July 5, 2013

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading is from the third section of Isaiah. The three sections of this book, so favored over the years by pious Jews as well as devout Christians, saw a great sweep of Hebrew history, from before the Babylonian conquest, through the exile of many Jews to Babylon, the imperial capital, and finally to the Jews’ return to their ancestral home.

The return was bittersweet. Poverty and despair stalked the land. Cynicism, at best, must have been everywhere. Where was God in all this? The prophet majestically and insistently reassured the people that if they are faithful, God will sustain them.

It was a great summons to faith, but the prophet reminded the people of God’s mercy and favor demonstrated at other times.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians provides the next reading. It proclaims Jesus to be the Lord and the Christ. Paul insists that he himself is no bearer of salvation. Jesus, the Christ, is the Savior. In the Lord is our only hope. (Christ is not a name but a title. It means the chosen one of God, chosen to be the Redeemer.)

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Already Jesus is making plans to announce the Good News far and wide. The crucifixion and Resurrection have not yet occurred, but the Lord even now is arranging for all people to be reconciled with God and to find God’s peace and life. Jesus sends 72 disciples, in pairs, to distant places. All is in God’s plan. All are in God’s love.

Jesus instructs the disciples to carry no provisions. God will provide for them. They must focus their intentions upon their holy mission of proclaiming God’s kingdom, not upon their earthly needs.

It is not an order to these disciples that they be foolhardy, or that they dismiss the realities of life on Earth. Rather, it makes clear that their mission is spiritual. It is of, and for, God. It is so important that no secondary consideration should distract them.

The Lord warns that many people will not accept these delegates from God. Those who reject God cannot be coerced to do otherwise. This is their freedom, but also their ignorance. Nevertheless, those who turn away from God and spurn his redemption bring doom upon themselves, not as divine revenge, but as simple consequence.

Reflection

Three days ago, the country commemorated the signing of the Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776. This document has come to represent the basic political philosophy of the United States, that freedom is essential for, and integral to, every person. The entire code of American law, however, makes clear that freedom does not mean license. Laws protect rights as well as liberties, and they set responsibilities.

All this fully is within the historic Catholic concept of human nature and of the identity of each person. No world tradition eclipses the Catholic respect for the individual person. No theology excels the Catholic belief in the worth, and potential, of each person.

Respecting other people, and realizing personal potential in the moral sense, is the chore. Original Sin has made us all nearsighted and insecure. It leads us to abuse our freedom and to forfeit our dignity by sinning. It renders us limited, myopic and afraid, in spiritual matters as well as in other considerations.

God has not abandoned us to our plight, however. Seeing us in our needs and our failures, God gave us Jesus, so wonderfully extolled by Paul.

We need God. We find God in Jesus. Redemption in Christ means the restoration through grace to overcome the effects of Original Sin. If we earnestly accept the Lord, Jesus gives us true perception and the strength truly to be free, to escape the captivity and the consequences of sin. †

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