THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
Lesson 8: Chapter 5
Discourse #1: The Sermon on the Mount Continued
God's Plan for a Transformed Heart and Life
Eternal Father of peace and justice,
Thank you, Lord, for sending Your Son to transform us through the righteousness He imparts to us through His death and resurrection. Through Him we become spiritually renewed children in whom new hearts have been implanted "hearts called to purity, peace, and self-sacrificial love "hearts to love as Jesus loves us. As new creatures in Christ, make us instruments of Your peace, Lord. In Your name, we want to banish strife and discord in order to bring harmony and love. We can only do this, Lord, if our lives are filled up with the love of Christ. The more our lives are a reflection of His life, the more peace and love radiates from us out to a troubled world. Help us to be militant about peace and violently opposed to any and all things in this world that stand in the way of brotherhood and justice. Send us Your Holy Spirit to be our teacher, Lord, as we study the promises made to us in the Law of the New Covenant. We pray in the name of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.
+ + +
"BLESSED ARE THE CLEAN OF HEART"
We must begin by
purifying ourselves before purifying others; we must be instructed to be able to
instruct, become light to illuminate, draw close to God to bring him close to
others, be sanctified to sanctify, lead by the hand and counsel prudently.
St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 2, 71 as quoted in CCC 1589
Blessed are those who observe his instructions, who seek him with all their hearts... Psalm 119:2 (New Jerusalem translation)
Who may go up the
mountain of the LORD? Who can stand in his holy place? The clean of hand
and pure of heart...
When we submit to the sovereignty of God in "poverty of spirit," we take the first step toward our rebirth as sons and daughters of God. In acknowledging God's sovereignty over our lives, He promises us eternal life in the Kingdom of Heaven, and in our rebirth through baptism we come as His New Covenant children before the throne of God. Face to face with a pure and holy God, we become aware of our imperfections, and taking the next step we mourn our sins and the sins of the world. Our sincere contrition purifies us, and He comforts us and strengthens us in our struggle to conquer sin. Drawing close to God, we desire to be more perfectly conformed to His will. We yield our selfish will to His eternal will, and in a spirit of renewal our Father gives us our inheritance "as His children we conquer in meekness as we serve Him as members of the Body of Christ " His Church, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth "an earth that no longer can intimidate or dominate us because we serve the Lord who dominates the earth.
United with our Father in spirit and in will, He gives us a hunger and thirst for righteousness as manifested in His Son. This is the turning point in the spiritual journey, when we turn from what we need to give God to our focus on the Son of God and what He will give us. In Christ we die to sin and are raised to righteousness, and Jesus feeds us on our journey with His very flesh and blood. Such is the depth of His love for us that He continues to more deeply and spiritually transform us to His image "an image that calls for a pure and holy heart as our Savior is pure and holy. 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, as our lives become a reflection of Christ. Our cry becomes the cry of David "the beloved" in Psalm 51:12 (verse 10 in some translations): A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit.
Matthew 5:8 ~ Blessed are the clean of heart for they will see God...
Under the Old Covenant Law, ritual purity prepared the Covenant people for the coming of a pure and holy Messiah, but in his homily on the Beatitudes, St. Augustine points out that the external ceremonial purity as expressed in the Old Law was not enough. We cannot live the "New Law" of the Beatitudes without Christ any more that the Jews under the Old Covenant could perfectly keep the Law of Moses. In the Old Covenant, the circumcised flesh of every male child was a blood sacrifice which symbolized the sacrifice of the life of that child, who was to be a father to the next generation, to Yahweh, but it was not the circumcised flesh or the sacrifice of animals that pleased God.
The Greek word for "pure" or "clean" in this verse 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, the Jews, Greeks and Romans, different body parts had different physiological functions. The Jews believed that anger was situated in the nose and that love, compassion and most other emotions in the kidney, liver and bowels. To the people of Jesus' time the heart reflected the total substance of a man or woman; the true inward essence of a person as opposed to what is visible.
Please read Psalms 24:3-10
3 Who may go up the mountain of the LORD? Who can stand in his holy place? 4 "The clean of hand and pure of heart, who are not devoted to idols, who have not sworn falsely. 5 They will receive blessings from the LORD, and justice from their saving God. 6 Such are the people that love the LORD, that seek the face of the God of Jacob." 7 Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter. 8 Who is this king of glory? The LORD, a mighty warrior, the LORD, mighty in battle. 9 Lift up your heads, O gates; rise up, you ancient portals, that the king of glory may enter. 10 Who is this king of glory? The LORD of hosts is the king of glory.
