Sunday’s Gospel – All Saints – Matthew 5.1-12
Jesus goes up a mountain – it is on a mountain where revelations of God so often happen, such as Elijah and the still, small voice or Moses meeting God and being given the 10 commandments. Jesus sits down – which is the traditional pose for a Rabbi teaching his disciples.
Though some of these saying (normally called the Beatitudes as they begin ‘blessed are’) can be taken on their own, put all together they show the values of the Kingdom. They are meant to be taken all together, for a person who is poor in spirit will inevitably be a peacemaker; a person who is meek will always be one who thirsts after righteousness. They are very powerful, but all together comforting! They lead up to ‘Blessed are those who are persecuted’, which is not quite what we all hope for ourselves. They then lead into Jesus saying very directly ‘Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.’ This reflects reality – Christians are very likely to find themselves insulted or spoken against less than charitably. This was so in Jesus’ time and is true again today.
This is the beginning of the sermon on the mount. For all is wonderful teaching, the sermon on the mount has been criticised for setting an impossible standard, a moral code which ensures we are bound to fail. But having this as the Gospel on All Saints Day is a counter to that. The saints who us how holy simple humanity can be and how high a standard we are capable of. The saints are those who have lived the Beatitudes and turned them from good moral teaching into a lived reality.