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Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

How happy are the poor in spirit.

The Word This Week

Last week we heard Saint Matthew describing the beginnings of Jesus’ public ministry. This week Saint Matthew begins the most important summary of the proclamation of the kingdom of God – what we refer to as the “Sermon on the Mount.” This great collection of Jesus’ teachings begins with the Beatitudes – the Charter of the Kingdom. It is essential to understand these, if we are to understand what we will read in Saint Matthew during the rest of this year: the key, as underlined by the First Reading, is that the values of this world are not the values of the Kingdom of God – the Kingdom will see things turned upside down: happiness and blessing belong to those whom this world would ignore or mistreat. If we truly wish to live out the Gospel, we would do well to reflect on the virtues laid out in this familiar passage.

Notes for Readers

First Reading: Zephaniah 2:3; 3:12-13

Reading through the prophets of the Old Testament, one of the themes that come across is that God is on the side of the poor and the humble – rather than the powerful and proud. This message of the prophets translates into a pattern of behaviour – the way of life that is pleasing to the Lord. Today’s reading from Zephaniah is a good example. This is a gentle and evenly-paced reading – notice the very short lines in the Lectionary. This is a simple reading, with s simple message to take away. Use the lines to shape the reading – short phrases, clearly delivered. Remember as you read that this, like the Gospel today, is a description of how we can lead our lives: you are offering the prophet’s advice for good living.


Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Occasionally the Second Reading coincides with the “theme” of the first reading and Gospel – even though we read the letters of Saint Paul in sequence. Today is an example where Paul’s advice to the Christians in Corinth is a direct application of what we have just heard from Zephaniah and are about to hear from Jesus himself in the Gospel. The people of Corinth had got it wrong: they thought that the Church was about position and power, and this was creating factions and disagreements. Paul, as part of his desire to bring unity to the Church in Corinth, asks the Corinthians for humility. As long as the reader has this basic idea, this reading should pose no problems: maker sure you are aware of Paul’s point before you start. He is talking again about the “upside down” nature of the Kingdom of God. Let his examples speak to the people in front of you.


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