This passage defines the character the worshippers who are clean of heart.
Question: In this passage what is the "holy place" on the "mountain of
the LORD" in verse 3? The literal translation is "mountain of Yahweh;" LORD in
all capital letters represents God's covenant name YHWH in the Hebrew text.
Answer: The reference is to God's Temple on Mt. Moriah in Jerusalem.
Question: How does Psalms 24:4 identify those of "clean" or "pure
Answer: They are those who observe the commands and prohibitions of the Law and who give God their covenant oath of undivided loyalty.
The literal translation of verse 4 is "the one whose hands are clean." The singular is used but the identification is for the entire class of worshippers. To seek the face of the God in verse 6 is a euphemism for seeking communion with God by renouncing sins and offering peace "thanksgiving" sacrifices followed by the sacred meal that restores fellowship with God (Lev 7:11-15).
Question: Who is it who is worthy to come to Yahweh's Temple and to
join in the liturgical celebration? See verses 3-6.
Answer: These verses connect the clean or pure in heart with the "righteous" believers who are blessed by God and invited to worship and have fellowship with Yahweh in the holy Temple.
Question: How does Psalms 24:3-6 define the rights and the character
of those of pure hearts "the righteous believers who are worthy to come to
Yahweh's Temple and offer sacrifice? Five conditions are listed.
Answer: As for the clean of heart:
Question: In Psalms 24:7-10 who is the King of Glory for whom the
faithful covenant people of pure hearts wait?
Answer: The LORD is pictured as a mighty king who is returning from battle.
The LORD is identified as the Lord of the heavenly hosts, commander of the heavenly army of angels who is returning from battle with the forces of evil on the earth. The Old Covenant faithful came to understand this aspect of Yahweh's authority to be embodied in the promised Messiah of Daniel 7:13-14: eternal, holy and mighty "the true ruler of the nations of the earth! This psalm was one of the Messianic psalms that looked forward to the coming to the Davidic king who would rule Israel and the people of God forever! We know Him as Jesus of Nazareth.
According to Jewish tradition, Psalms 24 was sung by the Levitical choir on the first day of each week during the two daily worship services of the Tamid lambs in the Jerusalem Temple (The Jewish Talmud, Mishnah: Tamid 7:4A).
Question: If this psalm was indeed sung on the "first" day of the
week, what was that day and what was its significance in the Messianic Era in
which we now live and what is the connection to Jesus? Hint: the last day
of the week was the 7th day, the Old Covenant Sabbath, Saturday.
Answer: The first day of the week is our Sunday. For the Old Covenant people it was the day Creation began in Genesis; for the New Covenant people it is the first day of the New Creation when Jesus arose from the dead as the victorious King declaring His victory over sin and death!
In Scripture the condition of one's heart determined the direction for good or evil a person was likely to take in their relationship with God and with men. One's outwardly righteous actions could not deceive God because He read the hidden parts of the human heart:
Question: What is meant by an "uncircumcised heart"? For other references to "uncircumcised hearts" see Lev 26:41; Jer 9:25; Ez 44:7, 9. For additional commands to circumcise hearts see Jer 4:4 and Rom 2:29. What is the personal sacrifice of every believer that is pleasing to God?
Answer: An "uncircumcised heart" is a heart that is unreceptive to God's guidance and divine grace. God requires repentant, humbled /"circumcised" hearts. A clean or pure heart is the singleness of heart which submits itself in perfect love to God's will as opposed to one's human will and that is the purity of heart that God desires. This means it is God's desire that we give Him our complete, undivided selves, yielding our "hearts" (our entire being) in obedience to His will and His plan for our lives.
Question: Knowing what Sacred Scripture recorded about God's desire
for the condition of human hearts, how would the Jews interpret Jesus' blessing
for "clean/pure hearts"?
Answer: Hearing Jesus' blessing for the "clean/pure of heart," the Jews listening would think of the heart as the center of the faculties and personality, the seat of knowledge and understanding "not just feelings but also thoughts, words, decisions and actions proceed from the heart. They would understand that Jesus was calling for "hearts" or lives that were purified by the grace of God because of faith and obedience to the will of God.
