Resources on St. Paul

Fr. Raymond Collins is a widely respected biblical scholar with a particular expertise in the writings of St. Paul. The Liturgical Press has published two books of Fr. Collins that I believe merit consideration by serious students of Scripture.

One is part of the Sacra Pagina series of biblical commentaries that the Liturgical Press launched in the 1990s. It is on 1 Corthinians. The other is entitled “Letters that Paul Did Not Write.”

I recommend highly for several reasons.

First, Fr. Collins is a top rate scholar.

Second, he is not ideologically oriented. Sometimes he opts for a traditional perspective, other

The hypocrisy of sports illustrated

Sports illustrated, the same shameful rag that objectifies women in swimsuits at the same time that it castigates men who respond to inappropriate dress and advances tries once again, unsuccessfully and shamefully to be socially relevant.

As the Church teaches, and society observed until the onset of hedonism, relativism, and individualism, homosexual behavior is wrong. Making an issue, literally, of a basketball player acknowledging his homosexuality. Not worthy of comment here.

However, what does merit mention is a comment some weeks ago by a SI writer:

In the March 18, 2013 edition of SI, an author, Richard Hoffer, made this comment:

“McIlroy became, in the casual decision to walk to his car instead of the 9th tee
box, a loser of the worst stripe, joining a gumptionless gallery of quitters
that includes the likes of Roberto Duran, Shelley Long, Dave Chappelle and Pope
Benedict XVI.”

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vault/article/magazine/MAG1207088/index.htm

Can u imagine the gall and inappropriateness of writing that and of publishing it.

Put simply, it is ok to malign a pope, but not those who act immorally.  Sports has become idolatry. Write SI with your disapproval. I did but the email bounced. Maybe they are not interested in hearing negative feedback on their immorality. If you get a valid email address for such letters, send it to me.

Also, I welcome your posts on this. Send em along. But write the rag first.

Pray for the writer of this atrocity. If he has to pick on an 84 year old pope who has given so much to others, he can’t possibly not need it. And for the magazine.

And have a great end of the Easter season!

History Uncorked

History Uncorked: Peace, Love & Rock ‘n’ Roll
Friday, March 8, 2013, 7 p.m.

Get ready for a groovy time at History Uncorked, Pittsburgh’s premier event for young professionals. As one of the city’s most popular annual events, History Uncorked offers an opportunity to become involved with the History Center’s mission while mingling with up-and-coming entrepreneurs, connecting with colleagues, and building a broader professional network.

This year’s History Uncorked, chaired by Nathan Boxx of Fort Pitt Capital Group, will celebrate the History Center’s upcoming exhibition, 1968: The Year That Rocked America, with 1960s music and décor. Proceeds from the event benefit the programs and services of the History Center and Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum.

For more information, please contact Mark Burnett at 412-454-6405 or mlburnett@heinzhistorycenter.org.

Tickets

Purchase your tickets online at Showclix.com.

$50 in advance $65 at the door $100 VIP (advance sales only)

 

Sermon on the Mount Book Review

Word Among Us Press has recently published an outstanding book on the Sermon on the Mount. It is entitled “Building Our House on Rock: The Sermon on the Mount”, and is written by Dennis Hamm, SJ.

Fr. Hamm is a widely respected and published biblical scholar. He has written insightfully on the beatitudes as well.

It is available from WAU at their website, wau.org at a price of 11.66, 20% off.

This book combines spirituality and study in an accessible fashion. Fr. Hamm is a trustworthy guide who writes well, making things understandable without becoming simplistic.

A note on WAU.

In my opinion, they are a bit of an eclectic publisher. I see this as a good thing. They are not ideologically driven. In addition to mainstream material, they publish scholarly works that are also accessible. Any serious layperson can read them profitably. Many presses shy away from these because of their lack of mass appeal. Not WAU. If a book is good, and fits their audience, they don’t let marketing concerns trump substance. Thus they publish works by very reputable authors who perhaps aren’t as well known as popular authors, but are every bit as good, and in my opinion, often significantly better.

