Matthew Chapter 5

The Beatitudes

1 When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain. He sat down and his disciples gathered around him.

2 Then he spoke and began to teach them:

3 Fortunate are those who are poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted.

5 Fortunate are the gentle, they shall pos sess the land.

6 Fortunate are those who hunger and thirst for justice, for they shall be satisfied.

7 Fortunate are the merciful, for they shall find mercy.

8 Fortunate are those with a pure heart, for they shall see God.

9 Fortunate are those who work for peace, they shall be called children of God.

10 Fortunate are those who are persecuted for the cause of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 Fortunate are you, when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you because you are my followers.

12 Be glad and joyful, for a great reward is kept for you in God. This is how this people persecuted the prophets who lived before you.

Salt and light

13 You are the salt of the earth. But if salt has lost its strength, how can it be made salty again? It has become useless. It can only be thrown away and people will trample on it.

14 You are the light of the world. A city built on a mountain cannot be hidden.

15 No one lights a lamp and covers it; instead it is put on a lamp stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house.

16 In the same way your light must shine before others, so that they may see the good you do and praise your Father in heaven.

More perfect law

17 Do not think that I have come to remove the Law and the Prophets. I have not come to remove but to fulfill them.

18 I tell you this: as long as heaven and earth last, not the smallest letter or stroke of the Law will change until all is fulfilled.

19 So then, whoever breaks the least important of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be the least in the kingdom of heaven. On the other hand, whoever obeys them and teaches others to do the same will be great in the kingdom of heaven.

20 I tell you, then, that if you are not righteous in a much broader way than the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 You have heard that it was said to our people in the past: Do not commit murder; anyone who does kill will have to face trial.

22 But now I tell you: whoever gets angry with a brother or sister will have to face trial. Whoever insults a brother or sister deserves to be brought before the council; whoever calls a brother or a sister ¡°Fool¡± deserves to be thrown into the fire of hell.

23 So, if you are about to offer your gift at the altar and you remember that your brother has something against you,

24 leave your gift there in front of the altar, go at once and make peace with him, and then come back and offer your gift to God.

25 Don¡¯t forget this: be reconciled with your opponent quickly when you are together on the way to court. Otherwise he will turn you over to the judge, who will hand you over to the police, who will put you in jail.

26 There you will stay, until you have paid the last penny.

27 You have heard that it was said: Do not commit adultery.

28 But I tell you this: anyone who looks at a woman to lustfully has in fact al ready committed adultery with her in his heart.

29 So, if your right eye causes you to sin, pull it out and throw it away! It is much better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.

30 If your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away! It is better for you to lose a part of your body than to have your whole body thrown into hell.

31 It was also said: anyone who divorces his wife must give her a written notice of divorce.

32 But what I tell you is this: If a man divorces his wife except in the case of un lawful union, he causes her to commit adultery. And the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.


33 You have also heard that people were told in the past: Do not break your oath; an oath sworn to the Lord must be kept.

34 But I tell you this: do not take oaths. Do not swear by the heavens, for they are God¡¯s throne,

35 nor by the earth, because it is his footstool, nor by Jerusalem because it is the city of the great king.

36 Do not even swear by your head, because you cannot make a single hair white or black.

37 Say yes when you mean yes and say no when you mean no. Anything else you say comes from the devil.

Love of enemies

38 You have heard that it was said: An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

39 But I tell you this: do not oppose evil with evil; if someone slaps you on your right cheek, turn and offer the other.

40 If someone sues you in court for your shirt, give your coat as well.

41 If someone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.

42 Give when asked and do not turn your back on anyone who wants to borrow from you.

43 You have heard that it was said: Love your neighbor and do not do good to your enemy.

44 But this I tell you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you,

45 so that you may be children of your Father in Heaven. For he makes his sun rise on both the wick ed and the good, and he gives rain to both the just and the unjust.

46 If you love those who love you, what is special about that? Do not even tax collectors do as much?

47 And if you are friendly only to your friends, what is so exceptional about that? Do not even the pagans do as much?

48 For your part you shall be righteous and perfect in the way your heavenly Father is righteous and perfect.


Comments Mathew,Chapter 5

• 5.1 Jesus went up the mountain. Matthew places this discourse somewhere in the hill country bordering the lake of Tiberias. The rea son for mentioning a mountain is to remind us of Mount Sinai where Moses received the Law (Ex 19). In this first ¡°discourse of Jesus¡± (see Introduction) Matthew presents him as a Master giving to Israel and to all humankind the new and definitive Law. The formula: but I say to you is re peated six times in order to highlight the con trast between the Law of Moses and the New Law.

