November 14, 2014

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Proverbs provides this weekend’s first reading. This book was composed when both the Holy Land and its inhabitants, God’s Chosen People, had undergone massive changes.

These changes had occurred as a result of the military conquest of the Holy Land, and indeed much of the Eastern Mediterranean world by Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), the young Greek king from Macedonia.

Alexander did not live long enough to enjoy much of the success of his military victories, but his conquests placed Greeks and Greek philosophy in cultures all across the Middle East.

This Greek influence was powerful yet contrary to traditional Hebrew theology. Committed Jews struggled to keep their faith alive and to hand it on to coming generations.

Proverbs was written as a part of this effort. Along with other books of the Hebrew Scriptures, Proverbs attempts to blend human logic with Hebrew theology, to say that ancient Hebrew beliefs are not illogical. (In the Greek culture, human logic was supreme.)

The reading from Proverbs proclaimed by the Church on this weekend obliquely makes reference to the fact that marriages under the Greek arrangement usually were contrived.

Quite disturbing for Jews was the fact that wives were not much better than servants, even slaves. The concept of love, freely and gladly exchanged between spouses, was frequently missing in Greek life.

Proverbs tries to elevate the Jewish notion of human dignity, a dignity that embraced women as well as men.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians supplies the second reading. In the early days of the Church, the general presumption was that Jesus would soon return to Earth to vanquish the evil and vindicate the good.

Paul had to remind the Christians of Thessalonica that following the Gospel might be a long, tiring and difficult process, as Christ might not appear as quickly as they would like.

For its third and last reading, the Church this weekend presents St. Matthew’s Gospel. The story in essence also appears in the Gospel of St. Mark.

The story builds on the same theme as that given in First Thessalonians. The present order will end one day. Each human will die. No one can predict exactly when natural death will come.

Life suddenly and unexpectedly can change for societies, as Americans realized after Dec. 7, 1941, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists destroyed so many lives.

The reading from Matthew calls upon Christians to remember the uncertainty of life and the certainty of the end of life.

God has given each Christian skills and talents. He has revealed to them the way to live. He has sent Jesus to them as Redeemer. They possess many advantages. They must not waste time or ignore the uncertainty of life. They must live as good disciples.

Reflection

The Church will soon conclude its liturgical year of 2014. Its great celebration and final message will be the feast of Christ the King. Jesus is the only answer, the answer to every question, worry and need.

One day, at a time unknown, life will change for each of us individually. Our societies also will change.

Jesus has promised one day to return in glory. How and when this return will occur is not known.

In the meantime, we possess God’s gifts needed for life and salvation. God strengthens, guides and redeems us, as St. Paul assures us in First Thessalonians. In Jesus we have the lesson of how to live. In Jesus, we truly have life. We are heirs to heaven.

But we must respond by Christian living. We must commit ourselves, without hesitation, to the Lord Jesus Christ the King. †

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