The inspired writers of Scripture also recognized that depravity and deceit emerged from the human heart.
Question: What did Jesus tell the crowd of Jews about evil in the
human heart in Matthew 15:19-20 when He and His disciples were accused of being
ritually "unclean" because they didn't always wash their hands, according to the
Law, before they ate?
Answer: He said it wasn't the external that defiled a person but the sin that was first generated as thoughts that came from an impure human heart: "For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, unchastity, theft, false witness, blasphemy. These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile."
Sin generated within an "impure heart" is where sin does its greatest damage by attacking the inward life from which sin then defiles the whole man or woman when expressed in actions contrary to the will of God. The inspired writers of the other New Testament books also recognized that the heart represented the hidden depths of one's 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.
Question: What did St. Peter say about the purification of hearts in
Acts 15:9 and what did he write in his letter to the universal Church in 1Peter
Answer: Peter said that the purification of the heart was a divine act of God when a person, Jew or Gentile, professed faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 15:9). He also wrote that the hidden character of a pure heart expressed an imperishable beauty that is precious to God above any external attribute.
Question: How did Jesus identified the heart in Matthew 18:35?
Answer: He identified the heart as the seat of forgiveness when He warned the crowds in the parable of the Merciless Servant of the punishment that will be inflicted on one who refuses to forgive: So my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
Jesus also identified the depths of one's heart as the place where the pain inflicted by others in our lives is either bound in suffering or loosed in forgiveness. Jesus taught that the covenant believer who offers his heart to the Holy Spirit is released from the earthly power to continually feel a hurt. Instead the Holy Spirit turns that hurt into compassion and purifies the believer's heart by turning that hurtful memory into intercession and prayer for the offender, as we forgive those who trespass against us (Mt 5:12), for it is our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, ...by his stripes we were healed (Is 53:4-5, prophecy of the Suffering Messiah). Also see The Lord's Prayer, Mt 5:43-44, and CCC 2842-44). Therefore, when Jesus spoke of the blessedness of a cleansed heart, His 1st century AD listeners understood He was speaking of the total reflection of a person called to purity in every aspect of his or her life.
Question: What else does Scripture teach about the heart?
In your answer, quote from at least one passage in each section.
The word "spirituality" is one of the most poorly defined and most often abused words in the Christian vocabulary; after all, even Buddhists and Hindus are "spiritual" people.
Question: Biblically is it correct to define "Christian spirituality"
or "the Christian spiritual life" as simply a "feeling" of closeness to God?
Look up the word "spiritual" or "spiritual life" in a Catholic dictionary.
Answer: As defined by the abridged edition of the Modern Catholic Dictionary "spiritual life" is: ...the life of the Holy Spirit, dwelling in the souls of the faithful and enabling them to praise and love God and serve him in the practice of virtue. It is called the spiritual life because: 1. its animating principle is the Spirit of God, the "Soul of the soul" in sanctifying grace; 2. it is the supernatural life of the human spirit; 3. it is mainly lived out in the spiritual faculties of intellect and will, although affecting the whole person, body and soul (Modern Catholic Dictionary, abridged edition, page 417).
It is the "spiritual" believer who seeks to serve God with a clean heart "a sanctified heart kept "clean" and free from sin through the Sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist in which sin is forgiven and hearts are cleansed. Scripture tells us it is those of "clean hearts" who will turn to God with no reservations, with no hypocrisy, but with only genuine repentance for sin and with love and obedience. St. Jose-Maria Escriva wrote: A man is worth what his heart is worth, and St. Paul the Apostle's prayer for the community at Ephesus was: May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones ... (Eph 1:18). [Note: most translations have "eyes of your mind" but the literal translation is "heart;" see the New Jerusalem Bible, page 1933 note "r"].
Jesus' standard for purity of heart requires that the piety of the believer depends on an inward transformation and not only on an outward show of ritual piety. In Matthew 6:21 Jesus will teach that one's heart must be in heaven, where one's treasure is to be found: For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. Purity of heart then identifies the true internal self of the believer in union with God. Purity of heart is to will only one thing and that is conformity with God's will with all of one's being "internally and externally in one's thoughts, words and actions. This is the kind of man or woman who "knows the heart of God."
Question: Of all the Old Testament heroes and heroines who is
identified as one who was "after God's own heart?" See 1 Sam 13:14
and 16:1-13. Describe this person.
