Five Sermons in the Gospel of Matthew
By Fr. Reto Nay, SSD, March 27, 2011
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
The word of God is like snow and rain. It doesn’t come down in our souls and going back to God without bringing fruit. But be careful. Most of it gets lost. 25% of it will fall on hard ground. 25% on stones. 25% on thorns. And only 25% on good soil. So we have to make sure that in our lives the subsoil is good. The soil that is our heart and our soul. We have to work on it, and we have to loosen it so that it can receive the Word of God and that is in this case, very simple. We think that the Word of God is very mystical - oh and it is - but that’s not the beginning.
The beginning is when we just start learning the Word of God, and from learning understanding comes, and from understanding mysticism and holiness. Now if you want to learn the word of God don’t start anywhere - left and right - KEEP on one thing and as long as you don’t know this thing, don’t continue.
In the New Testament there is an order of books. Don’t start with the last one, the most difficult one, the Apocalypse of St. John. Start with the Gospels. Not with any one. Especially not with the one you heard today (St. John). It’s a difficult one. Start with the first Gospel. What is the first Gospel? The first Gospel is Matthew. It’s the easiest Gospel. There you have to start. And it will teach us the 5 steps of our spiritual life.
We don’t need to be very intelligent to understand the Gospel of St. Matthew. We need only to be able to count to 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. That’s it. Because the Holy Gospel of Matthew has a carcass like a skeleton. This carcass consists of the 5 bones. Five homilies that Christ gives during that Gospel. Come on, you can remember that. Good. Now you have to place these 5 homilies in the Gospel of Matthew. That’s also very easy. Now the first homily of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew, the first is in Ch 5. Again, the first of the 5 homilies is in Ch5. The second (2x5=10). Now the third is a special one, unfortunate one, which means it’s on Ch13 and then it continues with 5 again. The fourth continues with 5 (13+5=18). Now I stop. The last is 5x5=25. You will remember it. Nevermind.
Let’s begin with the first homily in the Gospel of St. Matthew. That’s an awfully important text. It’s a very important text. It’s the most important text. It’s basically the first text you have to know in the whole of Scripture. It’s Christ’s speech, sermon on the mount. Do you know that? Say yes. This is the summary of the whole NT and it’s the summary of the whole OT as well. And just know the beginning, that’s enough. It starts with the 8 Beatitudes. And the first of those 8 Beatitudes is Blessed are the poor in the Spirit because theirs is the kingdom of God. Now this first beatitude is the summary of the whole sermon on the mount. I can’t give it cheaper to you than that. Now remember that “blessed is the poor in the spirit because to him belongs the kingdom of God.” That’s the whole Bible.
Now this first beatitude says the following: Blessed are the poor – this means those who have nothing and those who believe they have something they should finally figure out this something is nothing indeed and as long as you didn’t figure this out in your life you are in the deep darkness of the Old Testament. Look at your life, look at your days, and look what will remain in this world. Very simple. Nothing will remain. Therefore, we are poor. Each of us are poor. And very few of us are blessed because of their poverty. And that is the problem. So we have to learn two things. First to understand who we are – nothing - and then comes that HUGE step ahead you have to make. You have to be HAPPY with it. It’s GREAT to be nothing. Lots of free space.
You can start all again! The rubbish from yesterday is gone! Life starts! Blessed are the poor but then Matthew adds something. He says blessed are the poor IN the spirit. People think spirit is my spirit but my spirit is nothing as all the rest around me. Blessed are the poor in the Holy Spirit – that’s the point. We have nothing but at the same moment we have everything! because in the Holy Spirit the whole power of God is contained. That’s the first Beatitude in the first speech of St. Matthew. Once we have understood this we are kings because the first beatitude says “Blessed are the poor in spirit because theirs is the kingdom of God.” That’s basically the whole message we get from Christ.
This message tells us not what to do. It tells us what we are and it tells us how God will transform our lives. That’s an important point because so far we have lived as Christians in a different way. We have gotten/opened up the back of our futon, gotten out our Bible, see lots of commandments in the Bible and we try to obey them. Do we? Come on, do we? We don’t! Don’t pretend. Nobody does. It’s frustrating. To be a Christian is to go from one failure to the next. It’s a permanent mistake. It’s bad for your psychology. You will develop complexes but that’s not Christianity that Christ has brought to us. He doesn’t ask us to do things. He asks us to become Christ so that He can do things in us. That’s a very very big difference so keep starting with the beginning, blessed are the poor. Now once this was understood we can move onto the next sermon of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew.
