January 21, 2022

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Nehemiah furnishes the first reading for Mass this weekend.

Although some Old Testament books tell the history of the people of Israel, mentioning many aspects of life, such as famine, plenty, disease and war, all are chiefly concerned with inspiring God’s people to be faithful and eager in their religious practice. In this reading, Ezra, who was a priest, called together men, women and children old enough to comprehend precisely to this end. He admonished this gathering to listen carefully to the Scriptures.

After hearing the reading of the Scriptures, the people in this audience affirmed their faith. Ezra continued by interpreting what he had read.

Finally, Ezra and Nehemiah called the people to rejoice because God had spoken to them and was guiding them.

For the next reading, the liturgy presents a passage from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians. The Christian community in Corinth especially challenged Paul. Corinth was an important commercial center, one of the major markets and distribution centers in the Roman empire. It was a center of wealth and, moreover, greed.

Even in the very immoral culture of the time, it was regarded as the utter capital of lust and sexual excess. Corinthians had the reputation of being exceedingly licentious.

Troubling for Paul was not that Corinth was large and rich, or that its size and wealth produced an atmosphere in which vice and selfishness reigned supreme. The evils in this atmosphere were contagious, enticing many Christians.

The everlasting temptation to see all in material terms or of physical satisfaction was bad enough. But Corinthian Christians vied with each other within the Church, quarreling with and scheming against each other. They gossiped about each other and toyed with pagan practices and customs.

Paul constantly called the Corinthian Christians away from the pagan environment pressing upon them. In particular, he scorned the competitiveness among the Christians.

In this reading, Paul insisted that all the baptized are part of Christ’s mystical body. However, the body has many members. Each is unique, a gift from God.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Midway in this reading, the Gospel directly addresses Theophilus, using the honorific title “most excellent” (Lk 1:3). Luke’s Gospel seemingly was written for this one person.

Scholars debate if this person had the personal name of Theophilus, or if it was a title or description, since “Theophilus” in Greek means “friend of God.” Regardless, the person apparently enjoyed some prestige, hence the use of the term, “most excellent.”

Jesus appeared in the synagogue of Nazareth to explain his mission of salvation, speaking in some detail.

Salvation, unfolded in Jesus, was the result of God’s love, the final chapter in the long record of the merciful deeds of God among his people.

Reflection

The Church has celebrated Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus, as well as the feasts of the Epiphany of the Lord and the Baptism of the Lord. In the lessons of these great liturgical events, the Church introduced us to Jesus. It identified him. He is the son of Mary, so Jesus was a human. He is the Son of the loving God. He is the redeemer.

Now the Church begins to tell us about salvation and about how we personally should respond to it.

First Corinthians sets the stage. Luke continues the message. We belong to God. Each of us has a personal vocation, although we may consider this term too lofty or too suggestive of a religious life.

Despite different occupations or circumstances, our vocation is to follow Christ and to reflect him to others.

God provides for us in this effort, assisting and strengthening us. He never forsakes us, but we are free. We personally must decide to be loyal. †

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