Answer: David the shepherd-boy, musician, poet-warrior, lover of beautiful woman, adulterer, and murderer who was King of Israel. He was an imperfect man who yearned throughout his life to present himself to his God in perfect purity of heart.
Question: With all his imperfections, why did God love David?
There are many incidents in the Bible stories of David's life which illustrate
his relationship with God. Give some examples; see 1 Sam 17:47; 24:1-23; 2 Sam 11:1-2:25; 24:1, 10-17, 25.
Answer: Despite his many sins, David always came back to God in sincere repentance and in submission of his life to the will of God.
David in Hebrew [DWD in proto-Hebrew and dawid, with vowels] means, "beloved" (Dictionary of the Bible, John L. McKenzie, S.J.). Despite his many faults, God loved David because it was David's sincere desire to conform his will to the will of God that gave him the kind of "heart" that was completely with the LORD (1 Kng 11:4).
But purity of heart cannot come simply from our own internal cleansing. Jesus told his disciples: You are pure because of the word which I have spoken to you (Jn 15:3). We can only have a clean heart through the supernatural grace of God. Purity of heart can only come about through the work of God the Holy Spirit. The first gift of purity of heart is granted to us in the Sacrament of Baptism.
Question: How can we reclaim "cleanness of heart" when we fall into sin? What is the supernatural gift of grace by which our hearts are healed of the stain of sin and cleansed?
See CCC 1421, 1432-33. What can we learn from David's example in 2 Samuel 12:7-25?
Answer: Our sin is purged and our hearts are cleansed by God's grace in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. When David was confronted with his sins concerning the woman Bathsheba, he confessed his sins and he submitted himself to God's judgment. His willingness to submit himself to God and to accept the death of his child conceived in adultery with Bathsheba resulted in the blessing of another child who became Israel's greatest king, King Solomon.
The Holy Spirit 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). The Holy Spirit puts Christ in our hearts, circumcising our old hearts and giving us new hearts that conform us to Christ's 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! Cleanliness of heart is not a one-time blessing; it is a blessing that must be constantly renewed. Sin damages the purity of our hearts; repentance and reconciliation restores our hearts, purifies our hearts and fills our hearts "our entire beings " anew with the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
David struggled with cleanliness of heart and often failed. But in his failure he always knew where to turn "repeatedly he turned back to God. For us the call for a cleansed heart is so much easier because Christ's sacrificial death has purified us through His precious blood. Through the work of the Holy Spirit He has "circumcised" our hearts "He has given us new hearts conformed to His precious sacred heart and this transformation has given us a unique promise "to see the face of God.
"FOR THEY SHALL SEE GOD"
"Blessed are the
pure in heart, for they shall see God." It is true, because of the greatness and
inexpressible glory of God, that "man shall not see me and live;" for the Father
cannot be grasped. But because of God's love and goodness toward us, and
because he can do all things, he goes so far as to grant those who love him the
privilege of seeing him...for "what is impossible for men is possible for God."
St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, IV.20.5
The LORD is just
and loves just deeds; the upright shall see his face.
Strive for peace
with everyone, and for that holiness without which no one will see the Lord.
See to it that no one be deprived of the grace of God, that no bitter root
spring up and cause trouble through which many may become defiled ...
Matthew 5:8 ~ Blessed are the clean of heart for they will see God.
The promise of this beatitude is that the clean/pure of heart will have the privilege of seeing God. In Old Testament Scripture to see the face of God referred to that unique intimacy that was restored to believers through the peace sacrifice that restored communion with God through a sacred meal.
Question: In Sacred Scripture who are the few given this very special
privilege of seeing God? Can you name a few such encounters and did that
person or persons literally "see" God face to face? See Ex 24:9-11; 33:11,
20; Jn 1:18; 14:9-10.
Answer: Moses, Aaron and his two sons, and the 70 elders of Israel ate a sacred meal in God's presence during the sacrificial meal that ratified the Sinai Covenant in Exodus 24:9-11. Verse 10 records that they beheld the God of Israel, and in verse 11: After gazing on God, they could still eat and drink. In Exodus 33:11, Scripture records that The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another. But it is uncertain if these men literally saw God's face or only a vague form because in Exodus 33:20 Yahweh warns Moses: But my face you cannot see, for no man sees me and still lives, and St. John writes in John 1:18: No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is close to the Father's heart, who has made him known. However, everyone who saw the face of Jesus of Nazareth literally saw the face of God, as Jesus told His disciples, Whoever has seen me has seen the Father ... do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? (Jn 14:9b-10).