Highly recommended.

Lectio Divina Workshop at Catholic Biblical Association

In November, 1998, Karl Schultz gave a presentation on Lectio Divina at the Catholic Biblical Association of Canada. The total recorded time was 3 hours 5 minutes. The DVD also includes a 55 minute television interview on lectio divina.

This “double feature” DVD is available for $22 shipping included, through the Easter Season.

If you wish to order the DVD, you may do so in two ways. Either send a check for the total amount, made out to Genesis Personal Development Center or Karl A. Schultz, at the following address:

3431 Gass Avenue; Pgh, Pa  15212-2239.

Or, send me your email address, and I will forward a Paypal payment request that you can validate. If you have any questions, please email me at karlaschultz@juno.com or (412) 766-7545.

Bible 101

In April, 2006, I gave a two part retreat at Fatima Retreat House in Indianapolis. The two hour evening session was called “Bible 101.” The day retreat was entitled “Praying with the Gospels.” Both were videotaped.

The latter was featured on yesterday’s blog. Today we’ll discuss the former.

Bible 101 is a two hour introduction to the Bible and lectio divina (holistic prayerful reading of the Bible). It is meant for the person with little or moderate familiarity with the Bible.

It is available through the Easter season, in conjunction with mentioning this post, for $17, shipping included. Though not studio (high definition) or broadcast quality, the audio and video quality is very good, but the packaging is not fancy.  This enables me to keep the price down.

Both DVDs, Praying with the Gospels and Bible 101, are available at the further discounted price of $36, shipping included.

Similarly to yesterday’s offering connected with “Praying with the Gospels”, as a bonus, if you wish to order either or both of the following books, which also discuss lectio divina, “Becoming Community: Biblical Meditations and Modern Applications” and / or “Journaling with Moses and Job: A Christian Personal Growth Model” You may deduct $4 from the price of each, or $10 from the price of both.

Thus, when purchased with Bible 101 or Praying with the Gospels, Becoming Community will be $10, and Journaling with Moses and Job will be $8. If purchased together, the cost will be $16. Shipping will be an additional $2 for each, or $3 total for both.

If the DVD is not of interest, you may order the aforementioned books at the discounted price. The prices are good not only throughout Lent, but through the Easter season, providing that you mention this blog posting. It will help me learn who is reading it.

If you wish to order the DVD and / or books, you may do so in two ways. Either send a check for the total amount, made out to Genesis Personal Development Center or Karl A. Schultz, at the following address:

3431 Gass Avenue; Pgh, Pa  15212-2239.

Or, send me your email address, and I will forward a Paypal payment request that you can validate. If you have any questions, please email me at karlaschultz@juno.com or (412) 766-7545.

The Door to Silence

Between Friends

A column by Joni Woelfel, # 1, Copyright 2010

The Door to Silence

Be still and know that I am God.  –Psalm 46:10

A friend was telling me about his visits to a nearby chapel and being given the electronic code to enter through the locked door.  He went on to muse about Peter being given the keys to the kingdom, while we in modern times are given the “codes” to the kingdom.  Indeed, this is the electronic age.

Recently, while Christmas shopping, the power and progress of these technical advances was never more apparent.  It seemed in every store we went, shoppers had cell phones glued to their ears.  I noted the same thing at restaurants and people yakking on phones in their cars as we passed them in holiday traffic.  Later, at a movie, throughout the viewing, pale white lights blinked on and off as people checked texts and sent them. 

 When I got home, as I checked my own emails, I thought of the prominent on-line social networks, with many people spending hours and hours commenting, sharing and informing.  I imagined what the earth must look like from space, glowing with gargantuan energy levels emanating from electronic communications.

