September 21, 2012

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Wisdom provides this weekend with its first reading.

This book is one of several in the Old Testament that has been classified as “Wisdom Literature.”

These books were attempts made by pious Jews several centuries before Christ to affirm the reasonableness of their ancient religion.

They felt the need to assert this reasonableness because of the surroundings in which they found themselves. They were not in the Holy Land, having left their ancestral homeland to find better living conditions elsewhere.

But living elsewhere meant that they were in the midst of pagans. These pagans had all the advantages, and were firmly in control of everything. They were the sophisticated people, the achievers and the smart people.

Arguing with them about their pagan philosophies was not easy. The Jews seemed absurd, but still they held firm to their belief in the One God of Israel. They insisted that, considering everything, their belief in God made sense while paganism made no sense.

So the Jews wrote these books called the Wisdom Literature.

Incidentally, many of these books do not appear in all editions of the Bible. At the time of the Reformation, scholars of the new Protestant traditions turned to quite rigid standards to judge the validity of Scriptural works concluded by Jewish divines as far ago as the first century A.D.

Because some of these books were written in Greek, a language other than the sacred Hebrew, and they were written outside the Holy Land, the land given by God to the Chosen People, they simply did not qualify for inclusion in the Bible.

This weekend’s reading very clearly illustrates the struggle between good and evil. Evil has no place in the presence of God, and vice versa.

For the second reading, the Church turns to the Letter of St. James.

This clear and frank message speaks of those human activities that are at the root of evil. The epistle warns that hardness of heart and wicked intentions lead humans to unholy and destructive behavior.

St. Mark’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

Jesus predicts the Crucifixion. He forecasts being seized and delivered to evil persons. He also declares that, after the Crucifixion, in three days will come the Resurrection. He will prevail!

Important in this reading, as was so often described in all the four Gospels, Jesus gathers together the Apostles as special students and special companions. They all have been called to build the Church.

Still, they are humans, vulnerable to sin and human pettiness. Jesus reminds them that each Apostle must be a servant to all. Success is through humility, and through living in the model of Jesus.

Reflection

Through the biblical readings at Mass in recent weeks, the Church has explained discipleship to us. It has not led us down any primrose path. If we truly follow Christ, we must walk through a hostile world to our own Calvary.

In this weekend’s first reading from the Book of Wisdom, we are reminded once more that today, like centuries upon centuries ago, the world stands away from or in conflict with God.

We cannot stand with Christ and tolerate or yield to evil. We must choose one or the other.

Following Jesus is difficult, but Jesus is always with us.

He is with us in the teachings of the Apostles, whom the Lord commissioned to continue the work of salvation.

We hear their teachings, applied even now in the visible, institutional Church.

He is with us in the sacraments, also conveyed to us through the Twelve.

The first step in discipleship is to acquire the genuine humility to know who we are and what we need. We are indeed humans with all the dignity belonging to us as creatures of God. Still, sin limits us. We need God, and God is in Jesus. Only with Jesus in our hearts can we achieve our true potential. †

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