October 24, 2014

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Exodus provides this weekend with its first reading. Exodus is among the first five books of the Bible, the books attributed in ancient Jewish tradition to Moses. For Jews, therefore, it is a book that is especially close to God.

Moses represented God and was the link between God and the Chosen People. It continues to be an important book for Christians.

Through Moses, God gave directions for every aspect of life. This weekend’s reading from Exodus addresses certain very specific realities in life, such as the lending of money.

The details, of course, are important, but the underlying spirit is also key to understand. Not even aliens can be exploited or mistreated. Every person has the right to be respected and treated justly. To break this law, or any law of God, unleashes a flood of misfortune. Human sin brings bitter consequences.

The lesson was basic for the Hebrew religion. From the beginning, it stressed respect for each person because God is the Creator of each person and the final governor of human lives.

For the second reading, the Church presents a reading from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians. Paul’s advice is firm. Follow Jesus. He offers his own devotion to the Lord as an example. Following Jesus brings joy, the Apostle insists.

Bearing witness to Christ, evangelization to use a theological term employed in modern times, is an opportunity for Christians. Paul urged the Christian Thessalonians to be a model for all the people of Macedonia and Achaia. He tells the Thessalonians that their faith, their turning away from idols, was an inspiration to many. Bearing witness to Christ is a service to others.

St. Matthew’s Gospel supplies the last reading. It is a familiar and beloved text.

Often seen as an effort to trick Jesus, the question of the Pharisees in this story may have had a more pragmatic purpose. The Pharisees were teachers, constantly instructing others about the law of Moses, and always calling others to obey this law. Reducing any teaching to a good, succinct summary can be a good educational technique.

(Even so, good will cannot be assumed without any other possibility. After all, Jesus was not the favorite religious teacher for every Pharisee.)

Regardless, the Lord’s reply is obvious. It is not novel, or a departure from or a repudiation of Jewish religious tradition. It echoes ancient and fundamental Jewish belief.

God is supreme. The true disciple must balance every decision against the standard of love for God. As God creates all and loves all, true discipleship necessarily means active respect for every other person.

In the words of Jesus, God’s law is one and inseparable. Love for the Father cannot be removed from love of others, and indeed all others. Every human being is God’s treasured creation.

Reflection

True Christianity is more than an intellectual assent to certain theological propositions. While the creed of the Church is vital, Christianity means a way of life.

Pursuing the Christian way of life means more than lip service, more than an attitude of good will to others. It means a very conscious and determined life of caring for others and resisting any effort to belittle or exploit others. First Thessalonians reminds us Christians of the need to bear witness to God’s love and justice far and wide—as a service.

The message is especially important today, in a world in which so many are exploited—even in advanced, free societies. Free, advanced societies can be clearly guilty of offenses committed against God and against vulnerable people.

Well-meaning people in these free societies can fail by not asserting influence on policy and customs, and by serene indifference to wrongs that occur all around them. †

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