I reflected on the words of a journalist who recently reported  that the American youth culture will one day transform our country into the most narcissistic nation on earth through personal communication overload.  A person’s worth and popularity is defined through the number of online ‘friends’ one has—and that all important rejection button, handy for weeding out those you don’t like. There is no detail too small to share, no stone unturned in what impacts one’s life, no emotion or opinion left unsaid.  Young people grow up without learning to balance the true meaning of hospitality in life with the fact that one needs boundaries in relationships.  You cannot be close friends with 392 followers.

Granted, freedom of expression is a privilege; I am not saying that this global generation’s vast resources for staying  in touch, building community and inspiring others is not a blessing.  No one appreciates this like a writer.  However, dare we say that there comes a time when it is all just “too much excess?”  Dare we say that there is too much unhealthy interruption in daily life—that we should be able to share a meal with loved ones without someone’s phone intrusively beeping and bleeping?  The door to communication is unlocked forever—but who will hold us accountable for the gift?  Who will say, “There is also a door to silence that must be honored.” 

This Christmas Eve, as God lovingly looks down upon the earth from heaven, our planet lit up by electronic messages while visions of people yakking dance in his head, will it be any wonder that he asks us to remember that the nativity story began on a silent night?    

-Joni Woelfel is the author of 6 books.  She is known playfully to Karl Schultz, the blog-keeper, as Miss Joni, among other things. Her sense of humanity and humor are a great gift to the blog.

Joni’s previous columns include Deep are the Roots (Wabasso Standard) and Tall in Spirit (Catholic Women’s Network).  She was also a Starting Point contributor for The National Catholic Reporter.   Between Friends appears on-line at www.karlaschultz.wordpress.com

Compassionate Awareness

Compassionate Awareness:  Living Life to the Fullest

By Adolfo Quezada

www.paulistpress.com 2008, 9.95

Review by Joni Woelfel

When responsibilities and struggles have worn us out, when we feel used up and like throwing in the towel, when daily life has gotten mundane and life seems like we are doing little more than putting one foot in front of the other, Adolfo Quezada’s gem of a book, Compassionate Awareness is a saving grace.  It belongs with the classics in the “How Shall We Live” genre.

Divided into two sections and sixteen chapters, Quezada explains, “…mysticism has to do with clarity, reality and our assimilation into the realm of God.”  He invites us to live open-heartedly, understanding that “compassion is something we are, not something we do.”  Compassion is not an emotion or an energy which we turn on and off, he says, but a natural state of the soul.  But how do we discover and live from this state, we wonder?

Through scripture, enlightening quotes from authors ( Albert Schweitzer, Evelyn Underhill, Thoreau, St. Francis of Assisi and others) inspirational passages and personal anecdotes, Quezada guides the reader like one would a friend into a new awareness and desire to live deeply, wisely, richly—and most of all, compassionately.

Early on, in one of the most beautiful essays, he writes of an early morning walk in the desert where he lives, “The mesquites glistened with morning dew, the Cholla cacti, each unique unto itself, offered attention and respect, and the Palo Verde trees with roots firmly planted in the earth reached for the heavens in humble petition.”  He then writes of an encounter with a hummingbird, who he describes as the high priest atop the Verde tree, bringing messages like a sermon to anyone who will “watch, listen and learn.”

This compelling encounter sets the stage for the important messages this book imparts from a well-known author who’s life’s work has consistently called the reader to wholeness, maturity and spiritual intelligence.  Especially moving in this book are a number of blank verse poems he has written, which the reader immediately senses are written from a deep place of his own experience as he encounters a wounded world as therapist who has been in practice all his life.

In the second section, Quezada draws the reader more intimately into the fullness of understanding how to live compassionately.  He writes, “…compassion is not created by circumstances.  It is not a reaction to life; rather it is a way of life.”  He explains that compassion can atrophy through lack of use, and that our goal is not to feel good or peaceful, but to be real.  He asks us to nurture ourselves with meditation, prayer and time alone and that “The nature of compassion is not the sharing of ourselves as much as it is the sharing of God through us.”

