Daily Readings Reflection for 1/30/11

Scripture: lectionary 71. Zephaniah 2:3;3:12-13. Psalm 146:6-7.8-9.9-10. I
Cor.1:26-36. Matthew 5:1-12

Today’s Readings

Matthew greets us with the beatitudes this fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time
(A). What a magnificent way to start the “year of Matthew” in our Sunday
liturgies. We will be listening to Matthew at the reading of the Gospel
for almost thirty Sundays, that is, up to Advent. We realize that the
seasonal readings will interrupt this during Lent and Eastertide and on
special Feasts of Our Lord, but we will experience the year of Matthew for
most of our Sundays.

The other readings help us frame the central presentation of the
beatitudes. Zephaniah is showing us that the people of Israel always had a
small percentage who were faithful to the covenants and who would
eventually be blessed by God with their own land. These people are present
at the time of the Exile and are called by two names, the “remnant” and the
‘Anawim or “Poor of Yahweh.” Paul will be thinking along these lines when
he writes to the Corinthians and addresses them as similar to those who are
the remnant. He says to them, “not many of you are wise, as men account
wisdom; not many are influential; and surely not many are well-born. God
chose those whom the world considers absurd to shame the wise he singled
out the weak of this world to shame the strong.” Paul and Zephaniah are
thus speaking about lowliness, poverty of spirit, and humility in saying
these things some 700 years after Zephaniah alerted us to the remnant who
are God’s poor and lowly people. In biblical thought the widows, the
orphans and the strangers or marginal people fall into this “remnant” and
“Poor of Yahweh.”

We remember that both the prophet and St. Paul are speaking along spiritual
lines when addressing the people. They help us understand the blueprint of
the beatitudes that we will hear in the Gospel for today. Only Matthew and
Luke will focus on listing them for us; Matthew has eight or nine of them
in the Sermon on the Mount; Luke has four beatitudes in the words Jesus
gives to the crowd on the plain.

In general the Psalms used with the beatitudes are psalms coming from the
‘Anawim. They help us in our prayer to be humble, simple, and totally
dependent on God not only for our spiritual needs but especially for our
corporal needs.

If we reflect back on the beginning of Matthew we are able to see in the
person of Joseph, the husband of Mary, a person who lives out the
beatitudes in the acceptance of Mary and her child and then in the careful
attention he pays to the voice of God speaking through an angel. He thereby
becomes the protector of the Mother of the Lord and of the Lord himself in
the person of Jesus. We know he, Joseph, is a central figure in the story
of the Infancy Narrative according to Matthew. Though little is known of
him, he is a righteous and holy man who lives out what the beatitudes call
for. We do well to pay some time on reflecting upon this man named Joseph.
Mary is the model for Luke who makes of her the Beatitudes personified.
Her own hymn expresses the cry of the poor and the total dependence that
she has on her Creator. She herself uses the word that means humble
servant; she is the one who sings her psalm just like the “Poor of Yahweh.”
She complements Joseph who only speaks one word: “You shall call him
Jesus.” Mary, on the other hand, has a heart that sings out her absolute
fidelity and confidence in God. Both are beatitudinal persons for us to
imitate. Truly, the Lord has looked upon his servants, Joseph and Mary, and
shown them his merciful and over-abundant love. Amen.

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