It’s the second of five sermons. 2x5=10. Which means that we come to the second sermon. The 2ndsermon of St. Mt speaks to the apostles. It’s not enough that the sermon on the mount presents the news, we need postmen to distribute it. And according to our state of life we are all postmen of God. Again, you need only to know the beginning which is bad enough. Now, in the beginning of this Ch 10 Christ gives to the apostles the power and this power consists in 2 things. Great stuff. The first is casting out demons and the second is healing of people. These are terrible activities and I’m not surprised that no seminary teaches them. Nobody teaches them because you know why they don’t teach them? They don’t know how. IT’s very difficult to learn these things. Say to the demon: Get out of here! He will remain. Or you say to the sick get up and walk! They will do like this (think you’re not right in the head). Well, so what is the point of the second sermon? We have to do things we are not able to do. We have to do impossible things. As long as we don’t do impossible things, we don’t do the things of God. We do human things. According to our muscles Which is great. But it’s nothing according to the sermon on the mount. In that regard we have to become poor. Open up the space so that the kingdom of God can grow and the kingdom of God grows through impossible things or lets call them as we used to call them in the church - miracles. So once we have really cleaned out the weakness of man in us, and nothing remains, then the power of God will take place and He will do with us whatever He wants. Lots of miracles. Don Bosco in famous Italy produced miracles all over the place and most of the time he didn’t even notice. That’s the 2nd sermon.
Now lets go to the 3rd sermon which is an unfortunate sermon as I told you before and therefore we find it in Ch13. Now that sermon really starts very bad. Christ has lots of people around him. So many that he has to go into a boat and speak to them from the lake. And you know what he says to them. He starts his parables. Which nobody understands and the disciples come to Christ and say Hey Christ, did you notice that nobody understands. And Christ says that’s exactly the point. I have figured out a way to speak so that nobody understands me. That’s modern pastoral theology. Because the theology of the Middle Ages has brought that to the point/understood it. As long as you understand, it’s not God – it’s you.
Your little fantasy. You just figure out little things. You have a little box of matches. You open it and you stuff God into it. It’s ridiculous. So that’s the point of the third sermon. We have to understand that we don’t understand and that God will understand in us. That’s what St Paul says that the Holy Spirit has built a temple in our hearts only we are never there. The HS in this temple is screaming - He says Abba Pater! Did you ever hear it? That’s the proof that you’ve never been there. That’s Christian understanding - is when we are understood by God - and when in His Light we see the Light. Few people reach that stage… and that’s why this sermon in Ch 13 speaks about division. The Church will not bring the great unity among man rather the opposite. It will separate black from white and therefore Christ says in another passage of St. Matthew I have come to bring the sword but lets continue.
The 4th sermon in St. Matthew, come on you know where it is. The last was 13, now remember 5 – add mathematics (13+5=18). That sermon speaks about the positive part that comes out of that separation. Now what is that? Yes, the Church. And the church is explained in 2 questions. The first question (the second I leave out). The first question is who is the biggest in the kingdom of God? A child. Are you surprised? I hope not. A child is one who is small and has the capacity of growing. An adult is somebody who has not the capacity of growing. Many in this church are adults therefore they have no capacity to grow. Admit it. It’s always the same. We rarely change. Go to confession once a week. It’s good for you. Not so much for the priest. It’s good for you. And you will confess week after week the same things. That’s the proof that you are an adult. And therefore Christ says become a child again. Understand that you are an adult, be proud of what you are, look into the mirror and be happy, then take this wonderful mirror and throw it on the floor. And start with Blessed are the Poor, the poor in the HS because to them belongs the Kingdom of God. That was the 4th sermon. Those who listen to the HS in them , who understand the parables of Christ, they become part of the Church and what is the church? Basically nothing. A kindergarten and they grow. And growing is sure sign of the HS. Now, here we are, everything is in place. The Church is growing and then comes the last sermon.
I said it wrongly The last of the 5 sermons what is 5x5 is 25. It’s in Ch25 and Ch24. Just remember it. Now the last sermon in the Gospel of MT speaks about the end. And again we will go into the beginning. The beginning is when Christ and the apostles look at the temple. Great building. Made by Herod the Great. The one who killed the babies in Bethlehem and Christ says, nice temple, it will all be gone. That’s it. Now what does that mean? It has something to do with the children. Children don’t build houses. Adults build houses. Houses are made by muscles. Stones are heavy.
Women shouldn’t build houses. The temple was built by human hands. That’s not what we need. The Church is not a temple populated by children. Children don’t have the power to build houses. They only have the power to grow in the HS so whatever is handmade has no place in the church. Whatever is Holy Ghost made that’s what we need. The temple is a symbol of the OT and the OT is a symbol of the laws of Moses which means do this and this and this and then comes God, He looks and says did you do this, do this, do this? And you say yes, you did. Go to Heaven (or) No you didn’t, please to Hell. That’s not how it works in the church. The church is not really human, it’s God-made. Whatever is done with our hands is always weak and also imperfect. Not good enough to go to heaven. This we have to understand that we are poor and once we understand that we are poor and the same time we are not stupid we look for a solution to that and the solution is the HS.
So we don’t go to confession to confess our sins - that’s just a nice excuse so we have a reason go there, so the moment you say them forget about them. That’s not important. What’s important is when the priest starts and gives the absolution and the power of HS enters you - then you are not just poor but you are poor and in the HS.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
(This sermon originally appeared on the internet and was transcribed by Aimee Fleming)
Fr. Reto Nay is a priest of the diocese of Chur (Switzerland). He undertook his philosophical and theological studies in Chur, Jerusalem and Rome. He holds the doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome (published in Analecta Biblica, Roma), and has taught in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. At present, he is writing in Balti, Moldova