August 5, 2016

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Wisdom is the source of the first reading for this weekend. The Hebrews’ flight from Egypt, where they had been enslaved, began at night.

They saw God as their protector, assuring that their escape would succeed. Moses was God’s instrument.

Very much a part of the story, therefore, was the people’s recognition of God as their deliverer. Hebrew tradition never forgot God’s role in the Exodus. Thus, this reading from Wisdom proclaims the might and mercy of God.

This reference gives a logical basis for the Jewish belief in God, a purpose in all the wisdom literature in the Bible.

The second reading for this weekend is from the Epistle to the Hebrews, written for Jewish converts to Christianity who faced the same difficulties as those experienced by pagan converts in the first generations of the Church.

After the Jews’ rebellion against Rome, quashed so brutally by the Romans in 70, the legal system of the empire was no friendlier to Jews than it was to Christians. Christians faced persecution because they defied laws requiring worship of the Roman gods and goddesses, including the emperor.

This epistle encouraged and challenged Jewish converts to Christianity.

The reading literally sings about the majesty and power of faith, continuing one of the themes in the previous reading. By acknowledging God and by receiving Jesus, the Son of God, believers affirmed the fact that God is in human history, just as he had been throughout the centuries. Abraham realized this. God gave him and his wife Sarah a child. Their prayers were answered. From this child, their son Isaac, descended the Hebrew people.

St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is always important to realize that the Gospels were composed not during the Lord’s time on Earth, but in the decades after Jesus lived and preached. (Biblical scholars think that Luke’s Gospel relied heavily upon Mark’s, but used other sources as well. It may have been written around 80, a half century after Jesus’ time.)

The author of Luke knew very well the stresses facing Christians at the time when the Gospel was composed. He witnessed the looming persecution, and certainly he experienced the struggle between the Gospel and the pagan culture.

So, the words of Jesus chosen by the Evangelist, and read during this weekend’s Masses, are encouraging. They also warn.

The Lord urged disciples to be prepared, but also reassured them that he will take care of them. Still, surviving on Earth is not the ultimate goal. Believers will be vindicated by Jesus in the heavenly kingdom. Jesus is the bridegroom. The wedding banquet is the celebration of love and life in heaven.

Reflection

Only two things are certain in life, so they say, namely death and taxes. People spend much time thinking about taxes, filing returns on time, paying what is due, watching withholding statements, and resisting political efforts to raise taxes.

If they are healthy, few people think very much about death, however, even though death is the fate of every living being. It is too frightening to consider. It is easy to turn a blind eye to this reality.

These readings are blunt and utterly realistic. Death awaits us all. Aside from final death, we can create for ourselves the living death of hopelessness and despair.

God wills that we live with peace in our hearts now, and that we live forever. He gave us Moses and Abraham. He gave us Jesus, his only Son. Jesus will come again to take us to the eternal wedding banquet in heaven.

As the Gospel tells us, as the Hebrews longing for deliverance told us, we must prepare ourselves to live with Jesus by being faithful and by loving God above all. God alone is our security and hope. He has proved it. †

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