because of it.

Today when I think of peacemakers, I think of people who bravely step in to stop gunmen during the mass shootings that have become devastatingly common. These people bring peace to violent situations, saving lives that could have easily been lost.

These, too, are kingdom moments.

Then there’s the Beatitude:

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Here I think of saints like Kateri Tekakwitha and Francis of Assisi, who reverenced the earth with great humility and awe. They saw the kingdom teeming out of the created world, bursting forth in every being that creeps and crawls. They cared for our common home and inspire others to care for it, too. Blessed are they, indeed.

Blessed, too, are young people like Greta Thunberg, Autumn Peltier and Isra Hirsi who are striking to save the earth so that it can be inherited for generations to come. I see the kingdom breaking in through their efforts.

We could go on and on for each Beatitude. All Saint’s Day is a story-soaked solemnity, a day to celebrate saints alive on earth and in heaven who witness to the in-breaking of God’s kingdom in moments big and small. Their stories—and ours—give flesh to Jesus’s big “Blessed” promises. They pull back the veil between heaven and earth, a kingdom already here and a kingdom still to come.

SOURCE: Catholic Women Preach
The Word Exposed - Gospel (Cardinal Tagle)
SOURCE: JesComTV

Commentary Excerpts

Life Recovery Bible

True humility in recovery

Pride often stands in the way of our dealing with painful problems and a destructive dependency. If we cannot admit our problems and sins, there can be no real cure for us. When we humble ourself before God, we mourn and grieve over our mistakes and losses. As we do this, we will experience the wonderful comfort that only God can offer (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-5).

SOURCE: Content taken from The Life Recovery Bible notes by Stephen Arterburn & David Stoop. Copyright © 1998, 2017. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries. All rights reserved.
Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture

The reversal of values

Jesus’ beatitudes represent a reversal of values, turning the world’s standards for happiness upside down. Many of the people whom the world would consider to be among the most miserable—the poor, the mourning, the meek, the persecuted—Jesus proclaims to be in an advantageous situation, for God looks now with favor on them and assures them of consolation in the future. Jesus thus challenges his followers to see life from God’s viewpoint, not the world’s. When his followers live by God’s standards, they are truly in a fortunate state in life, no matter what their circumstances may be, for they bring a glimmer of the joy and hope of the heavenly kingdom into the afflictions of the present world.

Portrait of Christ’s own life

Ultimately the beatitudes are nothing less than a portrait of Christ’s own life. Matthew depicts Jesus as meek (Mt 11:29; 12:15–21; 21:5), merciful (Mt 9:27–31; 15:22; 17:14–18; 18:33; 20:29–34), and persecuted (Mt 27:27–31, 39–44). As an indirect portrait of Jesus, the beatitudes “display the mystery of Christ himself, and they call us into communion with him.”

SOURCE Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture: The Gospel of Matthew by Curtis Mitch and Edward Sri (2010).
New Collegeville Bible Commentary

The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes have echoes in Wisdom literature and the prophets (e.g., Prov 3: 13; 28: 14; Sir 25: 7-9; 48: 1-11; Isa 30: 18; 32: 20). Matthew casts them in eight parallel statements of blessing and promise in the third person plural (vv. 3-10) and concludes with a ninth beatitude in the second person plural (v. 11). Luke structures them into four blessings followed by four “woes” (6: 20-26). Matthew relegates the woes to an extended denunciation of the scribes and Pharisees in 23: 13-23. The rewards assured to disciples are already experienced to a degree in the present time (“ Blessed are . . .”; emphasis added) but await fulfillment at the end time.

In the first blessing (v. 3), ptōchos denotes “beggar,” that is, one who is destitute. The theme of God’s care for the poor is found abundantly in the Old Testament (e.g., Exod 22: 25-27; Deut 15: 7-11; Isa 61: 1). That wealth is an obstacle to discipleship surfaces again in Jesus’ teaching at 19: 16-30. Matthew’s addition of “in spirit” (cf. Luke 6: 20) likely reflects the struggle of those in the community with greater material wealth to live as disciples. The assurance of the “kingdom of heaven” frames the Beatitudes (vv. 3, 10)…

SOURCE: New Collegeville Bible Commentary: One Volume Hardcover Edition by Daniel Durken, Liturgical Press (2017).
God's Justice Bible

A radical plan

If Jesus’ followers think of him as a possible messiah, these “blessings” must come as a shock. They are poured out on the poor in spirit, mourners, meek, merciful, pure, peacemakers—and finally, on those who are persecuted. How, disciples might ask, will such an approach bring change?

SOURCE: God’s Justice – The Holy Bible: The Flourishing of Creation and the Destruction of Evil. Biblica., Zondervan. (2016).
Africa Bible Commentary

Blessedness

Many Africans use the expression ‘to bless’ to refer to what a superior, usually a parent or grandparent, does to show their goodwill to a child or grandchild. Such blessings are most commonly given just before an aging parent dies or when young people are setting off on a long and perhaps dangerous journey. The Bemba word ukupala [to bless] describes the action of softly spraying spittle on the person to be blessed. The one doing the blessing invokes the greatest spiritual powers he or she knows to come alongside the person being blessed to give them protection, guidance, safety, and help in time of need. The resulting state of blessedness leads to umutende [well-being], or what the Jews called shalom–a rich concept embracing inner peace and outward harmony with both the material and the spiritual worlds.

But the Beatitudes are not talking about this kind of blessedness! Jesus is not teaching a passive reception of God’s approval. The Beatitudes are congratulatory exclamations, more like ‘O the blessedness of the poor in spirit!’ They teach that blessedness results from the cultivation of certain attributes that are approved of by God. Those who have entered the kingdom must go on to develop these attributes in the present. They are what every disciple should aspire to and achieve, even if they will only fully blossom in the age to come. The blessing and joy that they bring are deeply rooted and are not affected by the unpredictable ups and downs of life.”

SOURCE:  Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).

Poor in spirit

The term poor in spirit has its roots in material poverty (5: 3a). Someone who is poor has no influence, power or prestige. Then, as now, they were often taken advantage of and exploited. This state of helplessness and destitution can and does lead to a deep dependence upon God (Luke 6: 20). In many African cities today people use the expression ‘by the grace of God’ to explain how it is they survive when they live on far less than the one dollar a day designated by the United Nations as the absolute minimum for survival.

Those who are ‘poor in spirit’ are thus those who have realized their own utter helplessness on account of sin in their life, and who acknowledge their complete dependence upon God not just for spiritual needs but also for material needs. Such a person develops a certain detachment from material things and an attachment to God.

The Westerner needs to learn detachment from material things, but most Africans need to learn detachment from spirits in order to develop a healthy trust and attachment to the one true spirit, the Holy Spirit! Those who have this attribute are God’s people: theirs is the kingdom of heaven (5: 3b). Or the verse may be saying that such people are to be found in the kingdom of heaven. In that kingdom, there can be no competing interests. Those who belong to it have learned the secret of utter dependence on God leading to complete obedience to his will.

SOURCE:  Africa Bible Commentary: A One-Volume Commentary Written by 70 African Scholars by Zondervan (2010).
Sunday Readingscommentary

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The Spiritual Law of the New Covenant

The Beatitudes are the introduction to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and are the foundation of God’s New Covenant Law, marking the roadmap or stairway that lights the path to sainthood in Heaven.  Like any roadmap, there is a beginning point of the journey and a destination at the end.  And like a stairway, we must conquer each step in faith and obedience before stepping out in faith and obedience to the next.  But this plan is more than a stairway or a roadmap to an intimate relationship with God on our journey of faith.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and applied through the Sacraments of the Catholic Church, the Beatitudes, as the Law of the New Covenant people of the Resurrected Christ, are the call to a radically transformed life.  They are the very hinges upon which our moral and spiritual lives as Christian believers must turn daily.  But this is a plan that we cannot achieve on a human level; only through the filling and indwelling of the Holy Spirit can this blessedness be empowered and celebrated in the life of the New Covenant Church.  For what is impossible for man (human beings) is possible for God (see the chart on the Progression of the Beatitudes). Notice that each blessing is followed by a promise.