Fortunate! This first paragraph introduces the new people of God; to them the Law is given. Let us not forget that for the Bible, the Law is not only a matter of commandments; it includes also God¡¯s interventions and declarations which have made Israel a special people, called to a world mission. The Law had been given to the ¡°children of Abraham and Israel¡± who were guided out of Egypt by Moses. Exclamations like these abound: How fortunate you are, Israel! Meaning: What luck to have been chosen! And How privileged you are to be God¡¯s people among all other nations! You are indeed fortunate for it is to you that God has spoken (Dt 33:29; Ps 144:15; Bar 4:4).

Right away the Gospel speaks of a converted people of God. No longer the people of the twelve tribes, with their land, their language, their frontiers, their national ambitions, but rather those God will seek among all nations. Who are these chosen ones who surely must consider themselves overjoyed to be so called? They are the poor, those who weep, those who have often been tempted to curse their misfortune, their sins, their personal conflicts.

Here Matthew gives us eight beatitudes, while Luke 6:20-26 has only four. It is not important, however, for they form but one theme. The main difference between Matthew and Luke arises from the fact that their beatitudes are addressed to two different groups.

Luke presents the Beatitudes in the way they were proclaimed by Jesus. In Luke, Jesus addresses the whole assembly of common people, speaking as one of them. Like the pro phets he speaks boldly and clearly: you, the poor, are the first beneficiaries of the promises of God.

Matthew instead adapts Jesus¡¯ words to his audience of Christian believers. The Church had already spread and Christian communities brought together all kind of people: slaves, ordinary peo ple and wealthy ones. Matthew tells them that the Gospel is significant for each of them. It is not only by being poor that they will please God, but by their inner attitude and way of life. He says: Fortunate are those who are spiritually poor, adding the pure of heart, those who work for peace¡­

Luke points out those to whom the Gospel gives priority: the masses who are poor, the workers, the peasants and the marginalized. Matthew for his part teaches those already within the Church how they should behave to be worthy of the God who chose them.

Those said to be ¡°fortunate¡± are not so because of what they suffer: the expression would not ring true. They are fortunate be cause they are admitted to the Kingdom.

The kingdom of heaven is theirs (v. 3) and following immediately: they possess the land. There is no real contradiction, it is only apparent.

First of all we must understand the term Heaven as used in Jesus¡¯ time. Be ing exceedingly res pectful of God, the Jews would not pronounce his name, referring to him with other words like Heaven, The Glory, The Power¡­ The kingdom of Heaven means literally the kingdom of God, like the Father of Heav en means simply: God the Father. On reading the word Heaven, re member that Jesus usually meant by this word, not the reward we will obtain after death ¡°in heaven,¡± but the kingdom of God that comes to us on this earth together with Jesus.

Likewise we translated as a great reward is kept for you in God (v. 12) the sentence that says ¡°is kept for you in heaven.¡±

The real meaning of the land must also be understood. This land, for the Bible, was Palestine, because it was there that God would come to save his people. The Gospel, in turn, does not oppose what is material with what is spiritual: actually, the term ¡°spiritual¡± is not used at all throughout the Gospel. When God spoke through the prophets, he pro mised his people a world where all their needs would be satisfied: banquets with wine aplenty (Is 25:6), long life, a land well-watered, freedom from oppression, a kingdom of justice. Over and above all that, God would live among his people and to them he would communicate his Spirit: They will be my people and I will be their God (Ezk 37:27).

In the Beatitudes, the kingdom of God is at the same time the land of Palestine promised to the children of Abraham and the land where peace reigns for God is present there. Those who hunger for justice will be given both bread and the holiness of God, because in the Bible justice also signifies: being as God wishes us to be. Because of this Jesus tells us that we shall be satisfied or consoled. Our consolation on earth is to know and see that God loves us and cares for us and in spite of all, can overturn the situation of the oppressed. It is also to know that even when it seems he does not hear our prayer, our cross has meaning and purpose. Finally we must not forget that in our future life God will give us more than we could ever hope for or merit. It is certain, however, that Matthew more than Luke, has re ori entated the language of Jesus, inviting us to look higher than what is immediate.

Waiting lasted until the coming of Jesus. Jesus tells us that a new age has begun: God is with us and his Kingdom is already here for those with a clean heart, meaning that their desires have been purified: they will see God.

Fortunate ¨C the persecuted. Matthew, like Luke, develops this last beatitude, for, no matter wherever we are, we cannot live the Gospel without suffering persecution.