Through this compelling book, we learn the true meaning of tenderness and how to define false happiness.  We learn to recognize the constraints of ego and examine what motivates us.  Quezada reminds us that when divine compassion is present, we do not feel superior or inferior to others.  The many references to the compassion of Jesus are especially well done and resonate with the giving, generous spirit of this book.

Writing magically of his granddaughter, Sommer, his friend Sr. Ave’s faith following a terrible car/train wreck, his insight into his mother as she copes with Alzheimer’s disease, a time he encountered a vagabond asleep in his spot in church and the death of his teenage son, Quezada takes the reader into his world and heart.  Indeed, this book takes the reader into God’s heart, who calls each and every one of us to the ministry of compassion—which Quezada calls ‘angeling’—the manifestation of God’s love working through our lives.”

Quezada is the prominent author of many books, including Loving Yourself for God’s Sake, Heart Peace,  Rising through the Ashes and Sabbath Moments, www.catholicbookpublishing.com (Resurrection Press).  His most recent book, Radical Love: Following the Way of Jesus (2010) is available from www.paulistpress.com

Martin on the Matthean Macarisms (Scholarly Term for the Beatitudes, taken from the Greek root)

From Bringing The Gospel of Matthew to Life by George Martin

(available through Amazon)

Copyright © 2008 George Martin.  All rights reserved.

Scripture excerpts are taken from the New American Bible with Revised New Testament and Revised Psalms, copyright © 1991, 1986, 1970 by the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. Used with permission. All rights reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced by any means without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

——————————————————————————————

The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5

Orientation: In chapters 5 through 7 Jesus teaches how to live under the reign of God now in order to be part of the kingdom of God when it is established in its fullness. This collection of teachings is popularly known as The Sermon on the Mount.

The Beatitudes

1 When he saw the crowds, he went up the mountain, and after he had sat down, his disciples came to him. 2 He began to teach them, saying:

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Blessed are they who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

5 Blessed are the meek,

for they will inherit the land.

6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness,

for they will be satisfied.

7 Blessed are the merciful,

for they will be shown mercy.

8 Blessed are the clean of heart,

for they will see God.

9 Blessed are the peacemakers,

for they will be called children of God.

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. Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Gospel parallels: Luke 6:20–23

OT: Psalm 37:11; Isaiah 61:1–2, 7

1 When he saw the crowds: Matthew has told of great crowds coming to Jesus to be healed (4:24–25). Seeing these crowds, Jesus went up the mountain. God’s revelation to Moses took place on a mountain (Exod 19:3; 24:18; 34:4), and God’s revelation through Jesus will also take place on a mountain (possibly one of the high hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee but its location is not important for Matthew). Jesus sat down: Jewish teachers normally taught while seated. Jesus’ disciples came to him. Matthew has described the call of four disciples (4:18–22), but his account reads as if Jesus had also invited others to follow him (see also 10:1).

2 He began to teach them. Jesus instructs his disciples, but his teachings are not addressed exclusively to them: the crowds (verse 1) overhear what Jesus teaches (see 7:28–29). Matthew has told his readers that Jesus went about “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom” (4:23), but Matthew has quoted only two utterances of Jesus since he began his public ministry: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17) and “Come after me…” (4:19). Now Matthew presents teachings that are part of the “gospel of the kingdom,” teachings that spell out what it means to “repent” and to “come after” Jesus. Jesus speaks to his disciples and describes the life they are called to live, but allows the crowd to listen as an invitation for them to join the disciples in living under God’s reign. Matthew intends his readers to likewise listen to Jesus’ words as an instruction to them.

3 Jesus begins by proclaiming, Blessed are the poor in spirit, / for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Pronouncing someone blessed or happy was an established pattern of speech in the biblical world, a way of congratulating or praising someone (see Luke 11:27–28). Today we label these pronouncements “beatitudes.”

