October 23, 2020

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Exodus provides the first reading for Mass this weekend. In ancient Jewish tradition, Exodus came from Moses. Therefore, in a most special way, it is the very word of God, since Moses represented God and was the link between God and the chosen people.

Through Moses, God gave to the Hebrews directions for every aspect of their lives. This weekend’s reading from Exodus addresses several specific realities in life, such as the lending of money and treatment of others.

Every person has the right to be respected and treated justly. No one can be exploited or mistreated, not even strangers or enemies.

Respecting each person is the basic principle, founded on the notion of God as Creator and final governor of human lives. God, through creating each person, conferred upon each person a dignity that cannot be diminished or denied.

For the second reading, the Church presents a reading from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians. In this epistle, Paul reminds the Christians of Thessalonica that their faith has had its impact, for the better. They turned away from idolatry to accept the Gospel. It was a good decision.

Obey God, without exception, compromise or qualification. Following Jesus brings joy, the Apostle insists.

Bearing witness to Christ, evangelization is a reward and an opportunity for Christians. Paul urged the Christians in Thessalonica to be models of evangelization for all the people of the region.

St. Matthew’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is a familiar and beloved text.

Often seen as an effort to trick Jesus, the question of the Pharisees in this story may have had a more pragmatic purpose. The Pharisees were teachers who instructed others about the law of Moses and called others to obey this law. Reducing any teaching to a summary is always a good educational technique.

Even so, good will cannot be assumed without any other possibility. After all, many Pharisees disliked Jesus and would have liked to discredit the Lord’s message, if possible.

The Lord’s reply in this exchange was crisp and profound. Recalling this weekend’s first reading from Exodus, Jesus hardly departed from or repudiated Jewish religious tradition that originated in divine revelation, guidance given the people by God.

Christ went directly to the point. God is supreme. The true disciple must reach every decision with the standard of love for God, uncompromised and absolute, first in their minds and love for others. Given human nature, herein lies the struggle, maybe as often as not. True discipleship means active respect for every other person since every human being is God’s treasured creation.

Reflection

These readings were chosen for Catholics worldwide, but coincidentally, they offer sound advice to Americans as in these days they contemplate the forthcoming election.

Genuine Christianity is more than an intellectual assent to certain theological propositions. While the creed of the Church is vital, Christianity means a way of life and a state of mind, founded upon a heartfelt, personal recognition of God’s supremacy.

Inescapably, it requires loving others as God loves them: truly, concretely and actually caring for them, always resisting any effort to belittle or exploit others, suppressing selfishness.

It is a tall order at any time, but especially important today in this world in which so many are used and abused, indeed even in “advanced” and “free” societies.

Even “advanced” human societies can be very guilty in offenses committed against God and against vulnerable people. Citizens must resist unholy human instincts.

Informed people in free societies by witness and civic participation actually are even more responsible since they can influence public policy and form the culture, essentially displaying, promoting, exalting and demanding God’s love for all. †

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