How the Beatitudes Bless Marriage Pacem relinquo vobis, pacem mean do vobis*

sermon-mount

Introduction

The Sermon on the Mount and the sSacrament of Marriage are deeply misunderstood by our present generation. Few Catholics know what to make of Jesus’ clear teaching on meekness and poverty of spirit. Equally confusing is how to have a happy marriage. Pope Francis has said, “The family is in crisis.”[1] His response to this great concern was calling the Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops in 2014 on topics related to the family and evangelization. This is popularly known as the Synod on the Family. That so many highly placed individuals throughout the world convened to discuss the family indicates the great concern many have for this basic cell of society. To me, at the heart of married couples’ confusion are the following questions. Are happy marriages measured by a house with granite counter tops and vacations to Disneyland? If materialism is not the measure, what is? What are the authentic means to live out such a profound decision that brings blessings to the couple? I propose that Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, shows married couples how to have a blessed marriage characterized by the Lord’s peace.

Sermon on the Mount

Jesus preached many times as recorded by the evangelists. But the overwhelming agreement among biblical scholars is that the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew is Jesus’ most pivotal exhortation. Jesus, like Moses, had spent forty days fasting. Jesus, like Moses, is called up out of Egypt and is saved from despotic rulers seeking to end his life as a baby. Moses is saved from Pharaoh’s edict of throwing the males children into the Nile, and Jesus is saved from Herod’s murderous rampage of male children in Bethlehem. Both Moses and Jesus disclose the reality of the false gods. Moses uses the plagues and other mighty deeds to demonstrate the bankruptcy of the gods. Jesus uses mighty deeds to show His authority over evil forces and the bankruptcy of the worldly powers. Where Moses hints at God’s Fatherhood through His providential care, Jesus will clearly reveal it in this Sermon. Father is mentioned fifteen times. Jesus takes up the position of a new Moses, noted by his posture of sitting, and his formulaic sayings “You have heard it said, but I say to you.” Is repeated six times. As a new Moses, Jesus gives a new Torah. “The Sermon on the Mount is the jewel of Matthew’s gospel. It grasps and portrays the ‘essential Jesus.’” [2]

The Sermon on the Mount is roughly divided into five parts. The first part is the nine Beatitudes (Mat. 5:3-16). The second part is the six antitheses (Mat. 5:17-6:28). The third part are the three practices of worship which consists of almsgiving, prayer, and fasting (Mat 6:1-18). The fourth part is about the cares of this world (Mat 6:19-7:12). The fifth part concerns the two ways, one of life and the other of death (Mat. 7:13-27).

In this paper, the focus will be on the first part of the Sermon on the Mount with an application of the Beatitudes to married life. The Beatitudes are not Confucius sayings, they are not maxims, and they are not the stuff of fortune cookies. The Beatitudes are “The teachings of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount on the meaning and way to happiness. The teachings reflect the promises made to the chosen people since Abraham; they portray the countenance of Christ and describe his charity. Moreover, by shedding light on the actions and attitudes characteristic of Christian life, they describe the vocation of all the faithful.”[3] The Beatitudes are a way of life for all Christians. Thus, the beatitudes can apply to a subsection of the faithful, those called to marriage.

Additionally, beatitude derives from the Latin word beatitudo, which means being happy or blessed. “The Beatitudes respond to the natural desire for happiness. This desire is of divine origin.”[4] God placed in the heart of all people the desire to be happy. Jesus responds to this universal longing as the new Moses with a new law enumerated by the Beatitudes that enables his disciples to be happy, in all vocations including marriage. Yet, the moral choices presented by the Beatitudes seem counter to typical notions of happiness. By considering each of the Beatitudes separately and in their totality, their applicability to a blessed, peace-filled marriage will be demonstrated.

To be continued…..

* Peace I leave you, my peace I give you. Jn 14:27, Roman Missal, Ordinary Form,

Rite of Peace.

            [1] http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-says-media-missed-the-real-family-crisis-in-coverage-of-communion-and-divorce-47379/ accessed October 10, 2016

            [2] Peter Ellis, Matthew his mind and his message, (Liturgical Press: Collegeville, MN) 31

            [3] Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd ed. (Washington, DC: United States Catholic Conference, 1997) 868

            [4] Ibid §1718

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