Background: Beatitudes. A beatitude praises or congratulates someone for being fortunate, telling why or how they are fortunate. “A woman from the crowd called out and said to him, ‘Blessed is the womb that carried you and the breasts at which you nursed.’ He replied, ‘Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it'” (Luke 11:27–28). There are about 60 beatitudes in the Old Testament and (by one count) 28 beatitudes in the New Testament. Psalm 1 is an extended beatitude. It begins with an exclamation, “Happy the man,” or “the person,” and then lays out the basis of the person’s happiness: he or she avoids bad company and spends time meditating on Scripture (Psalm 1:1–2). By explaining why the person is fortunate, the beatitude usually encourages the behavior that is the basis of the person’s happiness. Beatitudes may also describe the nature of the person’s happiness; Psalm 1, for example, speaks of flourishing even in difficult circumstances (Psalm 1:3). Beatitudes are sometimes translated, “Blessed is so and so,” but a beatitude does not call down God’s blessing on a person; it declares that the person is already fortunate in the eyes of God because of what the beatitude praises him or her for being or doing.

Jesus proclaims that the poor in spirit are very fortunate and blessed. There are different Hebrew and Greek words for different classes of poor people. The word used here for poor is not the word for the working poor, who made up the bulk of the population of Galilee. The word poor here means those with no means of support, beggars at the bottom of the social order. Such poor had to depend on others to survive, and this engendered an attitude of dependence. In the Psalms, the poor and afflicted cry out to God for help (Psalms 70:6; 86:1). The expression poor in spirit highlights the attitude of helplessness and dependence that comes from being destitute—or from recognizing one’s fundamental and absolute dependence on God—an attitude that is the opposite of self-assuredness and arrogance. The poor in spirit realize their own fragility and emptiness and turn to God.

Jesus pronounces the poor in spirit to be in a blessed and happy condition; they are fortunate because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The word theirs can have the connotation of theirs alone. Jesus’ listeners would generally have understood the kingdom of heaven to be God ruling over everyone and everything at the end of this age. Jesus proclaims that the poor in spirit are blessed because they will be part of God’s reign when it is established. But Jesus says more than that: he says that the poor in spirit are in a blessed condition now because theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The poor in spirit already participate in God’s reign because their recognition that they are fragile and empty allows God to have unimpeded reign in their lives.

Jesus’ pronouncement is a shocking reversal of our usual way of thinking. We do not enter into God’s reign by what we have or do, but by realizing what we do not have and cannot do, and by our turning to God in our emptiness.

For reflection: When have I turned to God in my emptiness?

4 Blessed are they who mourn, / for they will be comforted. Jesus does not specify what those who mourn are mourning about, but a key to understanding their mourning may be found in the other beatitudes. The eight beatitudes do not refer to eight different groups of people but to eight characteristics shared by those who enter the reign of God. Those who mourn are poor in spirit (verse 3). Their mourning, then, is because of their deprivation and emptiness—and they may mourn as well God’s seeming slowness in rescuing them. Despite their mourning, Jesus proclaims them to be fortunate, for they will be comforted. The grammatical construction used here (and in later beatitudes) implies that they will be comforted by God. Jesus is not saying that unhappy people are really happy even if they don’t realize it; he knew sorrow himself (26:37–38). Jesus proclaims that when God establishes his reign, God will comfort those who grieve (see Rev 21:1–4).

For reflection: What has been my greatest grieving? What comforted me, or could comfort me?

5 Blessed are the meek, / for they will inherit the land. Matthew’s Jewish Christian readers would have heard a clear echo of Psalm 37: “The poor will possess the land” (Psalm 37:11). Some translations of Psalm 37 read, “The meek will possess the land.” In the context of Psalm 37, the land they will possess is the land promised to the descendants of Abraham (Gen 12:7). All too often this land was seized by the powerful and greedy, leaving others landless and in need. Psalm 37 promises a reversal: the wicked will vanish, allowing the poor to take possession of the land and enjoy prosperity (Psalm 37:10–11).

Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more;

look for them and they will not be there.

But the poor will possess the land,

will delight in great prosperity.