We were created, after all, in the image of God "it was our spiritual likeness to our divine Father that image was damaged in our original parent's fall from grace.
Question: In the Old Testament prior to the advent of Christ, how was
that "likeness" partially restored?
Answer: The spiritual likeness to God was partially restored to those who answered the divine call to fellowship with God as their sovereign Lord and one true God in the family bond of a covenant relationship.
For example, in the Old Testament the title "son(s) of God" was applied to those members of the human family who were where in covenant with Yahweh:
Despite the partial restoration under the old Law, mankind remained linked to Adam's sin, and that perfection of grace that was lost to humanity in the Fall was not completely restored until Jesus' sacrificial death and resurrection. In the New Covenant in Christ, our likeness of God is restored by divine will through the Sacrament of Christian Baptism, liberating us from the family of Adam and giving us new birth as pure sons and daughters of our divine Father: ... the Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ (CCC 2345). St. John promised the faithful in 1 John 3:2-3: 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. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he [Christ] is pure. It is Christ dwelling in us who makes us pure sons and daughters who have the promise of seeing our Father face to face (also see the promise for believers as children of the divine Father in Mt 5:9 and Jn 1:11-13).
It is a special gift of the New Covenant, Jesus tells His disciples, that those of "clean hearts" will have the special privilege of seeing God. This is a promise that can have two fulfillments; one in the present and another in the future.
Question: In what two ways can this promise be fulfilled, present and
Answer: This promise not only concerns the promised beatific vision in the spiritual body for those who experience a holy death and come face to face with God in the eternal kingdom, but to experience God spiritually on this earth through works of mercy and kindness in which one sees the face of God in each person to whom love and comfort is given in the name of Jesus the Messiah.
The Dominican scholar Father Raymond of Capua, the spiritual director, friend, and biographer, of St. Catherine of Siena [1347-1380] records St. Catherine told him at one time she had a devotion to repeating Psalm 51:12 (verse 10 in some translations): A clean heart create for me, God; renew in me a steadfast spirit. Then one day she had a vision in which the Lord came to her, removed her physical heart and inserted a new heart, telling her that He was giving her His own heart. Later, when Catherine was gravely ill, Father Raymond visited her. As he sat by her bed he saw her countenance change and he suddenly realized that he was looking into the face of Christ Himself (Life of Catherine of Siena, by Raymond of Capua).
St. Catherine had what St. Paul of Tarsus had discovered and that is purity of heart means dying to self and living for Christ. To have purity of heart, we must claim what St. Paul claimed for himself in Galatians 2:19b-20: I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me. Mother Therese of Calcutta also understood what it truly meant to die to self and live for Christ. The Christ living in her heart allowed her to see the face of Christ in the face of every suffering man and woman she washed and clothed and bathed and helped to die with dignity.
The inspired writer of the New Testament book of Hebrews links "seeing God" with holiness which comes through purity of heart with peacemaking: Seek peace with all people and the holiness without which no one can ever see the Lord. Filling our hearts/ our whole self with Christ produces a purity of spirit that produces a peace that overflows out of our hearts 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 we are promised ...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.
The sixth step on the road to salvation and the sixth promise:
Blessed are the pure of heart:
our old hearts are replaced
with the pure heart of
Jesus our Redeemer à we will see God's face in the faces of everyone with whom
we share His love and we
will recognize Him in the
Sacrament of the Eucharist.
Questions for group discussion:
Question: Is what comes out of one's mouth a good way to determine "purity of heart?" What are those words coming from one's mouth that indicate a "heart cleaning" is in order through repentance and prayer?
Question: Is what one's mind and eyes are drawn to also a factor in determining "purity of heart?" Why?
