August 31, 2012

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Deuteronomy is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

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 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.

It is important to note that the law, coming from God, reveals the best of wisdom and logic. It offers the ideal path for a society to follow. Harmony and accord necessarily and inevitably will follow.

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

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 since four men with this name appear in the New Testament.

Several men would have had credentials in the early Church—James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John; James “the Less,” the son of Alphaeus; and James, a kinsman of Jesus. The father of Judas Iscariot was named James. Stronger arguments as to authorship apply to one or the other of these persons than to all.

Important in this reading is the revelation that God wills us to live. In the broader Christian context—as after all this is from the New Testament—this means eternal life. Not only does God will that we live, but God has given us the way to life.

Also important is the 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. Often, details, maybe insignificant, overtook the debate. At times, people interpreted the Lord’s responses in discussions as demeaning or even repudiating the law of Moses.

In reality, the words of Jesus reaffirm the law. He does not dismiss the law, but rather goes to the heart of the law. The essence of the law is wholeheartedly to love God, and in this love to trust in and obey God.

These discussions reveal the identity of Jesus. Moses was merely the human instrument by which God spoke. 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. They blame God for misfortunes.

God actually and lovingly rescues them, not simply by drawing them from the quicksand, but by leading them away from the quicksand. He leads us away from the quicksand by giving us the law, the road map to life.

God does not force us to walk along this path. We must voluntarily follow God by following God’s Son. It is as simple as that. Discipleship, total and sincere, is the only way to eternal life. It is the only logical choice to make in choosing a path through earthly life. †

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