Exploring the Text

1st blessing: Blessed are the poor in spirit

The word Jesus used for “poor,” ptochos in the original Greek, means “poor” but not as in “pauper,” meaning one who works for a living but cannot rise above the poverty level (penes in the Greek).  Instead, the Greek word ptochos is better translated as “beggar,” one who is completely dependent on someone else for support.  In this blessing, it is Jesus’ teaching that the first step on the pathway to Heaven is to admit that you cannot make it on your own in this life or on your own to victory in the next.  “Poverty of spirit” stands in contrast to “pride of spirit.”  We are “poor in spirit” because we are not self-sufficient; we admit our dependence on God and that we need Him in our lives, rejecting our natural desire for a “self-sufficient spirit.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
1st promise: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven

In yielding our lives to Christ our Savior, and through obediently living the Sacraments of our faith throughout our faith journey, we can have confidence that we will receive our promised inheritance of Heaven. We understand that our inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven is first dependent upon our response to God’s grace through faith. Faith is followed by rebirth through “water and the spirit” of baptism when we cease to be children of the family of Adam and become children in the family of God. But that is only the first step on the path to the salvation promised to us at the end of the journey.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

2nd blessing: Blessed are they who mourn

Mourning our sins is the second step on the path to salvation.  As we yield to spiritual childhood by admitting poverty of spirit and kneeling in His presence, we see God more clearly.  The more clearly we see God, the more we become aware of our imperfections.  We become humbled in His holy presence and like the prophet Isaiah and St. Peter, we feel the burden of our sins (Is 6:1-5; Lk 5:8).  The result is, becoming aware of our moral failures, we mourn our sins.  Repenting and feel genuine sorrow for our sins is a natural outflow of surrender to God through “poverty of spirit.” There can be no forgiveness of sin without true repentance.  In 1 John 1:9 the Apostle wrote:  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  We yearn for a condition of purity and purification to come into His presence, and our plea becomes that of the Prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 6:5 who cried out, mourning his sins, “Woe is me, I am doomed! For I am a man of unclean lips, living among a people of unclean lips; yet my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts!”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
2nd promise: For they will be comforted

The International Critical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew makes three points concerning this promise (see pages 448-49):

  1. The passive tense used is a “divine passive.”  It is God who will comfort those who mourn.
  2. The comfort God will offer is not the kind one can know in a worldly sense, but it is instead supernatural in that this comfort will be fulfilled only by the coming of the Son of Man into His Kingdom.
  3. It is not the mourning for mourning sake that will receive this divine consolation, but God’s grace will come to those who mourn the suffering of sin.

Think of the tremendous implications of this divine promise.  It is our Father’s promise that the very hands that formed the cosmos and placed the stars in the heavens, the very hands that held the hand of Mary, His mother, when He was a little child, and the same hands that were stretched across a wooden beam in agony when the Roman soldiers nailed them to the cross; these same hands will wipe away our tears!  The prophet Isaiah promises in Isaiah 25:8 ~ He will destroy death forever.  The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces; the reproach of his people he will remove from the whole earth; for the LORD has spoken.  It is a promise repeated in Revelation 7:17, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

And so, in our mourning for sin, we will be comforted; but there is more.  The English word “comfort” derives from the Latin word cumfortare (com-for-tar-ay).  It is the root of the word “fortitude” which means: “that strength or firmness of mind or soul which enables a person to encounter danger or to bear pain with coolness and courage” (The New Webster Dictionary).  So the promise is not just comfort in the sense of being held or sheltered.  Instead, we have the promise that when we mourn our sins and turn to Christ that he will give us the strength and the courage to overcome our weaknesses and inadequacies so that we can take up our crosses and follow Him as He commanded.  In Mark 8:34-35, Jesus summoned the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.”  This cleansing of repentance is what gave Peter and the other Apostles and disciples the courage to leave behind every worldly possession to follow Jesus in His earthly mission.  And after the Resurrection to take up their “crosses” and to spread the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ across the known world.  Not only does the Holy Spirit comfort us in our sorrow and repentance, but, through living the Sacraments of our faith, He gives us the strength to resist sin, and also the fortitude to stand against sin in our community and in the world.  We bear our suffering with a spirit of atonement, reconciliation, and love, and the result is comfort and strength.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.

3rd blessing: Blessed are the meek

The third step is humility.  The Greek word praus, [pronounced prah-ooce’], means mild, humble, or meek (see Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, pages 534-35).  The word praus only appears four times in the New Testament: three times in the Gospel of St. Matthew in 5:5 [4], 11:29, 21:5, and once in 1 Peter 3:4.  In both Matthew 11:29 and 21:5, Jesus Himself is called “meek” just like the prophet Moses before Him (see Num 12:3).  In addition to the passage in Matthew 5:5, Blessed are the meek, this same Greek word for “meek” appears in:

Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.
Matthew 21:5 Say to daughter Zion, ‘Behold, your king comes to you, meek and riding on an ass, and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’
1 Peter 3:4 …but rather the hidden character of the heart, expressed in the imperishable beauty of a gentle [praus] and calm disposition, which is precious in the sight of God.

The word praus is another Greek word to which Christians gave a uniquely Christian character, with “meekness” becoming the symbol of a higher Christian virtue as illustrated in these three verses.  The pre-Christian Greek culture meaning of this word expressed an outward conduct that related to only men, and not necessarily in a positive light (see Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament volume I, page 37).  To the pagan Greeks, this word often implied condescension, but to the Christian, this word means submission of the human will to the will of God.

Christians gave the word a quality expressing an inward virtue related primarily to God.  Christians base “meekness” on humility described in the New Testament as the supernatural quality that is the outgrowth of a renewed nature.  This renewal can only come when we surrender our lives to God and seek His divine will in our lives.  However, this submission is not an indication of weakness.  For the Christian, submission to God’s control results in strength; it is the strength that is not our own but which comes from God’s will working through our lives.  The Bible is full of stories of God intervening in the lives of men and women who call on Him for His help, and of stories of men and women willing to help others, but there are very few examples of God intervening in the lives of those who prefer their plans and control of their destinies.  The only exception is in cases where His intervention is divine judgment intended to bring about repentance and redemption or His divine plan in the salvation of others (as in St. Paul’s case in Acts chapter 9).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
3rd promise: For they will inherit the land

The first beatitude places us before the throne of God.  The second purifies us, and the third puts us in the hands of the Master as we submit in meekness and humility to His will and His plan for our lives.  There are two ways to interpret the promise associated with God blessing for the meek.  Bible scholars both ancient and modern have seen in this blessing an allusion to Christ’s victory in breaking of the power of Satan over the earth.

The first beatitudes to Adam and Eve were the blessings of fertility and dominion over the earth (Gen 1:28).  In our original parents’ fall from grace, Satan began to usurp and pervert these divine blessings.  The blessing of a sexual union between a man and a woman was a gift from God to be applied only in the context of covenantal marriage (Gen 2:24).  In marriage, a man and a woman receive the extraordinary possibility to become co-creators with God in the birth of the next generation.  Abuse of this blessing has led to sin and suffering.  Satan also usurped man’s dominion over the earth.  In Jesus’ defeat of sin and death on the Cross and the victory of His Resurrection, He thwarted Satan’s control over the earth and his power to dominate it.  Satan no longer has the power to dominate us because we are reborn through our supernatural baptism in the blood of Jesus Christ into the family of God.  We belong to the God who created and dominates the earth; and as His children and His heirs, we inherit the earth!  CCC # 299: “for God willed creation as a gift addressed to man, an inheritance destined for and entrusted to him.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
4th blessing: Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness

Denying our own “self-sufficient spirit,” we yield to God in “poverty of spirit,” acknowledging that we need Him in our lives and in childlike faith we move forward to take our place at the foot of His throne.  As we draw closer to God we become aware of our sinful nature; we mourn our sins and the sins of the world.  In our sincere repentance, Christ atones for our sins, and by God’s grace, He purifies us and restores us to fellowship with Him.  Our desire is now to surrender our lives as we experience spiritual renewal.  We strive to submit ourselves to His will, offering our lives as useful tools in the hands of the Master of the universe.  As a result of yielding to Him in meekness and humility, we want to be more like Him, and our souls hunger and thirst for righteousness just as our physical bodies need food and drink for us to survive physically.  The fourth Beatitude is a pivotal step in our spiritual journey.  In the fourth Beatitude, we move from what we need to give to God to the miracle of what God plans to give to us.

