Perhaps the greatest challenge of Christian faith is to see ourselves living as Jesus lived. In the Sermon on the Mount (Matt chaps 5-7), Jesus lays out this challenge. The Sermon begins as Matthew tells us, with Jesus going up a hill and gather disciples and others around him. If we could imagine ourselves as part of that crowd, we could probably realize he speaks to all of us.
As Jesus speaks, we can see that most of what he says connects with how we live in our relationships with one another, how we trust, how we speak, how we care about one another. Relationships are at the center of our life. The strength and vibrancy of our relationships go a long way to determining our fulfillment in life. Whether we are looking personally or globally, our relationships with each other form the path to happiness and to peace.
What is happening in this Sermon, is Jesus presenting a call to perfection, a perfection that God who has given us life, wants all of humanity to taste. Like loving parents looking at their family, God loves us beyond measure. As Matthew describes Jesus saying: You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy’. But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good,… Matt 5:43-45)
At the center of Jesus’ message and mission is this challenge, that God loved us into life and so we are called to love as God loves. In the verses of Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount, we see what being a faith-filled disciple of Jesus means – to recover wholeness in our fractured and fragmented lives. We are challenged to love one another as God loves us: You shall be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy…. You shall love your neighbour as yourself: I am the Lord (Leviticus 2,17). Holiness is living life with openness and love for all. The center of our Christian faith is, not piety, but the holiness of God, lived in our relationships of love with one another.
Our community of Faith enters the season of lent this week with Ash Wednesday. It can be a period of transformation for us and for our communities. We have many traditions to mark this season. Perhaps, a focus for lent this year might be taking the time throughout the season to focus on our relationships, personal and global.
A Suggestion for Lent 2023
Rather than a scattering of our attention on many practices this Lent, perhaps we can focus on just one, directing our attention to our relationships, personal and global. Each day of Lent, reflect on Matthew chapters 5-7, the Sermon on the Mount.
For 15 minutes each day, slowly read and reread a small portion of this Sermon, and reflect on what the Spirit is saying to you and/or your faith community with what you read in the Sermon. Ask yourself a question such as: What is the Sermon telling me about myself and/or my faith community’s relationship with…………?