October 16, 2015

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for this weekend is from the third and last part of the Book of Isaiah.

This prophet describes or refers on several occasions to a loyal and devoted servant of God who endures outrageous insults and severe misfortunes, but never despairs or rebels against God as these unhappy events come to him.

Furthermore, good prevails through and from these sufferings. It prevails in the servant’s own faithfulness, and the glory of God shining through all that happens.

While these verses were written many centuries before Christ, the Church has always seen in them a prefigurement of their gentle Savior, the innocent lamb of God, sinless and merciful, good and perfect, but the victim of viciousness and of the indifference of so many.

The Church presents a selection from the Epistle to the Hebrews as the second reading for this weekend.

Typically throughout Hebrews, its author is strong using Old Testament imagery, especially in the symbolism of the ancient rituals of the Jewish temple.

The Romans destroyed the temple in 70 as a reprisal after the Jews unsuccessfully attempted to revolt against Rome. The priests were killed or scattered. The old rituals came to an end. They have not yet been restored.

For centuries, however, including the first two-thirds of the first century, these ceremonies, in which priests, a high priest, sacrifices and victims of sacrifices, appeared. These rites of the temple were familiar among Jews young and old, great and small.

With all this in mind, the author of Hebrews not only chronicles Jewish custom and history, but presents Jesus as the great high priest. The perfect sacrifice is the Lord’s sacrifice on Calvary. He is the victim, offering true reconciliation with God.

The reading reminds us that Jesus, the Son of God, also was human as are we. He never sinned, but was tempted. He loves us. He understands us.

St. Mark’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

In this reading, the Apostles James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached Jesus. The forecasts by Jesus of the coming of a new kingdom to the world, namely the kingdom of God, spurred their ambition. They wanted preferred treatment, misunderstanding the true meaning of the kingdom of God.

Presuming it has earthly properties, they want to have privileged places in this coming, glorious kingdom, so they asked the Lord to give them these high places.

Jesus reminded them that the path to the new kingdom will be neither swift nor smooth. To progress along this path, any disciple must identify with Christ in his fullness, abandoning self-interests and comfort to be as Jesus was, giving all in sacrifice to the glory of God.

Reflection

The Lord came into the world as the Redeemer. His mission was to rescue humanity from its own plight, a plight created by its willful sin and voluntary rejection of God.

This sin has disordered and weakened human nature, producing death and despair, yet so often sin reigns supreme in the world.

To follow Christ with sincerity means the determination to be true to God despite human weaknesses pointing the other way, requiring an utter rejection of sin and absolute turning to God.

For limited human beings, this conversion is not easy to accomplish. Temptations are many and strong. We live in a world in which sin is strong, and sinners are many. It is a world with little love and with little justice.

We must swim upstream. We achieve true discipleship only by seeking and relying upon God’s help. If we ask for it, God’s help will come. He never fails.

First of all, we must renounce sin and all that this renunciation entails. We must also critically admit our own weakness. †

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