Question: Some family traits are inherited: eye color, hair color, natural abilities. Other traits are learned: truthfulness, sincerity, honesty, dealing with anger, etc. What traits have we inherited through our baptism from our Heavenly Father? What traits are learned from Mother Church? How should we struggle against that inherited trait from the family of Adam called "concupiscence"? Concupiscence is a word from the Latin meaning con = thoroughly + cupere, to desire. As defined by the Modern Catholic Dictionary concupiscence is The insubordination of man's desires to the dictates of reason, and the propensity of human nature to sin as a result of original sin. There are two aspects to concupiscence:
"BLESSED ARE THE PEACEMAKERS"
The peacemakers are
those who, standing apart from the stumbling block of disagreement and
discord, guard the affection of fraternal love and the peace of the Church under
the unity of the Catholic [Universal] faith. And the Lord in the Gospel
particularly urges his disciples to guard this peace, saying, "I give you my
peace; I leave you in my peace." David earlier testified that the Lord
would give this peace to his Church, saying, "I will listen to what the Lord
speaks in me, for he will pronounce his peace to his people and upon his holy
ones and to those who turn to him."
Chromatius (c. 400) quoting from Jn 14:27 and Ps 85:8 (84:8 in the LXX),
Tractate on Matthew 17.7.1-2
The peace shown by
peacemakers brings a harvest of justice.
Matthew 5:9 ~ Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called
children of God.
St. Augustine wrote that the peacemakers are not only peace filled but that they are active makers of peace. They encourage peace around them by healing alienations and discord and bringing about reconciliation. This peace begins within the lives of the clean of heart as they conform themselves to the image of Christ, and then the peace they generate diffuses from them to the world (Augustine, Sermon on the Mount, Book I chapter 2.9). This is the kind of peacemaking we all must seek. Internal peace transformed into militantly spiritual and joyously unquenchable peace shared with our family, our friends, and the world as our witness of a life conformed to the Prince of Peace!
The peace of Jesus Christ is His gift to us.
Question: When did Jesus give the gift of peace to His followers? What event took place that led to the giving of His gift of peace? See Jn 14:25-27.
Question: This gift was bequeathed by Jesus to His disciples prior to His Passion. He told His disciples in His last teaching discourse in the Upper Room after the Last Supper: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid (Jn 14:27).
Peace, or Shalom in Hebrew, is the traditional Semitic salutation. Jesus' usual greeting was the typical Semitic, "Peace be with you," found 5 times in the Gospels (Lk 24:36; Jn 14:27; Jn 20:19, 21, 26).
Peace in the context of these 3 passages is a gift of God. But in John's Gospel when Jesus speaks of "peace" He also defines the concept of peace by linking "peace" to His mission.
Question: In the celebration of the Mass when do we remember
Jesus' call to peace?
As we move into the Communion Rite we, as the Body of Christ, recite the Lord's Prayer and then we are called by the priest to make the "sign of peace." All the preceding prayers in the celebration of the Mass have been directed to God the Father. But now, after washing his hands to show his ritual cleanliness and purity of heart, the priest for the first time directly addresses God the Son. As the congregation continues to stand after the Lord's Prayer the priest, with his hands extended toward the faithful, quotes Jesus' words from John 14:27 and prays for peace:
Lord Jesus Christ, You said to Your Apostles: I leave you peace, my peace I give you.' Look not on our sins, but on the faith of your Church, and grant us the peace and unity of your kingdom where you live for ever and ever.
After the priest, on our behalf, makes the petition for peace to Jesus our Savior, the congregation responds with a mighty "Amen!"
Question: In this one petition there are really 3 implied pleas for
peace. What are they?
Answer: In this petition we are praying for:
Note: The sign of peace, also known as the "kiss of peace" is an ancient rite that can be traced back to the very earliest years of the Church. St. Justin, in his letter to the Roman Emperor Antonius Pius c. 150-155AD wrote a description of Christian worship in which he mentions the "sign" or "kiss" of peace" (see Apologies, St. Justin Martyr, Book 1.67).
After our "Amen," meaning for us, "we believe" or "it is true," we receive the priest's greeting: The peace of the Lord be with you always, to which we respond: And also with you. Then the priest encourages us to: Let us offer each other the sign of peace. At this invitation the congregation exchanges some sign of love and peace with families and then to the extended members of our covenant family sitting next to us. But this is more than just an opportunity to express love, friendship, and unity.