Jesus’ definition of the righteous believer in the fourth beatitude is a person who “hungers and thirsts” to live “rightly” according to the will of God for his life.  In St. Jerome’s commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew, he wrote that Jesus is not suggesting we have a legalistic “letter of the law” desire for righteousness but that we should ardently seek righteousness as necessary to our spiritual life as food and water are necessary for our physical life (Jerome, Commentary on the Gospel of St. Matthew 5.6).  In the Law of the New Covenant, Jesus has raised the bar in His demand for “rightness” with God.  It is not enough to merely submit with regimented obedience to the Old Covenant Law as the Pharisees interpreted the path to salvation.  In the New Covenant, we must actively, diligently, and relentlessly seek righteousness as though our very lives depended upon it, for indeed it does.

Righteousness as expressed in the Gospels and other books of the New Testament through the Holy Spirit inspired writers is, for the most part, the gracious gift (grace) of God extended to humanity.  All who have faith in Jesus Christ as the Redeemer-Messiah are bathed in the blood of the Lamb of God and brought into the “rightness” of their relationship with the Most Holy Trinity.  “Righteousness” then, for New Covenant believers, is linked to Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross and to a state of grace; it is the grace freely given through the perfect sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, the Chosen One of God (Jn 1:29, 35).

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
4th promise: for they will be satisfied

Some translations read: for they shall be filled.  In this promise, the Greek word translated as “satisfied” or “filled” is chortazo [khor-tad’-zo; with the Semitic “tz” dipthong], meaning “to gorge, or to supply food in abundance; feed, fill, satisfy” (Strong’s Concordance  #5526).  Who is the “Righteous One” who satisfies as no one else can satisfy and who fills us as no one else can fill us?  There can only be one answer, Jesus Christ!  This beatitude has a promise that is also a consequence without the fulfillment of the blessing.  If we aren’t righteous, we won’t be “satisfied” or, as sometimes translated, we won’t be “filled.”  Each of the beatitudes is a positive statement, unlike the negative statements of the Ten Commandments.  Yet, there is a negative that is implied if the blessing remains unfulfilled and we do not “hunger and thirst for rightesousness” and therefore will not be “filled.”  The implications of realizing this implied negative in each beatitude are much more serious when one considers what will be lost if we do not achieve the spiritual perfection Jesus asks of us.

This verse is the turning point in the Beatitudes.  Up to this point, the focus has been on the most basic aspects of our relationship with God.  Until this point, the focus has been our need:

  • Our need for God throughout the world
  • Our need for repentance
  • Our need for a humility thirsting for salvation

But now the focus changes to our need for union with the fullness of God; therefore, the focus turns to Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity who fulfills of our desire for union with the fullness of God Himself in the gift of the Eucharist.  In the Eucharist, the Most Holy Trinity gives Himself completely to the soul who hungers and thirsts for Him.  Jesus gives Himself to us entirely in His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity.  He comes to us in the miracle of Transubstantiation as the Bridegroom giving all of Himself to His Bride, the Church.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
5th blessing: Blessed are the merciful

Through the miracle of the Eucharist, Christ fills us with His humanity and divinity.  With Jesus living within us, we desire to be more like Him.  Just as He shared His merciful love with everyone, so now we too, in our love for Him, feel the desire to let His mercy flow through us to everyone we meet.

The Greek word for “merciful” in this passage is the adjective eleemon [el-eh-ay’-mone].  In the Old Testament Hebrew being “merciful” meant the outward manifestation of pity.  But in the New Covenant, this expression of mercy and pity is to be expressed by one who is actively compassionate as God is actively compassionate.  It is compassion generated internally but expressed externally in acts of mercy.  Although compassion, a feeling of sympathy, is part of mercy [com meaning “with,” and passion meaning “suffering” so “with suffering”], mercy differs from compassion in that mercy is the active practice of compassion in the readiness to assist those in need.  Therefore, the “merciful” are those who are not passive in showing love and compassion but who take an active role in bringing aid to those who suffer.  This same Greek word for “mercy” is in Hebrews 2:17 to describe Jesus Christ as our High Priest, and it describes those who are called to live in mercy and compassion “like God” as here in Matthew 5:7 as well as in Luke 6:35-36, which ends with the command “Be merciful, just as [also] your Father is merciful.”

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
5th promise: For they will be shown mercy

There is a link between the 5th beatitude promise and the 5th petition of the “Lord’s Prayer” that says, And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. What is implied in the second phrase of the petition is that God will not respond to our plea for forgiveness unless we first forgive others who have wronged us.  In the significance of numbers in Scripture, 5 is the number signifying grace.

Our willingness to forgive and grant mercy is so crucial that, as He continues the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus will return to the command to show mercy and forgiveness after finishing the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:14-15 with the warning, “If you forgive others their transgressions, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your transgressions.”  Jesus will also continue teaching the importance of extending God’s mercy to us in our relationships with others throughout His ministry.  When we forgive those who have hurt us deeply, we cooperate in God’s grace.  Forgiving others allows us to see how Christ could forgive those who lied at His trial and nailed Him to the Cross, which includes all of us for we are all culpable in His death through our sin.  When Christ fills us with His righteousness, we look upon the face of our enemy and see the face of the Christ who loved and forgave.  Love is stronger than sin.  The sin of failing to forgive binds and wounds the soul so much more deeply than the barbs of your enemy.  Forgive your enemy, set your soul free, and feel the power of God’s grace working in you!  See CCC # 2844.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
6th blessing: Blessed are the clean of heart

As we grow closer to Christ on our spiritual journey, we feel the need to empty ourselves of worldly attractions and concerns and to fill our entire being with the love of Jesus our Savior, becoming an imitation of Christ in our lives.  Our cry becomes the cry of David in Psalm 51:12 (verse 10 in some translations):  A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.

The Greek word for “pure” is katharos.  It is an adjective meaning “pure as in being cleansed.”  The heart, or kardia in Greek, is the most vital organ in the human body.  We think of our hearts as the internal instrument of our emotions, but the ancients did not understand the function of a heart in this way.  For the peoples of ancient times, including the Jews, Greeks, and Romans, different body parts had different physiological functions.  The Jews believed that anger was situated in the nose, while love, compassion, and most other emotions generated from the kidney, liver, and bowels. To the people of Jesus’ time, the heart reflected the total substance of a man or woman; it signified the inward moral quality of a person as opposed to what is visible.

Hearing this beatitude, the Jews would think of the heart as the center of the faculties and personality, the seat of knowledge and understanding and not just feelings but also thoughts, words, decisions, and actions proceeding from the heart. The inspired writers of Scripture recognized that depravity and deceit emerge from the human heart as sin, doing its greatest damage to the inward life from which sin then defiles the whole man or woman (see Mt 15:19-20).  But the inspired writers of Sacred Scripture also recognized that the heart represented the hidden depths of one’s moral and spiritual being and regarded the heart as the focus of divine influence from which a man or woman could be purified by God from the inside out (see Rom 2:15; Acts 15:9 and 1 Pt 3:4).

Purity of heart can only come about through the work of God the Holy Spirit.  He is our gift from the Father and the Son to be the source of living water welling up from the heart of Christ and flowing out to every believer (see Jn 7:38).  He puts Christ in our hearts, circumcising our old defective hearts and giving us a new heart by conforming us to His image.  It is Christ dwelling in us who gives us a truly purified interior self.  When St. Paul wrote I live now not I but Christ lives in me in Galatians 2:20, he wanted us to understand that our deepest identity is to be Christ; it is the only way we will be able to return to the pre-Eden “image of God.”  And what is the result?  It is that whatever you do, or say, or see reflects the image of God.  St. Paul wrote to St. Titus in Titus 1:15, Everything is pure to the pure!  A pure heart beats to the living revelation of Jesus Christ!

