1st Reading – Zephaniah 2:3, 3:12-13
Zephaniah (means “Yahweh protects”) is possibly a descendent of King Hezekiah. He prophesied in Josiah’s reign (640-609 B.C.), when there was an attempt, serious but of limited success and duration, to undo the apostasy of Josiah’s predecessor Manasseh who was the son and successor of Hezekiah. Manasseh was the worst of all the kings of Judah; he is credited with the worship of foreign gods, superstition of all kinds, oppression and murder, he was the occasion of the decision of Yahweh to destroy Judah (King Manasseh is summarized in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20).
The first of the writing prophets since Isaiah and Micah, Zephaniah announces the coming of the Day of the Lord, a dread day of catastrophe for all. Judgment Day for the nations ought to be a warning to the chosen people and it should lead them back to repentance, obedience and humility that they so sadly lack and only by which they can survive the divine visitation. A “remnant” however, will be left to enjoy the fruits of salvation.
2nd Reading – 1 Corinthians 1:26-31
The specific needs and circumstances of the Church of Corinth explain why Paul wrote this letter, why it is structured the way it is, why it deals with so many different subjects, and is so clearly pastoral in character. All of the readings during Cycle A deal with divisions among the faithful.
Gospel – Matthew 5:1-12a
The Gospel of Matthew draws many parallels between the life of Jesus and the life of Moses. Both have a slaughter of the innocents which they escape; both fast for 40 days (Moses on Mt. Sinai and Jesus in the desert); both have a period of trial (for Moses it is 40 years in the desert, for Jesus it is 40 days in the desert); Moses goes up on the mountain to receive the word of God, Jesus preaches the word of God in his Sermon on the Mount.