March 1, 2019

Eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Sirach is the source of the first reading for this weekend’s Mass. Sirach does not appear in most Bibles used by Protestant traditions. So people from these faith communities at times ask Catholics why was Sirach “added” to Catholic versions of the Old Testament? The better question would be, “Why was it eliminated from Protestant versions?”

The answer is that the translators of the King James Bible and other Protestant translations preferred to use an ancient Jewish list of inspired Scriptures instead of the affirmation of Church councils of Sirach being part of the inspired word of God.

The King James Bible included Sirach in a section known as the “deuterocanonical” (non-inspired books). It is known in that translation as the “Book of Ecclesiasticus.”

As for this reading itself, the meaning is obvious in the examples of shaking the sieve, molding the clay into a vessel, and tending the tree until it bears fruit. Many circumstances in life do not just happen. Human activity deliberately shapes them. We create the reality of our lives by who we are and by what we do.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians is the second reading. The pagan, greedy and licentious atmosphere of the great city of Corinth challenged Paul again and again. It was not easy, and no one who reads the two epistles addressed to the Church there can miss the difficulty, disappointment and exasperation that St. Paul felt in dealing with the Corinthian Christians.

He urgently and relentlessly stressed that Christian discipleship requires a radical conversion, a change of mind and heart that sees death not as the end, but as the beginning, not as defeat but as victory. It is not about talking the talk. It is about walking the walk.

For the Gospel reading, the Church this weekend provides a passage from St. Luke’s Gospel. The readings include a series of statements of Jesus. None leaves its meaning vague or obscure. The statements are clear and straightforward.

Blind persons need guides who can see. Period. This fact pertains today for people who have lost their eyesight. To extend the fact, our cars have headlights so that we can drive them at night. We wear artificial lenses to read.

People own what they do, what they say and the consequences. Pointing to the faults of others neither excuses nor erases the effects of our sinfulness or foolhardiness. We must face facts and correct faults.

Finally, sick trees do not yield rich fruit. Anyone today with fruit trees in their yard knows this.

Reflection

Next Wednesday, the Church will observe Ash Wednesday, initiating the season of Lent. The ultimate purpose of Lent is for each of us to celebrate Easter authentically. It is not simply the anniversary of an event, the resurrection of Jesus, albeit an event of majesty and glory unequalled in the entirety of human history. Instead, Easter can be for us an absolutely personal experience when we rise with the Lord from the death of soul that is sin to life with him.

Clay pitchers and goblets do not just suddenly spring into being. Neither does genuine union with the Lord. The clay with which we work is in our hearts and minds. With the help of God, we must mold ourselves in the pattern of the Lord. We cannot succeed by relying on hunch, guesswork, or on our blurred human vision. We need a plan with a guide. We need the Lord.

The process requires determination, but it is more than good intentions. We must radically commit ourselves to holiness, despite the world around us. Hence, we approach Lent. †

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