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
6th promise: For they will see God

The inspired writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews links “seeing God” with holiness, with comes through purity of heart, and peacemaking: Seek peace with all people and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord.  Filling our hearts with Christ produces a purity of spirit that creates a peace in our hearts which overflows and touches each person we meet.  A right relationship with God leads to the desire for a right relationship with others.  When our clean hearts overflow with Christ’s love, the promise is: the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7). The result is that we become His emissaries; bearers of Christ bearing peace and we will see the face of Christ in the face of each person with whom we share His love.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
7th blessing: Blessed are the peacemakers

Verse 9 is the seventh step on the pathway to salvation.  With our hearts purified by Christ living in us, we actively seek to extend His peace to others.  St. Augustine wrote that the peacemakers are not only peaceful, but they are active makers of peace.  They encourage peace around them by healing alienations and discord and bringing about reconciliation.  But this peace begins within them as they conform themselves to the image of God, and then the peace they generate diffuses from them to the world (Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, Book I chapter 2.9).   Sharing the peace of Christ with others is the kind of peacemaking we must seek.  The gift of Christ’s internal peace has the power to transform into militantly spiritual and joyously unquenchable peace that we can share with our family, our friends, and the world as our witness of a life conformed to the Prince of Peace!

This promise has two dimensions which humanity lost in the fall from grace:

  1. Humanity lost the degree of intimacy with God the Father known as divine sonship/daughtership that our first parents knew before their fall from grace.
  2. Humanity also lost its “likeness” of God in the fall.  It is this restored likeness to God, a child “in the image of the Father,” that Christ gave us in Christian Baptism.  It is the original likeness and image of grace that was the condition of Adam and Eve in the garden before their fall from grace.

It will help to understand the dimensions of this promise to look carefully at what St. John wrote in his Gospel concerning rebirth into the family of God.  He wrote, But to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God (Jn 1:12-13).  Think of the power of his statement in this verse.  The word in Greek translated as “power” is exousia.  In other Bible translations, it may be rendered as “right.”  The use of exousia in this passage does not indicate only the possibility or the ability to become “children of God,” but a legitimate right derived from the authority of the Word.  And it is only through the Word that we have this “power.”

That Christ gave us the “power” is the same way of saying that He gave us a gift, and that gift was sanctifying grace.  This gift is a supernatural infusion of grace extended through the sacrament of Baptism to everyone.  The only condition is that we have faith.  St. Athanasius explained it this way: “The Son of God became a man so that the sons of men, the sons of Adam, might become sons of God … He [Adam] is the son of God by nature; we, by grace” (St Athanasius, The Incarnation). It is the gift of divine adoption as sons and daughters of God, and we cannot truly call ourselves “children of God” until this miracle regenerates us with “new life” into the family of God.  It is what Jesus revealed to Nicodemus in John 3:3-5 concerning rebirth or being born “from above” by water and the Spirit.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
7th promise: For they will be called children of God

It is interesting that peacemaking and sonship/daughtershhip are brought together in this blessing and its promise.  This supernatural power of sonship becomes manifested in us through Christ’s peace by the work of the 3rd Person of the Most Holy Trinity, through God the Holy Spirit.  Empowered by the Holy Spirit as God’s children, He commands us to bear much “fruit” by Christ who has grafted us onto Himself as the “true vine” (Jn 15:1).  The “fruit” or works we bear is an outpouring of the gifts the Holy Spirits imparts to us. The peace we generate is part of that outpouring.  St. Basil wrote: “Through the Holy Spirit we are restored to paradise, led back to the Kingdom of heaven, and adopted as children, given confidence to call God ‘Father’ and to share in Christ’s grace, called children of light and given a share in eternal glory” (quoted from CCC # 736).

Some scholars see the summary of the blessings and promises (verse 10) as the eighth blessing and promise: 10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.   11 Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.” Notice that verse 10 repeats the promise from verse 5: the kingdom of heaven.  In Matthew 5:11, Jesus repeats the beatitude in verse 10 but changes from the third person address to the second person, Blessed are you.  In directing this blessing personally (“you” plural) to the disciples and the Apostles, Jesus acknowledges them as successors to the holy prophets of Yahweh who in their obedience to the will of God perished for their faithfulness.  Martyrdom was the destiny of all the Apostles except John Zebedee who suffered imprisonment and other forms of persecution for his commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Jesus does not make the job description for “Emissaries [Apostolos] of God” particularly appealing in this life, but there can be no doubt the promise of the long-term benefits are eternally great.  Notice that the summary in verse 12 repeats the promise of the “kingdom of heaven” from the first Beatitude’s promise in Matthew 5:3.

If the Beatitudes are the conditions for Christian character that Jesus establishes for gaining entrance to the Kingdom of Heaven, then verses 10-12 are the invitation to put these spiritual precepts of the New Covenant Law into practice.  Jesus’ job description for a disciple is short-term trials followed by very long-term rewards.  Jesus is warning His disciples that they are taking their place as the successors to the holy prophets of old, and many of them will suffer the same fate as the Old Testament prophets: persecution, suffering, and possibly death.  The man or woman who stands for God stands against the world, and the world can be very unforgiving. If you chose to live the Beatitudes, Jesus warns that you will receive the eternal blessings of the righteous, but you will also experience the temporal enmity of the wicked.

To commit to following Christ, and to do all that He commands, means risking everything in this present life to gain a future eternal life.  Those who refuse to “take up their cross” to follow Christ and act for their own satisfaction and temporal gain endanger their eternal salvation.  It is only when a person dies to self and lives for Christ that he or she unselfishly gives his or her life to God and to others, whether it is in marriage, or in parenting, or in Christian leadership and service, or in acts of love and charity to others.  The foundation of the Christian life is self-denial; “There is no Christianity without the Cross!” (see CCC# 459; 1 Cor 1:23). See the charts on The Progression of the Beatitudes and The Beatitudes, Lesson 3 Handout.

Agape Bible Study by Michal E. Hunt; used with permission.
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Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch, 1877 (Wikimedia Commons)

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The Catena Aurea

Saint Thomas Aquinas

The Catena Aurea (or, Golden Chain) is a compilation of Patristic commentary on the Gospels and contains passages from the Church Fathers. In this masterpiece, Aquinas seamlessly weaves together extracts from various Fathers to provide a complete commentary on all four Gospels.

List of Church Fathers

Here are some of the Church Fathers that Aquinas used in his commentary:

Third Century

  • Origen  – Alexandrian biblical critic, exegete, theologian, and spiritual writer; analyzed the Scriptures on three levels: the literal, the moral, and the allegorical
  • Cyprian  – pagan rhetorician converted to Christianity; acquired acquired a profound knowledge of the Scriptures and the writings of Tertullian; elected bishop of Carthage; martyred in 258

Fourth Century

  • Eusebius  – Bishop of Caesarea; author of Ecclesiastical History, the principal source for the history of Christianity from the Apostolic Age till his own day; also wrote a valuable work on Biblical topography called the Onomasticon
  • Athanasius  – Bishop of Alexandria; attended the Council of Nicea; opposed Arianism, in defence of the faith proclaimed at Nicaea—that is, the true deity of God the Son
  • Hilary  – Bishop of Poitiers; the earliest known writer of hymns in the Western Church; defended the cause of orthodoxy against Arianism; became the leading Latin theologian of his age
  • Gregory of Nazianzus  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; a great influence in restoring the Nicene faith and leading to its final establishment at the Council of Constantinople in 381
  • Gregory of Nyssa  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Nyssa; took part in the Council of Constantinople
  • Ambrose  – Bishop of Milan; partly responsible for the conversion of Augustine; author of Latin hymns; it was through his influence that hymns became an integral part of the liturgy of the Western Church
  • Jerome  – biblical scholar; devoted to a life of asceticism and study; his greatest achievement was his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate); also wrote many biblical commentaries
  • Nemesius  – Christian philosopher; Bishop of Emesa in Syria
  • Augustine  – Bishop of Hippo (in northern Africa); a “Doctor of the Church”; most famous work is his Confessions; his influence on the course of subsequent theology has been immense
  • Chrysostom  – Bishop of Constantinople; a “Doctor of the Church”; a gifted orator; his sermons on Gen, Ps, Isa, Matt, John, Acts, and the Pauline Epistles (including Hebrews) established him as the greatest of Christian expositors
  • Prosper of Aquitaine  – theologian; supporter of Augustinian doctrines; closely associated with Pope Leo I (“the Great”)
  • Damasus  – pope; active in suppressing heresy
  • Apollinaris of Laodicea  – Bishop of Laodicea; close friend of Athanasias; vigorous advocate of orthodoxy against the Arians
  • Amphilochius of Iconium  – Bishop of Iconium; close friend of the Cappadocian Fathers; defended the full Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Fifth Century

