August 8, 2014

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading again this weekend is from the First Book of Kings. First and Second Kings prominently mention the kings of the united kingdom of Israel, but they are not political histories.

Of course, politics and other realities of life in Israel under the king appear in these books, but the chief purpose of these writings is to reveal God’s mercy, justice and identity. So often more emphatically and extensively than their references to the kings, these books mention prophets, who spoke for God.

The reading for this weekend from First Kings is in this mode of writing.

Principal in the reading is the prophet Elijah. God had spoken to him in the past, so Elijah knew that God was accessible and could communicate with him.

Elijah looked for God. A fierce storm raged, but God was not in the wind or in the thunder.

Next came an earthquake, not an unusual event in the Middle East. Elijah could not find God in the earthquake.

At last, Elijah heard a tiny whispering sound. It was the voice of God.

Several lessons emerge from this reading. First, God interacts with humanity, and the resulting divine revelation is conveyed to humans by humans. Elijah, after all, was a human.

Second, Elijah looked for God in great outbursts of nature, in a storm and in an earthquake. God is supreme over nature. The ancient Hebrew concept, therefore, was that God used nature and all its powerful manifestations to teach the people that they should live according to his plan.

Sin disrupts the order of life. Temptations abound, but no power exceeds God’s power and perfection.

Finally, God appears in places and events and forms often least expected by humans, such as in tiny whispering sounds in the middle of storms and Earth’s tremors.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the source of the next reading. In this reading, Paul verified his own status as an Apostle, and his own truthfulness. He mourned that his kin, the Jewish nation, did not accept God. It was a failure that, alas, occurred throughout Hebrew history, indeed throughout human history. Paul admitted his own humanity and frailty, but despite all, he insisted that he would remain true to his calling as a Christian and as an Apostle.

For its last reading this weekend, the Church gives us a passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is a familiar story.

Last weekend, the reading from Matthew was from verses immediately preceding these. It, too, was a familiar story, that of the Lord’s miraculous feeding of the 5,000.

In this story, the Lord walks across water to reach the boat in which the Apostles were crossing the Sea of Galilee. Peter, impulsive as was his personality, leaped from the boat when Jesus invited him to come forward.

As often happened, Peter’s impulsiveness gave way to uncertainty and doubt. When these feelings took hold, Peter’s own ability to walk on the water failed. He began to sink.

Jesus, not outdone by Peter’s lack of faith, pulled Peter from the water, rescuing Peter from death. Understanding Peter’s weakness, Jesus assisted him, giving him security and life.

Reflection

Last weekend, the lesson from the Gospel was that Jesus alone is the source of life. He is the only security. Life cannot be measured just by earthly standards. It must be measured by its totality, with attention given the fact of eternity.

Jesus alone gives eternal life. He alone is the source of life, including eternal life. Nothing else possesses the power of the Lord, because Jesus is God.

We humans must believe that Jesus alone gives true life. Otherwise, left to ourselves, we will drown. †

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