Reflection & Dialogue: The Values of the Kingdom
The German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck (19th century) is often accredited with the saying that no nation could run its foreign policy in accord with the Sermon Mount. On the other hand Winston Churchill is reported to have said on one occasion: “What a happy world this would be if we all lived according to the Sermon on the Mount!” Reports also have it that in reply to a question, after the sad state of the world after World War II, as to where to begin reconstruction, a noted statesman said: “We begin with the Sermon on the Mount”. Echoes from this Sermon, and from Gospel values, have been felt down through two thousand years of history. Today’s Gospel reading presents us with an opportunity and incentive to reflect on all this.
It is clear, I believe, that neither a nation state or religious order could implement what Jesus has said in today’s Gospel reading on whom should be invited to lunch or dinner. But the lesson to be drawn from Jesus’ words will always remain. Blessed are the poor, the poor and marginalized in so many ways, for the kingdom of heaven is theirs. They are God’s friends, and if God’s friends a central message of the Gospel is that their needs and persons should be attended to. Throughout history the Holy Spirit has inspired certain persons to give new life to what Jesus has said on poverty and care for the poor, such as St Francis of Assisi and Popes of our own day.
And with regard to humility and Gospel simplicity — the values of the kingdom have greatly influenced New Testament teaching (Gospels and Epistles) and Church teaching as well. Gospel values inspire social equality. As Paul reminds the Christians of the early Church in Rome (Romans 12:16) “Do not be haughty (or: high-minded), but associate with the lowly”. Paul’s letters, and other New Testament writings, are full of such teaching, which has behind it the person of Jesus as an example and a teacher.
These Gospel values have had a great influence on western thought, and in part practice. They have become part of Christian doctrine. And in our own day, when many want no mention of a Christian inheritance, they remain as values, described as ethics rather than Christian values, even by humanists, unbelievers and atheists.