Blake Tamez is a sophomore at Vanderbilt University. He majors in Cognitive Studies, and is a member of the University Catholic Campus Ministry, and a student leader in FOCUS (the Fellowship of Catholic University Students). He is pictured at left at the Mount of Beatitudes, reading the Sermon on the Mount during Israel Uncovered. After his return from the trip, Blake joined us as a David Project intern at Vanderbilt.
Until Israel Uncovered, my ideas about the places where Jesus walked on water, healed the sick, and preached the Sermon on the Mount were limited to artistic depictions of the events and my own imagination. I was overwhelmed by the surreal experience of being near these actual locations, at both Capernaum and the Mount of the Beatitudes near the Sea of Galilee, perhaps passing by where Christ himself once taught and performed miracles. As a Roman Catholic, those moments were meaningful for me in ways that I struggle to express. In a few words, I felt near to Christ in a way that brought me much peace, comfort, and renewed motivation in the midst of our journey through Israel.
Once we arrived at the Mount, I was given the privilege of reading the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) aloud to the rest of our group while everyone pondered the words and searched for their meaning. In the Sermon, Jesus gives his followers direction in living the Gospel, illuminating ideals of leadership, love, and trust.
“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.” (Matthew 5:6)
These words provide encouragement for those who work for justice, and the promotion and protection of all life.
“The lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light; but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness…” (Matthew 5:22-23)
These words indicate the importance of having an eye that can distinguish truth from lies so that viewpoints can be preserved from falsehood.
"You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden…your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
These words oblige followers of Christ to share the Gospel with others through right action, so that all can be directed towards God’s goodness. However, this concept can be a lesson to all leaders who have been given responsibility and knowledge that must be used for the service of others, rather than wasted or hidden.
Reading through these passages with the rest of the group gave me a greater appreciation for the ways that they can guide me as a leader. Some of the members of our group had never heard the Sermon before our time on the Mount; I am extremely grateful that I was able to share the Gospel with them, and benefit from the wisdom of their reflections on the Word that I so often take for granted.
My time with The David Project has helped me to grow and learn in ways that will forever impact my actions as a member of the Vanderbilt community, the Catholic Church, and the global human family. I will certainly remember that day on the Mount of the Beatitudes when I had an opportunity to speak in the words of my Lord and share his message with so many individuals who lead and learn with a passion for discovering truth about Israel and every other field of interest in which they invest. I pray that the teachings of Christ will guide each of us throughout our lives as we seek the justice, peace, and love that all people long for.