The Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s Gospel draws a parallelism with the Old Testament. As Moses descended from Mount Horeb bearing with him, laws written with the finger of God, now Christ sits, much like a king, on His throne, ready to teach and to instruct. In a sense, the Sermon sets us up like subjects before the King who is now legislating what values are required for His Kingdom.
To understand the values necessary, it is important to look at the Gospel’s description of the subjects. It speaks of the multitudes and some of them are described as disciples. In the context of its usage, the word disciple does not always describe someone who follows in order to be instructed and taught. It may describe someone who listens but may not be ready to commit. Just like the “multitude”.
In order to appreciate the dynamics between Christ and the multitude/disciples, let us look at the relation between master and slave. When we speak of master and slave, we are taken up by the suggestion that mastery has—one who is mighty, in charge and in command. However, a philosopher reminds us that master and slave are both relational terms in the sense that there can be no master without a slave.
Likewise, today’s Gospel may speak of the values necessary for the Kingdom. Christ may desire that we all embrace His teaching but a teacher is only as good as the students he teaches. Teaching to be effective requires the meeting of hearts and minds of both the Teacher and those to be taught.
Thus, the word “cathedral” might as well just refer to a building because the idea behind the word is quite empty or literally meaningless. It is empty or meaningless not only because there are no teachers but because there are teachers who dare not teach.1 But, more than not daring to teach, we are also un-teachable because modern society is made up of teachers and teachers. Everyone has something to say but nobody has anything to learn. Or, like the Gospel, we may be disciples who listen but are not ready to commit.
We seem to know everything. Everyone is an expert. Wikipaedia is that phenomenon which “democratises” expertise. This is partly due to the fact that society is not just “self-made”. We are also self-taught. All we need to do is to search and our internet search engines are design to help us on this quest for self-knowledge2. Moreover, our idea of truth is total “uncovering” in which knowledge simply means finding out everything there is to know; a sort of baring it all—just like Wikileak is. Unfortunately, our idea of truth borders closer the obscene, the salacious and the smutty. Now you know why tabloid scandals sell so well. But, uncovering everything does not always bring us closer to the truth. Therefore, in the context of the Kingdom, to embrace the values of the Beatitudes requires very much a spirit not only of openness but of humility—quite the contrary of the self-made, self-taught and self-assured philosophy—a humility that embraces admonition, correction, discipline, reappraisal, re-examination, and even castigation. I am not right all the time. It requires a teachable spirit.
The Beatitudes are a description of the conditions for our learning. Learning requires an admission that no matter how much we know and possess, it is insufficient. Hence, they enumerate our inadequacies and helps us to understand why Christ’s values are conditions for learning. If we are rich and self-sufficient, there is nothing else to gain. The aggressive will never know peace. The need to win does not always guarantee satisfaction. In fact, those who gun for achievement after achievement will have the phantom of success scourging them all the time.
Both the first and second reading exhort us to acknowledge our poverty—an acknowledgement that prepares us to receive Christ’s teaching. For the sake of the Kingdom, more than ever, it is time to cultivate a teachable spirit, one which recognises our limitation that whatever we see, know, feel or understand, there is much more that we cannot see, know, feel or understand. Only in poverty, gentleness and humility will we become rich, strong and firm in spirit.
 On a deeper reflexion, in some ways, we have forgotten what “teaching” means. This is because we have reduced morality to “private” morality. We have emasculated “morality” by rendering it into a private matter. Teaching is sacramental in the sense that a person teaches the truth and in a way that “act” of teaching is independent of his or her moral standing. Truth is credible and it has to be because of itself. But, what “private” morality has done is to reduce the credibility of truth [what is to be believed] to the credibility of the individual [who is to be believed]. Thus, we often hear this in arguments, “Don’t tell me what to do when you yourself are not living it”. On the one hand that is true, one has to be credible to speak credibly. We say that the medium is the message and credibility is the basis for the word scandal—obstacle to credibility, to believing. But, on the other hand, it is a form of “dumbing” down. What it means is that “I shall be moral only if you are moral”. Our crisis of faith [credibility] can be explained by the failure of the messenger and not the message. Thus, what Christ says in quite instructive. “Do as the Pharisees tell you but do not follow what they do”. That preserves an objectivity to truth making it independent of the “sanctity” or the “holiness” of the person speaking about it. I guess this is one facet of the Catholic principle: ex opera operato. A crisis of teaching is also a crisis of learning [believing]. But, more than that, it is also a crisis of faith, an indication we no longer believe that God can teach and the only way God teaches is through mediation—through His human instruments. Ultimately, our crisis of credibility reveals a denial of the Incarnation.
 It is an expression of our “self-help” culture.