  • Asterius of Amasea  – Arian theologian; some extant homilies on the Psalms attributed to him
  • Evagrius Ponticus  – spiritual writer; noted preacher at Constantinople; spent the last third of his life living a monastic life in the desert
  • Isidore of Pelusium  – an ascetic and exegete; his extant correspondence contains much of doctrinal, exegetical, and moral interest
  • Cyril of Alexandria  – Patriarch of Alexandria; contested Nestorius; put into systematic form the classical Greek doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ
  • Maximus of Turin  – Bishop of Turin; over 100 of his sermons survive
  • Cassion (prob. Cassian)  – one of the great leaders of Eastern Christian monasticism; founded two monasteries near Marseilles; best known books the Institutes and the Conferences
  • Chrysologus  – Bishop of Ravenna; a “Doctor of the Church”
  • Basil “the Great”  – one of the “Cappadocian Fathers”; Bishop of Caesarea; responsible for the Arian controversy’s being put to rest at the Council of Constantinople
  • Theodotus of Ancyra  – Bishop of Ancyra; wrote against the teaching of Nestorius
  • Leo the Great  – Pope who significantly consolidated the influence of the Roman see; a “Doctor of the Church”; his legates defended Christological orthodoxy at the Council of Chalcedon
  • Gennadius  – Patriarch of Constantinople; the author of many commentaries, notably on Genesis, Daniel, and the Pauline Epistles
  • Victor of Antioch  – presbyter of Antioch; commentator and collector of earlier exegetical writings
  • Council of Ephesus  – declared the teachings of Nestorious heretical, affirming instead the unity between Christ’s human and divine natures
  • Nilus  – Bishop of Ancyra; disciple of St John Chrysostom; founder of a monastery; conducted a large correspondence influencing his contemporaries; his writings deal mainly with ascetic and moral subjects

Sixth Century

  • Dionysius Areopagita  (aka Dionysius the Pseudo-Areopagite) – mystical theologian; combined Neoplatonism with Christianity; the aim of all his works is the union of the whole created order with God
  • Gregory the Great  – Pope; a “Doctor of the Church”; very prolific writer of works on practical theology, pastoral life, expositions of Job, sermons on the Gospels, etc.
  • Isidore  – Bishop of Seville; a “Doctor of the Church”; concerned with monastic discipline, clerical education, liturgical uniformity, conversion of the Jews; helped secure Western acceptance of Filioque clause
  • Eutychius (Patriarch of Constan­tinople)  – consecrated the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople; defended the Chalcedonian faith against an unorthodox sect; became controversial later in life
  • Isaac (Bp. of Nineveh)  (aka Isaac the Syrian) – monastic writer on ascetic subjects
  • Severus (Bp. of Antioch)  – Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch; the leading theologian of the moderate Monophysites
  • John Climacus  – ascetic and writer on the spiritual life; later Abbot of Mt. Sinai; best known for his Ladder of Divine Ascent which treats of the monastic virtues and vices
  • Fulgentius  – Bishop of Ruspe in N. Africa; scholarly disposition; follower of St. Augustine; wrote many treatises against Arianism and Pelagianism

Seventh Century

  • Maximus ( of Constantinople, 645.)  – Greek theologian; prolific writer on doctrinal, ascetical, exegetical, and liturgical subjects

Eighth Century

  • Bede (131CESK) – “the Venerable Bede”; a “Doctor of the Church”; pedagogue, biblical exegete, hagiographer, and historian, the most influential scholar from Anglo-Saxon England
  • John Damascene  – Greek theologian; a “Doctor of the Church”; defender of images in the Iconoclastic Controversy; expounded the doctrine of the perichoresis (circumincession) of the Persons of the Trinity
  • Alcuin  – Abbot of St. Martin’s (Tours); a major contributor to the Carolingian Renaissance; supervised the production of several complete editions of the Bible; responsible for full acceptance of the Vulgate in the West

Ninth Century

  • Haymo (of Halberstadt)  – German Benedictine monk who became bishop of Halberstadt; prolific writer
  • Photius (of Constantinople)  – Patriarch of Constantinople; a scholar of wide interests and encyclopedic knowledge; his most important work, Bibliotheca, is a description of several hundred books (many now lost), with analyses and extracts; also wrote a Lexicon
  • Rabanus Maurus  – Abbot of Fulda in Hess Nassau; later Archbishop of Mainz; wrote commentaries on nearly every Book of the Bible
  • Remigius (of Auxerre)  – monk, scholar, and teacher
  • Paschasius Radbertus  – Carolingian theologian; wrote commentaries on Lamentations and Matthew, as well as the first doctrinal monograph on the Eucharist, he maintained the real Presence of Christ

Eleventh Century

  • Theophylact  – Byzantine exegete; his principal work, a series of commentaries on several OT books and on the whole of the NT except Revelation, is marked by lucidity of thought and expression and closely follows the scriptural text
  • Anselm  – Archbishop of Canterbury; a “Doctor of the Church”; highly regarded teacher and spiritual director; famous ontological argument for the existence of God as “that than which nothing greater can be thought”
  • Petrus Alphonsus  – Jewish Spanish writer and astronomer, a convert to Christianity; one of the most important figures in anti-Judaic polemics
  • Laufranc (prob. Lanfranc)  – Archbishop of Canterbury; commented on the Psalms and Pauline Epistles; his biblical commentary passed into the Glossa Ordinaria
Click on banner above to toggle an annotated list of the Church Fathers that Aquinas compiled in his multi-volume commentary.

Matthew 5:1-12

1. And seeing the multitudes, He went up into a mountain: and when He was set, His disciples came unto Him.

2. And He opened His mouth, and taught them, saying,

3. Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Every man in his own trade or profession rejoices when he sees an opportunity of exercising it; the carpenter if he sees a goodly tree desires to have it to cut down to employ his skill on, and the Priest when he sees a full Church, his heart rejoices, he is glad of the occasion to teach. So the Lord seeing a great congregation of people was stirred to teach them.

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Ev. ii. 19.) Or He may be thought to have sought to shun the thickest crowd, and to have ascended the mountain that He might speak to His disciples alone.

CHRYSOSTOM. (Hom. xv.) By not choosing His seat in the city, and the market place, but on a mountain in a desert, He has taught us to do nothing with ostentation, and to depart from crowds, above all when we are to be employed in philosophy, or in speaking of serious things.

REMIGIUS. This should be known, that the Lord had three places of retirement that we read of, the ship, the mountain, and the desert; to one of these He was wont to withdraw whenever He was pressed by the multitude.

JEROME. Some of the less learned brethren suppose the Lord to have spoken what follows from the Mount of Olives, which is by no means the case; what went before and what follows fixes the place in Galilee. aMount Tabor. we may suppose, or any other high mountain.

CHRYSOSTOM. He ascended a mountain, first, that He might fulfil the prophecy of Esaias, Get thee up into a mountain; (Is. 40:9.) secondly, to shew that as well he who teaches, as he who hears the righteousness of God should stand on an high ground of spiritual virtues; for none can abide in the valley and speak from a mountain. If thou stand on the earth, speak of the earth; if thou speak of heaven, stand in heaven. Or, He ascended into the mountain to shew that all who would learn the mysteries of the truth should go up into the Mount of the Church of which the Prophet speaks, The hill of God is a hill of fatness. (Ps. 68:15.)

HILARY. Or, He ascends the mountain, because it is placed in the loftiness of His Father’s Majesty that He gives the commands of heavenly life.