• 13. Jesus has just designated those who are called to the Kingdom. First of all he will clarify their mission: to be the light of the world and not merely a light in the world. This does not mean that all people are to enter the Church, but that the Church has to be salt and light to the world. The Bible mentions salt as the element that preserves food. The covenant of salt was the covenant of God with those who were to serve him forever (Num 18:19). So the disciples of Jesus are called salt of the earth because through them the world benefits from the lasting Covenant with God. They must continually enkindle in the world the desire and struggle for true justice and perfection, and not allow human societies to become satisfied with mediocrity.

You are the light: Jesus does not mean ¡°You are the best in the world,¡± but ¡°God has chosen you to be a minority and through you he will make himself known.¡± You will experience, (both you and the Church) much that you would perhaps prefer to avoid, but which will be for the world, a sign from God.

• 14. Children of light: Eph 5:8; 1 P 2:12; 1 Thes 5:4.

• 17. Here begins the presentation of the new Law. It is far from what is often sought in a religion: practices to observe, fasts, prayers, good works with which one wins salvation. Jesus says little about this because the Bible has dealt at length with this subject, and the study of the Bible itself shows that these laws and practices are always linked to a certain culture, and have to be adapted to the times.

Law (v. 18): At times this word indicates all the religion of Israel. The Law and the Prophets: was a way of indicating the whole Bible.

Not the smallest letter or stroke of the Law will change until all is fulfilled (v. 18). Jesus does not refer to the commandments. Rather he affirms that the religion founded on the Old Testament¡¯s Scripture was a temporary, yet necessary, step in the history of salvation. The prophecies had to be fulfilled; the rites and sacrifices of that religion expressed in a veiled manner the mystery of sin and mercy that would be fulfilled in the person and the work of Jesus. With him comes the perfect and definitive fellowship of God with human kind.

For us as well, observing the laws of the Bible is not an end in itself. They are an expression of real love and are its guidelines. In obeying them we become receptive to the Spirit who will lead us. In this way we discover a ¡°righteousness¡± or perfection far superior to the canonists of the time: the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees.

In 5:19 Jesus is referring to the commandments.

In 5:20, If you are not righteous in a better way, Jesus refers to the spirit of the Law.

Just when he is about to teach a new way of understanding the Law of God, Jesus warns us against the temptation of the easy way. Many could misinterpret the words of Jesus and say: It would be better if religion were less demanding and easier to practice! Because of this, Jesus points out that anyone who does not intend to fulfill the entire Law will not enter the Kingdom; nor will those who have ready excuses for their laziness: these commandments are not so important! To those who obey the Law, Jesus shows the spirit of the Law. For such as these the Gospel is not a comfortable road, but the call to a more perfect life.

• 21. Here we have the beginning of the opposites: You have heard¡­ but now I tell you. This formula will be repeated six times.

Jesus alludes to the reading of the Bible which takes place each Sabbath in the synagogues; just as in the Church today each week has its assigned readings. It was the Hebrew text or its Aramaic translation (the spoken language) that was used. The leaders of the synagogue or visitors passing through gave a commentary. Jesus was known for speaking often in the assemblies and it is highly probable that he would have often said: You have heard (vv. 21, 27, 38) and I tell you, for he spoke with authority (Mt 7:29).

Jesus does not question the demands of the Bible, nor is he satisfied with a mere commentary; the law of Christ is a call for purification of heart, that is, of our intentions and our desires. It is a fresh enlightenment born of a new experience of God. When we turn to wards the Father (and that is the great innovation: the imitation of God the Father: 5:48), we discover how imperfect are the human criteria of morality. Therefore, let us not call sin only that which is seen or condemned as such by people. Indeed my sins are all the bad thoughts that I keep inside and that produce evil fruits when the opportunity comes. See also Mt 12:34.

Until you have paid the last penny (v. 26). Repairing the damage means more than just returning the money I have illegally taken. I must also question why I am so weak that I am carried away by any desire.

Often we recognize how lukewarm our love for God is and how short-lived our perseverance in doing good. This is the result of many years of wrongdoing. We are able to forget about the wrong we have done, but we fail to repair the damage caused to our whole person. Although we may feel happy and unconcerned, we carry a load within ourselves from the unsettled debts and accounts.

If we are not purified during this life, we will be during or after our death. The Church calls this painful purification ¡°purgatory.¡± The transformation that should take place in us (1 Cor 15:51) is impossible unless the Spirit has completely burned out (Mt 3:11) our roots of evil.

