On Sundays from late January through February this year, and again on Ash Wednesday, the Gospel readings are from the Sermon on the Mount, which is often called the Magna Carta of the Christian life. The Sermon on the Mount is the first recorded sermon of Jesus, and is described in Matthew chapters 5 through 7, with that or a similar sermon recounted in Luke 6:20-49. When reviewing how we are living out our calling as sons and daughters of God, it is helpful to read carefully that sermon and strive to live out its glorious challenge.
The Sermon begins, as we heard in late January, with the Beatitudes, which describe the overall approach to life that Jesus calls us to, an approach that takes on, with such values as poverty of spirit, humility of life, and purity of heart. The Sermon then sets forth the mission of being the salt of the earth, the light of the world, and the city set upon the hill. As the Sermon later describes in chapter 6, we should not show off good deeds and prayer before others, but should let them flow naturally as the working of grace in our lives. Here and elsewhere, Jesus calls us to a difficult balance. Thus, we should be meant to engage the world, but also keep silence when further discussion is useless lest we “cast pearls before swine.” We are meant to oppose the injustices of society, but also avoid judgementalism and be open to reconciliation in a manner faithful to the law of God.
Jesus also makes it clear that the Christian life builds upon the old Jewish law and reason, consistent with them, but calling us to an ever-higher level with such things as holiness in one’s vocation, reconciliation with others, and a confidence that God will guide us through all things. Such path is difficult, but Jesus teaches us that when we are at prayer, God always answers us and opens His door, although we may be surprised at what is behind it. In order to encourage prayer and this sacred life, Jesus teaches such things as the Lord’s Prayer and the Golden Rule. And He concludes by describing the choice that is set before us, whether to build our lives upon the shifting sands of desire and the world or upon the solid rock of the words of Jesus, the words that call us to everlasting life.