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Insights on the Sermon on the Mount


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The Hard Work of the Gospel

Extracts from Personal Letters

We pray for an end to war. But unless we combine this prayer with giving to the least of God’s children, and fasting in order that we may help feed the hungry, and penance in recognition of our share in the guilt, our prayer may become empty words.

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Blessed Are the Poor in Spirit

by Mother Teresa

God cannot fill what is full. He can fill only emptiness – deep poverty – and your “yes” [to Jesus] is the beginning of being or becoming empty. It is not how much we really “have” to give – but how empty we are – so that we can receive fully in our life and let him live his life in us. In you today, he wants to relive his complete submission to his father – allow him to do so. Take away your eyes from yourself and rejoice that you have nothing.


Do Not Worry

by Søren Kierkegaard

Do not worry about your life. Worrying about making a living, or not making a living, is a snare. In actuality, it is the snare. No external power, no actual circumstance, can trap a person. If we choose to be our own providence, then we will go quite ingenuously into our own trap, the wealthy as well as the poor. If we want to entrench ourselves in our own plot of ground that is not under God’s care, then we are living, though we do not acknowledge it, in a prison.


Blessed Are the Merciful

by Henri Nouwen

Blessed are the merciful. Showing mercy is different from having pity. Pity connotes distance, even looking down upon. When a beggar asks for money and you give him something out of pity, you are not showing mercy. Mercy comes from a compassionate heart; it comes from a desire to be an equal. Jesus didn’t look down on us. He became one of us and felt deeply with us.


The Light of the World

by John Wesley

You are the light of the world; a city on a hill cannot be hid. Your holiness makes you as conspicuous as the sun in the sky. You cannot hide your Christian character. Love cannot be hidden any more than can light. Least of all, it cannot be hidden when it shines forth in action. When you exercise yourself in a labor of love, in any kind of good work, you are observed. We may as well try to hide a city as to hide a Christian. It is the purpose of God that every Christian should be in open view. He is to give light to all that are in the house.


Sources: Mother Teresa, Letter, Feb. 7, 1974, quoted in Albert Huart, S.J., “Mother Teresa: Joy in Darkness,” Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection (Sept. 2000): 658. Henri Nouwen, Bread for the Journey (Harper One, 1996), May 26. John Wesley, “Upon Our Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, Discourse IV,” Forty-four Sermons, XIX. Søren Kierkegaard, Provocations, ed. Charles Moore (Plough, 2002), 148.

painting by August Macke August Macke, “Stilleben: Hyazinthenteppich” (detail)
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