June 17, 2016

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis is Father’s Day in the United States, first envisioned by a woman attending services at an Episcopalian church in 1909 in Spokane, Wash., on Mother’s Day. She thought similar recognition was due fathers, so eventually this day came to be.

Rare would be the parish liturgy that failed to note Father’s Day, but the Liturgy of the Word was composed for the entire world and for many people who do not observe American holidays. So the readings are not strictly for Father’s Day, but they coincidentally have a theme not far removed from what we venerate in good fatherhood.

The first reading is from the Book of Zechariah, who was from a priestly family, born in Babylon during the Israelite’s exile there in sixth-century B.C. He began to prophesy as a young man.

Zechariah called the people of his time to faithfulness and to obedience to God’s law. He also reminded the people of God’s love and goodness.

This reading refers to an unnamed victim of the destruction of Jerusalem. This victim will be greatly mourned. The victim was uncompromisingly true to God.

Pious Christians have seen in the reading a reflection Jesus, the Son of God and Redeemer, loyal to God to the end.

Next, the Church presents a lesson from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. It states that each believer is a brother or sister of Jesus through his incarnation. Each believer has been “clothed” with Christ, intimately and indelibly bonded with God, in Christ.

St. Luke’s Gospel is the source of the last reading. In this passage, Jesus asks how the Apostles view him. Peter replies that Jesus is the “Messiah of God” (Lk 9:21). Peter’s confession on faith in Jesus reveals two important catechetical points.

The first is that Peter spoke for the Twelve. The Gospel recorded Peter’s statement. Secondly, Peter was inspired and wise enough to recognize Jesus. We need go no farther than the four Gospels to find evidence of Peter’s importance in the unfolding of salvation in Jesus.

The Lord then declares that true discipleship is more than a warm feeling of somehow vaguely being connected with him, or admiring him. Instead, it is a wholehearted identification with the Lord, verified by literally walking with Christ through the difficulties of life. Each true disciple must also carry the cross as Jesus carried the cross.

Reflection

This weekend in the United States we celebrate Father’s Day. The readings provide an idea of the goodness to us of God, the eternal Father.

The first reading was from Zechariah. Born when Jews were held in captivity in a foreign, hostile environment, Zechariah benefited from being in the generation that was released from this captivity, and was able to return to the Jewish homeland. He and his contemporaries never saw this release as the result of mere luck or coincidence. Rather, in their minds, God rescued them.

Galatians obliquely refers to God’s love. God sent Jesus to humanity. In Jesus, humans can become nothing less than heirs to eternal peace. In Jesus, humans become brothers and sisters of the Son of God, with God their Father in a most special sense.

St. Luke’s Gospel further describes Jesus as God’s gift. As said by Peter, the Lord is the Messiah. He frees us from our sin.

God loves us as a perfect, loving, forgiving and providing Father, but God’s love does not render us helpless, unable to decide for ourselves. We must turn to God, with true conviction, even if it means carrying our own crosses.

Even if we carry our cross, our loving Father will assist us with the divine help of Jesus and will give us everlasting life at the end of our earthly struggle. †

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