August 19, 2011

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first section of the Book of Isaiah provides this weekend with its first reading.

The author of this section of Isaiah lived when the southern Hebrew kingdom, or the kingdom of Judah, still existed. Only later, this kingdom, and the other Hebrew kingdom, the kingdom of Israel, were overwhelmed by outside invaders.

As has been and is so often the case of national rulers, the king of Judah governed the country with the assistance of aides and subordinates. The principal assistant wore a distinctive badge to indicate to any and all that he acted on behalf of the king. This distinctive badge was a key.

In this reading, God, speaking through the prophet, states that a chief minister will be selected to serve the king and carry out the royal will. This official will wear the key.

An important point in this reading is that God very much intervenes in human lives, using human agents to accomplish the divine will and to communicate God’s words to people.

The prophet, the king and the chief minister all were in the roles of human agents commissioned to bring God to the people and the people to God.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans again is the source of the Church’s second reading.

Selections from Romans have been read during Masses for the past several weekends.

It is a great testimony to the majesty of God. As such, it is a great profession of Paul’s own faith. The epistle uses an interesting phrase to describe God. He is the “counselor” of the faithful, to quote this reading. To counsel necessarily implies communication. God communicates with people. People communicate with God.

For its third reading this weekend, the Church offers a passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel.

It is an especially descriptive and enlightening reading.

The occasion occurs at Caesarea Philippi, a place northeast of Capernaum, which at the time of Jesus was a resort. The Jordan River forms here from springs and small creeks. It is picturesque, and is still a popular place for relaxation and enjoying the natural loveliness of the region.

Central to the reading is St. Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus. The Lord asks his disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

Jesus identifies with the “Son of Man” of the Old Testament, who was God’s special agent and who unfailingly was true to God.

The disciples reply that the people are confused. Some of the people see Jesus as a prophet or as John the Baptist or even as Elijah.

However, when further questioned by Jesus, Peter states that he sees Jesus as the “Son of the living God.” It is a stupendous proclamation of the Lord’s own divinity.

Reflection

Christianity requires that a person first admits, and not only intellectually, that God exists.

Second, a person must realize human inadequacy as well as the power and evil of sin.

Third, anyone must believe that God communicates with people, and people may communicate with God.

Finally, God’s communication of truth is integral and exact, neither wavering nor indistinct.

For this reason, the Church, while insisting upon absolute personal faith, demands that the Word be received as it truly is, not as it might be preferred to be.

So it stresses the role of the Apostles in handing to future generations the words of Jesus.

St. Matthew’s Gospel also focuses on the Apostles. In this section, they obviously are the Lord’s special students. The Lord does not lead them along a primrose path. He predicts the horror of the Crucifixion. They can anticipate equal rejection.

But they are called to convey the Word, with Peter as the first. Upon St. Peter, the Church will stand and act. Peter confirms this Apostolic calling in his testimony that Jesus is the “Son of the living God,” which establishes the identity of the Church and its mission. †

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