Saint John Ogilvie – Readings


Commentary on Romans 5:1-5; Ps 30; Matthew 5:1-12

The Gospel reading is from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew’s gospel and gives the Beatitudes. The Beatitudes take the same prominent position in the formal teaching of Jesus that the Ten Commandments do in the formal teaching of Moses. In many ways, the Beatitudes can be said to replace the Commandments, not in the sense of rendering the Commandments no longer valid but rather in going far beyond them as a way of living.
One might say that the Commandments are not that difficult to keep, especially as many of them are expressed negatively (“Do not…”) and so can be observed by doing nothing! And they can be kept without a great deal of difficulty. For many of us, murder, adultery and stealing are simply not an option.
When we come to the Beatitudes, however, we are faced with challenges which we will never fully meet. Being poor in spirit, being compassionate, hungering and thirsting after what is good and right, being pure in spirit and makers of peace are things which we will never be able to carry out to perfection.
Some people have seen in these Beatitudes a portrait of Jesus himself and so we, too, should aim to make them a valid description of ourselves.
The virtues of the Beatitudes guided the life of John Ogilvie. Particularly applicable to him are the words: “Blest are those persecuted for holiness’ sake; the reign of God is theirs. Blest are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of slander against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, for your reward is great in heaven.”
 

The First Reading is from the Letter to the Romans where Paul speaks about the importance of faith and hope. “Now that we are have been justified by faith, we are at peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We do not make ourselves just; it is through our total surrender to the Way and the Call of Christ that we become the kind of people that God wants us to be. “Through him we have gained access by faith to the grace in which we now stand.”
Not only that, says Paul. We can now even boast of our afflictions because, if we have the right frame of mind, we know that suffering properly accepted helps us to persevere and strengthens our hope. And it is a hope which will not be disappointed “because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”.
Ironically, John Ogilvie died because he did not accept the Protestants’ understanding of ‘justification by faith’. He knew it was not enough just to call on the Lord for forgiveness and salvation. There had to be an active response to God’s love and that he gave without limit, even to the point of martyrdom. But he also knew that the strength to make that total surrender was itself a gift from God.

 

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