AUGUSTINE. (de Serm. Dom. in Mont. i. 1.) Or, He ascends the mountain to shew that the precepts of righteousness given by God through the Prophets to the Jews, who were yet under the bondage of fear, were the lesser commandments; but that by His own Son were given the greater commandments to a people which He had determined to deliver by love.

JEROME. He spoke to them sitting and not standing, for they could not have understood Him had He appeared in His own Majesty.

AUGUSTINE. Or, to teach sitting is the prerogative of the Master. His disciples came to him, that they who in spirit approached more nearly to keeping His commandments, should also approach Him nearest with their bodily presence.

RABANUS. Mystically, this sitting down of Christ is His incarnation; had He not taken flesh on Him, mankind could not have come unto Him.

AUGUSTINE. (de Cons. Ev. ii. 19.) It causes a thought how it is that Matthew relates this sermon to have been delivered by the Lord sitting on the mountain; Luke, as He stood in the plain. This diversity in their accounts would lead us to think that the occasions were different. Why should not Christ repeat once more what He said before, or do once more what He had done before? Although another method of reconciling the two may occur to us; namely, that our Lord was first with His disciples alone on some more lofty peak of the mountain when He chose the twelve; that He then descended with them not from the mountain entirely, but from the top to some expanse of level ground in the side, capable of holding a great number of people; that He stood there while the crowd was gathering around Him, and after when He had sate down, then His disciples came near to Him, and so to them and in the presence of the rest of the multitude He spoke the same sermon which Matthew and Luke give, in a different manner, but with equal truth of facts.

GREGORY. (Moral. iv. 1.) When the Lord on the mountain is about to utter His sublime precepts, it is said, Opening his month he taught them, He who had before opened the mouth of the Prophets.

REMIGIUS. Wherever it is said that the Lord opened His mouth, we may know how great things are to follow.

AUGUSTINE. (de Serm. in Mont. i. 1.) Or, the phrase is introductory of an address longer than ordinary.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, that we may understand that He sometimes teaches by opening His mouth in speech, sometimes by that voice which resounds from His works.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Whoever will take the trouble to examine with a pious and sober spirit, will find in this sermon a perfect code of the Christian life as far as relates to the conduct of daily life. Accordingly the Lord concludes it with the words, Every man who heareth these words of mine and doeth them, I will liken him to a wise man, & c.

AUGUSTINE. (De Civ. Dei, xix. 1.) The chief good is the only motive of philosophical enquiry; but whatever confers blessedness, that is the chief good; therefore He begins, Blessed are the poor in spirit.

AUGUSTINE. (Id. de Serm. in Mont. i. 1.) Augmentation of ‘spirit’ generally implies insolence and pride. For in common speech the proud are said to have a great spirit, and rightly—for wind is a spirit, and who does not know that we say of proud men that they are ‘swollen,’ ‘puffed up.’ Here therefore by poor in spirit are rightly understood ‘lowly,’ ‘fearing God,’ not having a puffed up spirit.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, He here calls all loftiness of soul and temper spirit; for as there are many humble against their will, constrained by their outward condition, they have no praise; the blessing is on those who humble themselves by their own choice. Thus He begins at once at the root, pulling up pride which is the root and source of all evil, setting up as its opposite humility as a firm foundation. If this be well laid, other virtues may be firmly built thereon; if that be sapped, whatever good yon gather upon it perishes.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Blessed are the poor in spirita, or, according to the literal rendering of the Greek, ‘they who beg,’ that the humble may learn that they should be ever begging at God’s almshouse. For there are many naturally humble and not of faith, who do not knock at God’s almshouse; but they alone are humble who are so of faith.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, the poor in spirit may be those who fear and tremble at God’s commandments, whom the Lord by the Prophet Isaiah commends. Though why more than simply humble? Of the humble there may be in this place but few, in that again an abundance.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) The proud seek an earthly kingdom, of the humble only is the kingdom of Heaven.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. For as all other vices, but chiefly pride, casts down to hell; so all other virtues, but chiefly humility, conduct to Heaven; it is proper that he that humbles himself should be exalted.

JEROME. The poor in spirit are those who embrace a voluntary poverty for the sake of the Holy Spirit.

AMBROSE. (De Officiis i. 16.) In the eye of Heaven blessedness begins there where misery begins in human estimation.

GLOSS. (interlin.) The riches of Heaven are suitably promised to those who at this present are in poverty.

5. bBlessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

AMBROSE. (in Luc. c. v. 20.) When I have learned contentment in poverty, the next lesson is to govern my heart and temper. For what good is it to me to be without worldly things, unless I have besides a meek spirit? It suitably follows therefore, Blessed are the meek.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 2.) The meek are they who resist not wrongs, and give way to evil; but overcome evil of good.

AMBROSE. (ubi sup.) Soften therefore your temper that you be not angry, at least that you be angry, and sin not. It is a noble thing to govern passion by reason; nor is it a less virtue to check anger, than to be entirely without anger, since one is esteemed the sign of a weak, the other of a strong, mind.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Let the unyielding then wrangle and quarrel about earthly and temporal things, the meek are blessed, for they shall inherit the earth, and not be rooted out of it; that earth of which it is said in the Psalms, Thy lot is in the land of the living, (Ps. 142:5.) meaning the fixedness of a perpetual inheritance, in which the soul that hath good dispositions rests as in its own place, as the body does in an earthly possession, it is fed by its own food, as the body by the earth; such is the rest and the life of the saints.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. This earth as some interpret, so long as it is in its present condition is the land of the dead, seeing it is subject to vanity; but when it is freed from corruption it becomes the land of the living, that the mortal may inherit an immortal country. I have read another exposition of it, as if the heaven in which the saints are to dwell is meant by the land of the living, because compared with the regions of death it is heaven, compared with the heaven above it is earth. Others again say, that this body as long as it is subject to death is the land of the dead, when it shall b made like unto Christ’s glorious body, it will be the land of the living.

HILARY. Or, the Lord promises the inheritance of the earth to the meek, meaning of that Body, which Himself took on Him as His tabernacle; and as by the gentleness of our minds Christ dwells in us, we also shall be clothed with the glory of His renewed body.

CHRYSOSTOM. Otherwise; Christ here has mixed things sensible with things spiritual. Because it is commonly supposed that he who is meek loses all that he possesses, Christ here gives a contrary promise, that he who is not forward shall possess his own in security, but that he of a contrary disposition many times loses his soul and his paternal inheritance. But because the Prophet had said, The meek shall inherit the earth, (Ps. 36:11.) He used these well-known words in conveying His meaning.

GLOSS. (ord.) The meek, who have possessed themselves, shall possess hereafter the inheritance of the Father; to possess is more than to have, for we have many things which we lose immediately.

4. Blessed are they that mourn; for they shall be comforted.

AMBROSE. (ubi sup.) When yon have done thus much, attained both poverty and meekness, remember that you are a sinner, mourn your sins, as He proceeds, Blessed are they that mourn. And it is suitable that the third blessing should be of those that mourn for sin, for it is the Trinity that forgives sin.

HILARY. Those that mourn, that is, not loss of kindred, affronts, or losses, but who weep for past sins.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. And they who weep for their own sins are blessed, but much more so who weep for others’ sins; so should all teachers do.

JEROME. For the mourning here meant is not for the dead by common course of nature, but for the dead in sins, and vices. Thus Samuel mourned for Saul, thus the Apostle Paul mourned for those who had not performed penance after uncleanness.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. The comfort of mourners is the ceasing of their mourning; they then who mourn their own sins shall be consoled when they have received remittance thereof.

CHRYSOSTOM. And though it were enough for such to receive pardon, yet He rests not His mercy only there, but makes them partakers of many comforts both here and hereafter. God’s mercies are always greater than our troubles.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. But they also who mourn for others’ sins shall be comforted, inasmuch as they shall own God’s providence in that worldly generation, understanding that they who had perished were not of God, out of whose hand none can snatch. For these leaving to mourn, they shall be comforted in their own blessedness.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 2.) Otherwise; mourning is sorrow for the loss of what is dear; but those that are turned to God lose the things that they held dear in this world; and as they have now no longer any joy in such things as before they had joy in, their sorrow may not be healed till there is formed within them a love of eternal things. They shall then be comforted by the Holy Spirit, who is therefore chiefly called, The Paraclete, that is, ‘Comforter;’ so that for the loss of their temporal joys, they shall gain eternal joys.