Question: What other last opportunity is there for us in this rite
that precedes Communion? See Mt 5:23-24 and 6:12
Answer: It is a last opportunity to mend hurt feelings and to forgive and be forgiven before coming forward to receive the Lord Jesus in Holy Eucharist. In this rite we are in effect carrying out the 5th petition of the "Lord's Prayer:" ...forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors, or in some translations, forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us..., just as Jesus instructed us in Matthew 5:23-24: Therefore, if you bring your gift to the altar, and there recall that your brother has anything against you. Leave your gift there at the altar, go first and be reconciled with your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
At this point in the Mass we should feel our very souls flooded with the sense of peace and faith that is a consequence of our desire to be united with Christ and His Church. As the priest breaks what was the bread, but which is now the Body of Jesus our Savior, and as we sing our hymn to the Lamb which ends with the phrase Lamb of God you take away the sins of the world: grant us peace, our hearts should be beating loudly within our breasts. This is the time of the victory song of the Lamb when the heavenly choirs of angels and saints are singing: Alleluia! The Lord has established his reign, God, the almighty. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory. For the wedding day of the Lamb has come, his bride has made herself ready! (Rev 19:6b-7). At this moment, as we prepare to go forward to the altar to "see the face of God" in holy Communion, we should abandoned ourselves completely into the will of God through Christ Jesus who imparts to us a peace beyond understanding, as with great joy we prepare ourselves to receive Christ as children of the Most High God!
"FOR THEY WILL BE CALLED CHILDREN OF GOD"
The peacemaker is
the one who demonstrates the harmony of the Scriptures, where others see only a
contradiction: the Old with the New, the law with the prophets, Gospel with
Gospel. Accordingly, having imitated the Son of God, "he shall be called a
son," having by his work grasped the "spirit of adoption."
St. Cyril of Alexandria (375-444) Fragment 38
Where there is no
contention, there is perfect peace. And that is why the children of God
are peacemakers, because nothing can finally stand against God. In this
way the children possess a likeness to God the Father.
St. Augustine (354-430) Sermon on the Mount 1.2.9
But to those who
did accept him, he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed
in his name who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a
man's decision but of God..
Matthew 5:9: ...for they will be called children of God.
The Greek text literally reads "sons of God," a title that occurs only here in Matthew's Gospel and which is understood to include both men and women.
Question: This promise has what two dimensions not previously
available for the Old Covenant laity. What are these two dimensions which
humanity lost in the 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: But to those who did accept him, he gave power to become children of God, to those who believed in his name who were born not from human stock or human desire or human will but from God himself (Jn 1:12-13, NJB).
Think of the power of the statement in this verse!
..to those who believed in his name... What does
this phrase mean? Hint see Jn 20:31 and 1Jn 5:1
Answer: To those who believed Jesus is the Son of God the Messiah of Israel. To these who believe God gave the power of divine son [and daughter]-ship. The best explanation is found in 1John 5:1: Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is a child of God...
It is also important to understand that to the ancients one's name expressed the sum of the qualities that marked the nature or character of that person. To believe in the name of Jesus Christ is to accept as true the revelation contained in that name: that Jesus is fully man and fully God come to redeem the world. St. Thomas Aquinas, the great biblical scholar and theologian wrote about this passage: ...those who believe in his name are those who fully hold the name of Christ not in any way lessening his divinity or his humanity (St. Thomas Aquinas, Commentary of St. John, 1:12-13).
John 1:12: But to those who did accept him, he gave the power to become children of God... The word in Greek that is translated here "power" is exousia. In other Bible translations it may be rendered as "right." The use of "exousiaquot" in this passage does not indicate only the possibility or the ability to become "children of God" but the 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 free gift and that gift was
Question: How is this "free gift" extended to us through the Church?
Answer: This gift is a supernatural infusion of grace, which is extended through the sacrament of Baptism to everyone. The only condition is that we have faith. The great St. Athanasius explained it this way: The Son of God became man in order 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). This is the gift of divine son-ship 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 will reveal to Nicodemus in chapter 3 of St. John's Gospel.
John 1:13...who were born not from human stock, or human desire or human will but from God himself (NJB). The more literal translation is: were begotten not of bloods [plural], nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man."
Question: In the John 1:12-13 St. John defines the
supernatural birth into divine son/daughtership in the negative by listing 3
ways we were not born into God's covenant family. What are they?
The Greek word for blood is actually in the plural form = "bloods." To the ancients all bodily fluids were part of the life force. In other words this is not a birth by the standards of nature: not by human descent or DNA, not by desire or lust, and not generated by procreation through human power. This is purely a supernatural birth from above; a free gift of faith and grace.
