Sermon: Righteousness & Mercy (Matthew 5: 6, 7)
We continue our Lenten journey exploring the Beatitudes as preached by Jesus – his famous Sermon on the Mount – and this Sunday we study the beatitudes:
Vs. 6: Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness for they shall be satisfied.
Vs. 7: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
As we study these beatitudes journeying with Jesus to the cross and the events of Easter, we wonder about righteousness and mercy exemplified by Jesus in his ministry. Certainly, we can find multiple examples of Jesus’ righteousness and mercy in his life and teachings. When we examine those teachings and apply them to our own faith journey, we appreciate any guidelines to help us attain righteousness and mercy.
Jesus was considered a great prophet in his day. His sermons, his parables, his instruction and insights astounded people. He astounded the Jewish religious leaders. Who was he, to know and interpret their scriptures with such depth of knowledge and clarity? A prophet’s life was not easy. A prophet could get himself into a lot of trouble. A true prophet spoke the word or messages of God, as directed by God, to the people. Many prophets were sent by God to the Israelite nation before Jesus came along. We can read the stories about Daniel, Jonah, Moses, Samuel, Nehemiah, Jeremiah – so many prophets! Their tasks were dangerous and their lives were put on the line. Some were killed. To speak the truth which God told them to speak was not always gladly received. The priest Eli tells Samuel that he must tell Eli the message God has revealed, and Samuel has to tell Eli that he and his family will be destroyed. This takes great courage to tell someone such a truth. The prophet Nathan has to tell King David that he has sinned when David purposely places Uriah in the front line of battle to be killed, because David has committed adultery with Uriah’s wife Bathsheba, who is now pregnant with David’s child. Nathan is sent to David to tell him that he has sinned against God. David could have had Nathan the prophet killed, too, but King David was convicted of his sin, and he thankfully repented.
It isn’t always easy to tell the truth, especially when it is God’s truth. To be a true prophet, it takes courage and trust. Trusting in God that you are following God’s commands. Jesus, the world’s greatest prophet that will ever be, on his way to Jerusalem and the cross, Jesus is journeying toward that destiny with courage in his heart and great trust in God His Father. He is determined to fulfill God’s purposes despite the cost of his life. This is true hungering and thirsting after righteousness. It is putting God’s plans ahead of your own. It is putting God’s desires first. And when we seek God first, when we put God ahead of our self, despite the cost, we are blessed. God blesses us and loves us for our obedience and devotion.
A class of 6th grade school children were asked to describe who they thought was a hero. Many children started to chose famous sport celebrities or Hollywood stars, but writing down what qualifications made a hero, they finally collectively chose Mother Teresa. One student said: “She spent her whole life giving care to the poor, the very sick people in India, and she is a hero because there was nothing in it for her, nothing at all. People praised her, but she didn’t seem to notice.” Mother Teresa hungered after righteousness, and God blessed her efforts. She was satisfied as our Beatitude says, or “filled” as some translations say – Mother Teresa was filled, she was full of God’s love and the satisfaction that she was fulfilling God’s purpose in her life. When we do God’s work, we are satisfied, too, for God will provide for us and God will bless us.
Mercy can be defined as forgiving-kindness and compassion shown to others, often when we think we’ve been wronged or offended in some way. We offer others a clean slate, we offer others the grace to be set free, condemnation is not the final word, and when we do this for others – we obtain kindness and compassion in return. Despite the cost to ourselves, despite the inconvenience or trouble or difficulty to ourselves – when we show mercy, we obtain a righteous mercy ourselves. We experience firsthand the feeling mercy brings. In offering mercy to others, however small, we experience that forgiving-kindness and compassion ourselves. It makes us glad when we are merciful. We feel the happiness which mercy brings. We are blessed in this exchange. Mercy receives a righteous and holy blessing from God, because we are treating our fellow beings the way God treats us – with forgiveness and compassion. Jesus’ famous Lord’s Prayer asks God to forgive us our trespasses as we forgive others who trespass against us. Jesus experienced hurt and pain from others in his life. People threw him out of their synagogues and towns, they persecuted him, he was betrayed, condemned, people sought to kill him. He was forsaken. Did he hold this against those who wronged him? No, he was on his way to go to that cross and die to show us HIS great love for humanity. God’s great love for humanity. “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” Jesus says from the cross. Jesus shows us the true way of righteous love, forgiveness and mercy. May we ask for his grace to exemplify these virtues and qualities in our own lives. Amen.
Meditation Time: What am I called to forgive, to show mercy?e. Amen.