GLOSS. (ap Anselm.) Or, by mourning, two kinds of sorrow are intended; one for the miseries of this world, one for lack of heavenly things; so Caleb’s daughter asked both the upper and the lower springs. This kind of mourning none have but the poor and the meek, who as not loving the world acknowledge themselves miserable, and therefore desire heaven. Suitably, therefore, consolation is promised to them that mourn, that he who has sorrow at this present may have joy hereafter. But the reward of the mourner is greater that that of the poor or the meek, for to rejoice in the kingdom is more than to have it, or to possess it; for many things we possess in sorrow.

CHRYSOSTOM. We may remark that this blessing is given not simply, but with great force and emphasis; it is not simply, ‘who have grief,’ but who mourn. And indeed this command is the sum of all philosophy. For if they who mourn for the death of children or kinsfolk, throughout all that season of their sorrow, are touched with no other desires, as of money, or honour, burn not with envy, feel not wrongs, nor are open to any other vicious passion, but are solely given up to their grief; much more ought they, who mourn their own sins in such manner as they ought to mourn for them, to shew this higher philosophy.

6. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

AMBROSE. (ubi sup.) As soon as I have wept for my sins, I begin to hunger and thirst after righteousness. He who is afflicted with any sore disease, hath no hunger.

JEROME. It is not enough that we desire righteousness, unless we also suffer hunger for it, by which expression we may understand that we are never righteous enough, but always hunger after works of righteousness.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. All good which men do not from love of the good itself is unpleasing before God. He hungers after righteousness who desires to walk according to the righteousness of God; he thirsts after righteousness who desires to get the knowledge thereof.

CHRYSOSTOM. He may mean either general righteousness, or that particular virtue which is the opposite of covetousness. (ἡ καθόλου ἀρετή.) As He was going on to speak of mercy, He shews beforehand of what kind our mercy should be, that it should not be of the gains of plunder or covetousness, hence He ascribes to righteousness that which is peculiar to avarice, namely, to hunger and thirst.

HILARY. The blessedness which He appropriates to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness shews that the deep longing of the saints for the doctrine of God shall receive perfect replenishment in heaven; then they shall be filled.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. Such is the bounty of a rewarding God, that His gifts are greater than the desires of the saints.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or He speaks of food with which they shall be filled at this present; to wit, that food of which the Lord spake, My food is to do the will of my Father, that is, righteousness, and that water of which whoever drinks it shall be in him a well of water springing up to life eternal.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, this is again a promise of a temporal reward; for as covetousness is thought to make many rich, He affirms on the contrary that righteousness rather makes rich, for He who loves righteousness possesses all things in safety.

7. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

GLOSS. (ord.) Justice and mercy are so united, that the one ought to be mingled with the other; justice without mercy is cruelty; mercy without justice, profusion—hence He goes on to the one from the other.

REMIGIUS. The merciful (misericors) is he who has a sad heart; he counts others’ misery his own, and is sad at their grief as at his own.

JEROME. Mercy here is not said only of alms, but is in every sin of a brother, if we bear one another’s burdens.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) He pronounces those blessed who succour the wretched, because they are rewarded in being themselves delivered from all misery; as it follows, for they shall obtain mercy.

HILARY. So greatly is God pleased with our feelings of benevolence towards all men, that He will bestow His own mercy only on the merciful.

CHRYSOSTOM. The reward here seems at first to be only an equal return; but indeed it is much more; for human mercy and divine mercy are not to be put on an equality.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) Justly is mercy dealt out to the merciful, that they should receive more than they had deserved; and as he who has more than enough receives more than he who has only enough, so the glory of mercy is greater than of the things hitherto mentioned.

8. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

AMBROSE. (in Luc. vi. 22.) The merciful loses the benefit of his mercy, unless he shews it from a pure heart; for if he seeks to have whereof to boast, he loses the fruit of his deeds; the next that follows therefore is, Blessed are the pure in heart.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) Purity of heart comes properly in the sixth place, because on the sixth day man was created in the image of God, which image was shronded by sin, but is formed anew in pure hearts by grace. It follows rightly the beforementioned graces, because if they be not there, a clean heart is not created in a man.

CHRYSOSTOM. By the pure are here meant those who possess a perfect goodness, conscious to themselves of no evil thoughts, or again those who live in such temperance as is mostly necessary to seeing God according to that of St. Paul, Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see God. For as there are many merciful, yet unchaste, to shew that mercy alone is not enough, he adds this concerning purity.

JEROME. The pure is known by purity of heart, for the temple of God cannot be impure.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. He who in thought and deed fulfils all righteousness, sees God in his heart, for righteousness is an image of God, for God is righteousness. So far as any one has rescued himself from evil, and works things that are good, so far does he see God, either hardly, or fully, or sometimes, or always, according to the capabilities of human nature. But in that world to come the pure in heart shall see God face to face, not in a glass, and in enigma as here.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 2.) They are foolish who seek to see God with the bodily eye, seeing He is seen only by the heart, as it is elsewhere written, In singleness of heart seek ye Him; (Wisd. 1:1.) the single heart is the same as is here called the pure heart.

AUGUSTINE. (Civ. Dei, xxii 29.) But if spiritual eyes in the spiritual body shall be able only to see so much as they we now have can see, undoubtedly God will not be able to be seen of them.

AUGUSTINE. (de Trin. i. 8.) This seeing God is the reward of faith; to which end our hearts are made pure by faith, as it is written, cleansing their hearts by faith; (Acts 15:9.) but the present verse proves this still more strongly.

AUGUSTINE. (de Genesi ad Literam. xii. 26.) No one seeing God can be alive with the life men have on earth, or with these our bodily senses. Unless one die altogether out of this life, either by totally departing from the body, or so alienated from earnal lusts that he may truly say with the Apostle, whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell, he is not translated that he should see this vision.

GLOSS. (non occ.) The reward of these is greater than the reward of the first; being not merely to dine in the King’s court, but further to see His face.

9. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

AMBROSE. (ubi sup.) When you have made your inward parts clean from every spot of sin, that dissentions and contentious may not proceed from your temper, begin peace within yourself, that so you may extend it to others.

AUGUSTINE. (Civ. Dei, xix. 13.) Peace is the fixedness of order; by order, I mean an arrangement of things like and unlike giving to each its own place. And as there is no man who would not willingly have joy, so is there no man who would not have peace; since even those who go to war desire nothing more than by war to come to a glorious peace.

JEROME. The peacemakers (pacifici) are pronounced blessed, they namely who make peace first within their own hearts, then between brethren at variance. For what avails it to make peace between others, while in your own heart are wars of rebellious vices.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 2.) The peacemakers within themselves are they who having stilled all disturbances of their spirits, having subjected them to reason, have overcome their carnal desires, and become the kingdom of God. There all things are so disposed, that that which is most chief and excellent in man, governs those parts which we have in common with the brutes, though they struggle against it; nay even that in man which is excellent is subjected to a yet greater, namely, the very Truth, the Son of God. For it would not be able to govern what is inferior to it, if it were not subject to what is above it. And this is the peace which is given on earth to men of good will.

AUGUSTINE. (Retract. i. 19.) No man can attain in this life that there be not in his members a law resisting the law of his mind. But the peacemakers attain thus far by overcoming the lusts of the flesh, that in time they come to a most perfect peace.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. The peacemakers with others are not only those who reconcile enemies, but those who unmindful of wrongs cultivate peace. That peace only is blessed which is lodged in the heart, and does not consist only in words. And they who love peace, they are the sons of peace.

HILARY. The blessedness of the peacemakers is the reward of adoption, they shall be called the sons of God. For God is our common parent, and no other way can we pass into His family than by living in brotherly love together.

CHRYSOSTOM. Or, if the peacemakers are they who do not contend one with another, but reconcile those that are at strife, they are rightly called the sons of God, seeing this was the chief employment of the Only-begotten Son, to reconcile things separated, to give peace to things at war.

