Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13
There will be a people who remain sheltered from God’s anger.
The Lord is faithful forever.
1 Corinthians 1:26-31
God chooses the weak to show his power.
Jesus teaches what it means to be happy.
Background on the Gospel Reading
Today’s reading is the beginning of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, which is found in Matthew’s Gospel. The form of the Beatitudes found here is not unique to Jesus. Beatitudes are found in the Old Testament, in the psalms, and in wisdom literature, for example. They are a way to teach about who will find favor with God.
We quickly note in this reading that the people whom Jesus calls “blessed” and “happy” are not people we think of as blessed or happy . . . the poor in spirit, the meek, the persecuted. This Gospel is one of reversals. Jesus’ blueprint for happiness reflects little of what the world might call happiness.
“Blessed” is sometimes translated as happy, fortunate, or favored. In other words, Jesus is saying that divine favor is upon those who are poor, those who mourn, those who are persecuted. This news might have been welcome—and surprising—to the crowds who heard Jesus that day.
The Beatitudes can be understood as a framework for Christian living. Our vocation as Christians is not to be first in this world, but rather to be first in the eyes of God. By referring to the good things that the faithful will experience, Matthew reminds us that those who act in the manner described in the Beatitudes will find their reward with God.