Reading I: Apocalypse II: 1 John 3:1-3
1 Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to 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.
4 "Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
5 "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
6 "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
7 "Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
8 "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
9 "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
10 "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 "Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.
12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you.
Humans meet God on mountains, such as Moses on Mt. Sinai, Elijah on Mt. Carmel, Jerusalem on Mt. Zion. In Matthew, Jesus also went to the mountains for temptation (4:8-10), feeding people (15:29-39), transfiguration (17:1-9), arrest (26:30-35), and the final commission to his disciples (28:16).
Jesus sits downs as a Jewish teacher would. When giving his homily, the Pope sits down because of his authority as a teacher, not his old age.
"Open his mouth" indicates the beginning of a public address (Job 3:1-2), a public teaching (Ps 78:2), or a solemn commitment (Judg 11:35-36).
Blessing is common in Jewish culture, such as Ps 1 and the wisdom books (Prov 3:13, 28:14). Old Testament blessings indicate present rewards, but Jesus' blessings are for the judgment day.
The reward for each blessing is in the passive voice to avoid the name of God.
God takes special care of the poor (Ex 22:25-27; 23:11; Lev 19:9-10; Deut 15:7-11; Is 61:1). The poor in spirit recognizes that they need God, that they cannot save themselves.
Mourners are concerned with the social ills and the destruction of Jerusalem (Is 61:2-3; Sir 48:24), not with personal sins.
"Meek" in Hebrew is pretty much the same as "poor in spirit".
"Merciful" is an attribute of God, and God wants people to be merciful.
"Pure in heart" does not mean sexual purity or single-mindedness, but an integration of conscience, intention and actions.
Peace is the fullness of God's gift and will be perfect only in God's kingdom. "Sons of God" means the angels (Gn 6:1-4). Being called sons of God means being invited to join the angels in the Kingdom.
Christians at Matthew's time were persecuted by fellow Jews. All the characteristics above (meek, merciful and thus not retaliating, etc.) did not defend them from persecution.
One Main Point
CHRIST WILL COME AGAIN TO SAVE THE POOR
The eight beatitudes express poetically one main idea: those who know that they need God (the poor in spirit) will inherit the Kingdom of God when He comes again. All eight rewards have to do with final coming of Christ. The first and last rewards are the same: Kingdom of Heaven (meaning Kingdom of God). The third reward, land, meaning earth, forms a pair with Heaven (heaven and earth) to mean everything. Other rewards (full justice, mercy, seeing God) are awarded on judgment day [Cleary, Harrington].
Observe the setting, the words, the gestures, the tone of voice, etc. of Jesus on the mount. How does he feel? How do people around him react? Where am I in the scene, and how do I react?
Looking at the way I live, do I recognize my poverty, my dependence on God? Do I rely on my brain, beauty, and bucks instead?
Once recognizing my helplessness, do I trust in the promise of the Kingdom of God? If I do, should I experience peace? When?
If this culture advocates brain, beauty and buck while I rely on God instead, I might be persecuted the way Christians were persecuted by Jews at the time this Gospel was written. What forms of persecution may fall my way, and would I be willing to accept them?