• 27. Do not commit adultery. For many, conjugal fidelity is a burdensome and old-fashioned law, which they merely admire in others. Jesus replaces fidelity among the laws of the interior world, where God, the Faithful One is to reign.

If your right eye¡­ Here we must underline the opposition between: your hand, your eye, and: you. In another place Jesus will say that we must be able to give up everything, but here he dares to add: even your physical integrity.

All of us are looking for happiness, promotion and security, but what are those criteria worth? All strive to live fully their life and enjoy without limits their own health and body, but here Jesus tells us that true life is elsewhere and that true self creates itself while accepting mutilations of the present life.

Is it only a matter of sacrificing what could drag us to ¡°major fault and sin¡±? The word of Jesus goes far beyond. As much as we complain about the misery and meaninglessness of our life, we conserve it at any cost with the hope of still enjoying this world. What if real sin were to avoid any risk and self-sacrifice when God is calling?

Jesus speaks of a hell of fire, because there is nothing worse than this final result: a lost life that has not been fruitful, and the abortion of our eternal self.

• 31. Anyone who divorces his wife¡­ See commentaries on Mk 10:1; Mt 19:3.

Here this saying of Jesus is given as an example of the courageous decisions that a Christian may be called upon to make. God sometimes asks for heroic sacrifices. The one who does not choose the difficult way necessarily loses some thing of the Gospel.

Except in the case of unlawful union. These words are not found in the other quotations of this saying of Jesus. Why did Matthew put them? In fact there are two possible interpretations.

First, it can be understood that one spouse has an extra licentious relationship, and then the other is allowed to separate.

Second, it can be understood that the one entering the Church through baptism is living with an unlawful union, and then this marriage or concubinage does not tie him.

• 33. Do not take an oath. This sentence must not be understood: ¡°You shall never take an oath¡±, but: ¡°In a general way, don¡¯t take oaths.¡±

Many invoke the name of God on any occasion. Is it because they truly know him and have him in mind? If we use his name casually, it is because we do not experience the weight of his presence. What a lack of re spect to call on God to testify to our sincerity when we do not even recognize all that is false and unclean within us!

All the rest comes from the devil, and even the preoccupation of defending and justifying oneself in the eyes of others. See also Mt 23:16; James 5:12.

• 38. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. We read this in the Bible because in the world of that time it was a whole some maxim (Dt 19:18-21). It claimed to put a limit to the thirst for vengeance and reminded judges and the community itself of the duty to defend its members against those who abuse the weak.

Do not oppose evil with evil. Jesus asks us to approach an adversary in the same way as this adversary may be approaching us: who is the wicked one?

Offer the other cheek: be the first to be free of the web of violence. As in judo, surprise the other by making the very move he was not expecting: he may then see that he was mistaken. Jesus has no doubt that this renunciation of violence and of our own interests obliges the Father to intervene and come to our aid. Do not forget that Jesus wants us to ¡°see God¡± at work in our lives.

If someone forces you to go one mile. Jesus speaks to farmers who are humiliated and oppressed by foreign armies. Many times they are obliged to carry the burden of the soldiers Their usual reaction is resigned submission concealing hatred and desire for revenge. Would they be capable of responding to such a counsel? It is certain that had they practiced it, they might have saved their nation from destruction.

• 43. Love your neighbor. Here we come to the last of the opposites between the Old Law and the New. The Old Testament spoke of loving a neighbor and this was a matter of solidarity among the members of the people of God. With the Gospel the word ¡°love¡± is not only given a wider dimension: it introduces us into a world totally different. Solidarity within the group is supported by an instinct inscribed in nature. This love however does not cross the frontiers that separate social groups: these only exist and find their identity in opposing others.

Do not do good to your enemy: The text is not found in the Bible as it stands but its equivalent is in several places (Dt 7:2). Referring to enemies of the nation rather than to personal enemies, we are asked to be wary of them, not to help them and even to exterminate them, rather than share their errors. If in many countries today it is understood that there is no frontier for love, it must be recognized that this ideal is a fruit of the Gospel: Jesus has enlightened our minds by asking us to model the love of our neighbor on the universal love of God the Father. We have only to open a newspaper to see that this love of neighbor, whatever he be, and even if he comes from a social, national or religious group, in enmity with ours, remains incomprehensible to the majority, even in Christian countries. When we realize that there is a place for everyone in the present world and that God directs everything for the benefit of all, we see things as God does and are perfect as the Father is perfect.

Love your enemies: Mk 12:31; Lk 10:27; Rom 13:9; Gal 5:14; Rom 12:20; Lk 23:34; Acts 7:60; Rom 12:14; Eph 5:1.