Psalm 37:10–11

Jesus’ beatitude also promises a reversal. The meek are not mild-mannered or shy people; the meek are those who recognize their powerlessness—the poor in spirit. The land they will inherit is not a geographical territory but, in the context of the beatitudes, the kingdom of heaven (verses 3, 10). The meek will inherit it, as a bequest or gift. It is not something that they can earn: the poor in spirit have no earning power, materially or spiritually.

For reflection: In what ways am I meek? In what ways am I not meek?

Matthew’s Jewish Christian readers would likely have heard echoes of a prophecy of Isaiah in the first three beatitudes. Isaiah spoke of someone being anointed with the spirit of God to proclaim glad tidings to the lowly and to comfort those who mourn. The prophecy goes on to promise a double inheritance of the land to those who had known shame and disgrace. Jesus, upon whom the Spirit descended (3:16), fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy by proclaiming good news to those who are meek and mourning and poor in spirit: theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,

because the Lord has anointed me;

He has sent me to bring glad tidings to the lowly,

to heal the brokenhearted . . .

to comfort all who morn . . .

Since their shame was double

and disgrace and spittle were their portion,

They shall have a double inheritance in their land,

everlasting joy shall be theirs.

Isaiah 61:1, 2, 7

6 Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, / for they will be satisfied. To hunger and thirst for something means to yearn intensely for it, as a starving person longs for food and someone dying of thirst craves water. Righteousness has different shades of meaning. It can be God’s saving activity or humans doing God’s will in response to God’s saving activity. If those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are the poor in spirit, the meek and mourning, what are they hungering and thirsting for? They may long for God to set things right, vanquishing all that oppresses them. They may long to be set right themselves, so that they can live out God’s will for them. Perhaps we cannot decide whether the accent in this beatitude falls on God’s righteousness or on human righteousness; perhaps the hunger and thirst is for God to make all things right, including the one who hungers and thirsts. Their yearning is ultimately for God’s kingdom to come.

For reflection: What are my most heartfelt longings?

Jesus promises that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be satisfied; the implication is, satisfied by God. Satisfaction comes through being included in God’s plan of salvation. Being part of God’s reign is the fulfillment of the deepest human longings.

7 Blessed are the merciful, / for they will be shown mercy. The poor in spirit realize their own affliction and fragility and can have sympathy and compassion for others who are afflicted and fragile. Being merciful includes helping those in need and forgiving those who harm us. The merciful are blessed, for they will be shown mercy by God. The beatitude does not imply that our mercy to others is the cause of God’s mercy to us: God is merciful by nature (Exod 34:6). Our being unmerciful can, however, block God’s mercy (6:12, 14–15). In the context of the beatitudes, the merciful will receive mercy when God establishes his reign. This will involve a judgment that sorts out good from evil; the merciful will be judged mercifully (25:31–40).

For reflection: What is the measure of my mercy?

8 Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God. In the biblical view, the heart was the inner self, the seat of thinking, willing, and feeling. To be clean of heart means to be a person of integrity, wholeheartedly and single-mindedly devoted to God, without self-deception and mixed motives. Those who are clean of heart, who love God with their whole heart and soul and mind (22:37), will see God. To see God is an idiom for being united with God (see also 1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2; Rev 22:4). In the context of the beatitudes, the clean of heart will see God when God fully establishes his reign at the end of this age. (In traditional Catholic theology, being united with God in eternity is called the “beatific vision.”) Jesus announces that the reign of God is at hand (4:17), and those who seek God wholeheartedly can glimpse God revealed in and through Jesus (11:27; 12:28).

For reflection: How completely is my heart set on seeing God?

