August 31, 2018

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Deuteronomy is the source of the first reading for this weekend’s Mass. Deuteronomy is from the Pentateuch, the collection of five books that appears as a group first in sequence in the present versions of the Bible.

The Pentateuch is special not because it is a grouping of several books, but because these books contain the law as given by God through Moses. They form, as it were, the constitution of Judaism.

In this reading, Moses submits the law to the people. He tells them that they must obey this law when they enter into their land without altering the law or picking or choosing among its pronouncements. If the law is carefully followed, harmony and accord necessarily will follow. So will security. The nation will be great.

Since God authors the law, nations observing the Hebrews will realize the awesomeness of God worshipped by the Hebrews.

The Epistle of St. James provides the second reading. James occurs only rarely among the readings at Mass. The author of this epistle is not known for certain because four men with this name appear in the New Testament. Several would have had credentials in the early Church: James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John; James, the son of Alphaeus, traditionally known as “James the Less”; and James, the kinsman of Jesus. Then, the father of Judas Iscariot was James.

Important in this reading is the revelation that God wills us to live. God never wills death and disaster for us. Because this is from the New Testament, in the broader Christian context this means eternal life. Not only does God will that we live, but God has given us the way to life, in the earthly sense but, more importantly, in eternity.

Also important is the epistle’s reminder that by serving orphans and widows, we purify ourselves so that we can stand before God.

St. Mark’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Jesus frequently debated the Pharisees and others familiar with the Law of Moses about particulars in this law. Details and specifics often overtook the debate.

At times, people interpreted the Lord’s responses in these discussions as demeaning, or even repudiating, the law of Moses. In reality, the words of Jesus reaffirmed the law. He did not dismiss the law, but rather went to the heart of the law. The essence of the law is wholeheartedly to love, trust and obey God.

These exchanges revealed the identity of Jesus. Moses was merely the human instrument by which God spoke, so the Law of Moses actually was the law of God. Jesus defined and applied the law because Jesus was God and spoke as the lawgiver.

The Pharisees and other religious scholars of the time hardly overlooked the fact that Jesus spoke and acted in the place of God. As time unfolded, this identification with God by Jesus would lead to the crucifixion.

Reflection

The first reading contains a thought that humans invariably dismiss. The thought simply is that, because of human limitations and shortcomings, people often put themselves in unfortunate situations. They can doom themselves. Unwilling to accept this fact, humans make excuses and blame God for misfortunes.

God actually and lovingly rescues people by drawing them from the quicksand, but also by leading them away from the quicksand. He leads us all away from the quicksand by giving us the law, or the roadmap, to life.

God’s law is precise, but going through motions is not the idea. With our hearts, minds and souls, we must wholeheartedly follow God by following his Son. It is as simple as that. We are true disciples by obeying God, indeed in every circumstance, but always with eagerness and love. †

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