Also see the other CCC references on the Sacrament of Baptism #1213-1274.
Question: In the Old Testament are all the children of Adam called
"sons of God"?
Answer: No, it is a title reserved only for those in covenant with Yahweh, especially for Israel as God's holy nation (rarely used in the Old Testament); and for the kings of the House of David from whose line the Messiah was promised to come.
It is interesting that peace making and sonship/daughtershhip are brought together in this blessing. In 1 Chronicles 22:9-10 peacemaking and sonship are brought together in King David's son Solomon when Yahweh promises David: However, a son is to be born to you. He will be a peaceful man, and I will give him rest from all his enemies on every side. For Solomon shall be his name, and in his time I will bestow peace and tranquility on Israel. It is he who shall build a house in my honor; he shall be a son to me, and I will be a father to him, and I will establish the throne of his Kingship over Israel forever. The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, is reflected in Solomon's name, which in Hebrew is Shelomo. The "son" or "daughter" who is reborn through baptism into the New Covenant family of God must be a son or daughter who manifests the peace of God in Christ and this peace of God in Christ is manifested in us through a supernatural power.
Question: Through what supernatural power is this peace of Christ
manifested in us?
Answer: Through the 3rd Person of the Most Holy Trinity, through God the Holy Spirit.
Question: In Galatians 5:22-23 St. Paul speaks of the "fruits of the
Spirit." How is the blessing of peace and divine sonship connected to that
Answer: St. Paul speaks of "peace" as the third fruit of the Spirit. The "fruits of the Spirit" are perfections that God the Holy Spirit forms in the children of God as the first fruits of eternal glory. Galatians 5:22-23 lists 9 "fruits of the Holy Spirit: ...love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Empowered by the Holy Spirit as God's children, we are commanded to bear much "fruit" by Christ who has grafted us onto Himself as the "true vine." 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. As co-heirs of the "Prince of Peace" we are called to imitate Christ in the earthly kingdom of our Father. Imitating the love and peace generated by Jesus Christ is a family characteristic we as Christians are called to demonstrate. 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).
The seventh step on the road to salvation and the seventh promise:
Blessed are the peacemakers:
with Christ living in us we
become conformed to His
image of peace and loveà
in the image of Christ we
become divine children of
Question for group discussion:
For New Covenant believers it is necessary that we die to this world and its self-centered doctrine of what constitutes happiness and that we instead live for Christ and the blessedness that comes from being a child of God: See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God. Yet so we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 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. Everyone who has this hope based on him makes himself pure, as he is pure (1 John 3:1-3). When as a child of God, the Christian dies to self and lives for Christ, he is elevated to the position of Christ's Apostle of peace and love.
Question: Why is one of Jesus' titles the "Prince of Peace?" By "peace" Jesus doesn't mean "absence of conflict" (see Mt 10:34-36; Lk 12:51-53). With Christ there is no middle ground; either He is "the Gate" and "the Way" (Jn 10:7-10; 14:6-7) or you reject Him and choose your own way. What kind of peace was Jesus referring to in His homily at the Last Supper in Jn 14:27 and 16:33? What was Jesus' greeting to the disciples after His Resurrection? See Lk 24:36; Jn 20:19, 21, 26. What kind of peace was Paul speaking of in Phil 4:6-7?
Question: In His Beatitudes Jesus speaks of the blessings of both mercy and peace. Mercy is one of the fruits of charity and so is peace (CCC 1829). Peace is listed as the third fruit of the Holy Spirit after love and joy (Gal 5:22-23, CCC 736, 1832), and is a precious gift from God (CCC 1424, 1468). Read what the Catechism says about safeguarding peace in CCC 2302-06. What is the Christian's obligation as a peacemaker in a troubled world?
Question: After discussing our obligations as Christ's ambassadors of love and peace, discuss some strategies we can employ in our families, in our communities, in our nation, and in the world to fulfill our role as peacemakers. How do you practice the virtue of internal peace, and what are some strategies that promote spiritual peace within your life? How do you express the peace that comes from an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ externally in your interaction with others?
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2011 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
Matthew 5:8 CCC 1589, 1421, 1432-33, 2345, 2842-44, 1421,
Matthew 5:9 CCC 460, 1265, 736, 1213-1274, 1424, 1468, 1829, 2302-06.