9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Being peacemakers is not simply a matter of living peacefully; peacemakers strive to bring about reconciliation and peace. The biblical notion of peace encompasses well-being and wholeness as well as an absence of strife. Peacemakers work to establish justice and harmony. They do not respond to violence with violence (5:38–48); by absorbing violence peacemakers can act as circuit breakers in the spiral of revenge. There is no guarantee that their peacemaking will succeed: only when God’s kingdom is fully established will violence be vanquished and complete peace reign. Jesus pronounces peacemakers to be blessed, even if they suffer violence, for they will be called children of God. As in other beatitudes, God’s action is implied: peacemakers will be called children of God by God (see 5:44–45). Children of God (literally, sons of God) is an Old Testament expression with different shades of meaning. Here it conveys that when God establishes his reign, God will claim as his own and have special affection for those who are peacemakers. Just as God proclaimed Jesus to be his beloved Son (3:17), so too God looks upon those who sacrifice themselves for peace as beloved sons and daughters. (Other New Testament writings also speak of what it means to be children of God: Rom 8:14–17; Gal 4:4–7; 1 John 3:1–2.)

For reflection: Have I been a peacemaker? How could I be a peacemaker?

10 Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, / for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Here righteousness means doing God’s will and playing one’s role in God’s plan of salvation. Experiencing some form of persecution is a real possibility for those whose allegiance is to God. Jesus proclaims them blessed and fortunate even if they are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, / for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. The promise that the persecuted will be welcomed into the reign of God is the same promise made to the poor in spirit (verse 3) and is the implicit promise of all the beatitudes.

For reflection: What have I done out of faithfulness to God that has aroused the greatest opposition?

11 Jesus continues with a ninth beatitude that is an expansion and application of the eighth. He switches from speaking of “they” to explicitly addressing his disciples as “you.” Jesus tells them, Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you [falsely] because of me. The accent falls on verbal abuse in Jesus’ expanded version of the eighth beatitude. Some will insult the disciples of Jesus and utter every kind of evil against them. (By printing falsely in brackets, the New American Bible indicates that this word is not found in all ancient manuscripts of Matthew’s Gospel.) Jesus says that insult and slander and even persecution will befall the disciples because of me: life has some hard knocks for everyone, but Jesus addresses what his disciples endure because of their allegiance to him. He tells them that they are blessed and fortunate despite whatever abuse comes to them because they are his disciples. Matthew probably intends his readers to include themselves among the “you” who are addressed by this beatitude: suffering for the sake of Jesus will not be limited to his first disciples. 

12 Jesus explains why his disciples should consider themselves blessed to suffer for him: Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven. While the beatitudes implicitly invite us to imitate what they praise, they contain only two direct commands: rejoice and be glad. Jesus tells his disciples to be joyful even when they are abused and slandered because of him, for your reward will be great in heaven. Matthew literally writes in the heavens; the upper part of the heavens (or sky) were thought of as the abode of God (see 3:16–17). To receive a reward in heaven means that one has been brought into the presence of God; there those who endure suffering for the sake of Jesus will receive a great reward from God.

Jesus adds, Thus they persecuted the prophets who were before you. The abuse heaped on disciples of Jesus will be nothing new. Most of the prophets sent by God had a tough time (Jeremiah was quite vocal about what he suffered for God: Jer 15:10–18; 20:7–18). Late Old Testament writings characterize prophets as being rejected and even killed (2 Chron 36:16; Neh 9:26). What happens to Jesus’ disciples will be in line with what happened in the past to those who served God.

Three general observations on the beatitudes as a whole: First, the beatitudes can be a mirror in which we see Jesus. They portray what one is like who lives under the reign of God, and Jesus is the perfect example of living one’s life completely for God. We can meditate on each of the beatitudes for what it tells us about Jesus.

Second, the beatitudes proclaim a profound reversal of values. If the beatitudes reflected conventional thinking they would read “Happy are the wealthy, the powerful, the good looking, the physically fit.” Jesus proclaims, happy are those who realize their fragility and emptiness and wholeheartedly turn to God. Jesus’ call to repent (4:17) is a call to change our attitudes and values.

Third, the beatitudes are like an overture to an opera, sounding the themes that will be developed in the course of Jesus’ teachings. Some of these teachings make high demands on those who want to follow Jesus. The beatitudes proclaim from the very beginning: Blessed and happy and truly fortunate are those who hear Jesus’ words and act on the them (7:24).