AUGUSTINE. Or, because peace is then perfect when there is no where any opposition, the peacemakers are called the sons of God, because nothing resists God, and the children ought to bear the likeness of their Father.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) The peacemakers have thus the place of highest honour, inasmuch as he who is called the king’s son, is the highest in the king’s house. This beatitude is placed the seventh in order, because in the sabbath shall be given the repose of true peace, the six ages being passed away.

10. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

CHRYSOSTOM. Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, that is for virtue, for defending others, for piety, for all these things are spoken of under the title of righteousness. This follows the beatitude upon the peacemakers, that we may not be led to suppose that it is good to seek peace at all times.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 2.) When peace is once firmly established within, whatever persecutions he who has been cast without raises, or carries on, he increases that glory which is in the sight of God.

JEROME. For righteousness’ sake He adds expressly, for many suffer persecution for their sins, and are not therefore righteous. Likewise consider how the eighth beatitude of the true circumcision is terminated by martyrdom.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. (vid. Phil. 3:2:3.) He said not, Blessed are they who suffer persecution of the Gentiles; that we may not suppose the blessing pronounced on those only who are persecuted for refusing to sacrifice to idols; yea, whoever suffers persecution of heretics because he will not forsake the truth is likewise blessed, seeing he suffers for righteousness. Moreover, if any of the great ones, who seem to be Christians, being corrected by you on account of his sins, shall persecute you, you are blessed with John the Baptist. For if the Prophets are truly martyrs when they are killed by their own countrymen, without doubt he who suffers in the cause of God has the reward of martyrdom though he suffers from his own people. Scripture therefore does not mention the persons of the persecutors, but only the cause of persecution, that you may learn to look, not by whom, but why you suffer.

HILARY. Thus, lastly, He includes those in the beatitude whose will is ready to suffer all things for Christ, who is our righteousness. For these then also is the kingdom preserved, for they are in the contempt of this world poor in spirit.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Or, the eighth beatitude, as it were, returns to the commencement, because it shews the perfect complete character. In the first then and the eighth, the kingdom of heaven is named, for the seven go to make the perfect man, the eighth manifests and proves his perfectness, that all may be conducted to perfection by these steps.

AMBROSE. (in Luc. vi. 23.) Otherwise; the first kingdom of heaven was promised to the Saints, in deliverance from the body; the second, that after the resurrection they should be with Christ. For after your resurrection you shall begin to possess the earth delivered from death, and in that possession shall find comfort. Pleasure follows comfort, and Divine mercy pleasure. But on whom God has mercy, him He calls, and he whom He calls, beholds Him that called him. He who beholds God is adopted into the rights of divine birth, and then at length as the son of God is delighted with the riches of the heavenly kingdom. The first then begins, the last is perfected.

CHRYSOSTOM. Wonder not if you do not hear ‘the kingdom’ mentioned under each beatitude; for in saying shall be comforted, shall find mercy, and the rest, in all these the kingdom of heaven is tacitly understood, so that you must not look for any of the things of sense. For indeed he would not be blessed who was to be crowned with those things which depart with this life.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) The number of these sentences should be carefully attended to; to these seven degrees of blessedness agree the operation of that seven-form Holy Spirit which Isaiah described. But as He began from the highest, so here He begins from the lowest; for there we are taught that the Son of God will descend to the lowest; here that man will ascend from the lowest to the likeness of God. Here the first place is given to fear, which is suitable for the humble, of whom it is said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, that is, those who think not high things, but who fear. The second is piety, which belongs to the meek; for he who seeks piously, reverences, does not find fault, does not resist; and this is to become meek. The third is knowledge, which belongs to those that mourn, who have learned to what evils they are enslaved which they once pursued as goods. The fourth, which is fortitude, rightly belongs to those who hunger and thirst, who seeking joy in true goods, labour to turn away from earthly lusts. The fifth, counsel, is appropriate for the merciful, for there is one remedy to deliver from so great evils, viz. to give and to distribute to others. The sixth is understanding, and belongs to the pure in heart, who with purged eye can see what eye seeth not. The seventh is wisdom, and may be assigned to the peacemakers, in whom is no rebellious motion, but they obey the Spirit. Thus the one reward, the kingdom of heaven, is put forth under various names. In the first, as was right, is placed the kingdom of heaven, which is the beginning of perfect wisdom; as if it should be said, The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. To the meek, an inheritance, as to those who with piety seek the execution of a father’s will. To those that mourn, comfort, as to persons who know what they had lost, and in what they were immersed. To the hungry, plenty, as a refreshment to those who labour for salvation. To the merciful, mercy, that to those who have followed the best counsel, that may be shewed which they have shewed to others. To the pure in heart the faculty of seeing God, as to men bearing a pure eye to understand the things of eternity. To the peacemakers, the likeness of God. And all these things we believe may be attained in this life, as we believe they were fulfilled in the Apostles; for as to the things after this life they cannot be expressed in any words.

11. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake.

12. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.

RABANUS. The preceding blessings were general; He now begins to address His discourse to them that were present, foretelling them the persecutions which they should suffer for His name.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) It may be asked, what difference there is between ‘they shall revile you,’ and ‘shall speak all manner of evil of you;’ to revile, it may be said, being but to speak evil of. But a reproach thrown with insult in the face of one present is a different thing from a slander cast on the character of the absent. To persecute includes both open violence and secret snares.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. But if it be true that he who offers a cup of water does not lose his reward, consequently he who has been wronged but by a single word of calumny, shall not be without a reward. But that the reviled may have a claim to this blessing, two things are necessary, it must be false, and it must be for God’s sake; otherwise he has not the reward of this blessing; therefore He adds, falsely for my sake.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont i. 5.) This I suppose was added because of those who wish to boast of persecutions and evil reports of their shame, and therefore claim to belong to Christ because many evil things are said of them; but either these are true, or when false yet they are not for Christ’s sake.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ezech. i. 9. 17.) What hurt can you receive when men detract from you, though you have no defence but only your own conscience? But as we ought not to stir up wilfully the tongues of slanderers, lest they perish for their slander, yet when their own malice has instigated them, we should endure it with equanimity, that our merit may be added to. Rejoice, He says, and exult, for your reward is abundant in heaven.

GLOSS. (ap. Anselm.) Rejoice, that is, in mind, exult with the body, for your reward is not great only but abundant in heaven.

AUGUSTINE. (Serm. in Mont. i. 5.) Do not suppose that by heaven here is meant the upper regions of the sky of this visible world, for your reward is not to be placed in things that are seen, but by in heaven understand the spiritual firmament, where everlasting righteousness dwells. Those then whose joy is in things spiritual will even here have some foretaste of that reward; but it will be made perfect in every part when this mortal shall have put on immortality.

JEROME. This it is in the power of any one of us to attain, that when our good character is injured by calumny, we rejoice in the Lord. He only who seeks after empty glory cannot attain this. Let us then rejoice and exult, that our reward may be prepared for us in heaven.

PSEUDO-CHRYSOSTOM. For by how much any is pleased with the praise of men, by so much is he grieved with their evil speaking. But if you seek your glory in heaven, you will not fear any slanders on earth.

GREGORY. (Hom. in Ezech. i. 9. 17.) Yet ought we sometimes to check our defamers, lest by spreading evil reports of us, they corrupt the innocent hearts of those who might hear good from us.

GLOSS. (non occ.) He invites them to patience not only by the prospect of reward, but by example, when He adds, for so persecuted they the Prophets who were before you.

REMIGIUS. For a man in sorrow receives great comfort from the recollection of the sufferings of others, who are set before him as an example of patience; as if He had said, Remember that ye are His Apostles, of whom also they were Prophets.

CHRYSOSTOM. At the same time He signifies His equality in honour with His Father, as if He had said, As they suffered for my Father, so shall ye suffer for me. And in saying, The Prophets who were before you, He teaches that they themselves are already become Prophets.

AUGUSTINE. (ubi sup.) Persecuted He says generally, comprehending both reproaches and defamation of character.

 

SOURCE: eCatholic 2000Commentary in public domain.
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