August 26, 2016

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Sirach furnishes the first Scripture reading for this weekend. “Sirach,” the name of this books, derives from the name of the author, mentioned in the book. The author was Yeshua (or Jesus in English), the son of Sira. This book was written in Egypt by Jewish immigrants from the Holy Land, or possibly by descendants of such immigrants around 132 BC. The date of composition can be determined because the foreword says that it was authored during the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy VII. The dates of this reign are known.

This book is among those biblical volumes collectively called the wisdom literature. This designation means that these books attempt to show that the Jews’ ancient faith in the one God of Israel, and their insistence that God’s law be obeyed are in no way illogical or unreasonable.

To the contrary, to possess genuine wisdom means that a person realizes the fact that God lives and reigns, and also knows that all persons and all things are subject to God.

This weekend’s reading expressly refers to humility. While humility more often is associated with Christian theology and spirituality, it was a virtue very much admired and evident in the Old Testament.

On the opposite side of the coin, the Old Testament writers disdained pride.

For instance, David, whom God had chosen to be king, rebelled against God and sinned in his pride—and lust.

In the end, David humbly turned back to God, repenting of his sins.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is the source of the second reading. Strong with Hebrew symbolism and references to Hebrew history, this reading recalls the ancient followers of Moses. They were the Hebrews escaping slavery in Egypt who crossed the forbidding Sinai Peninsula with trepidation, and later turned away from God.

Yet God came to Moses on the mountaintop to guide him, the people’s leader, and they found the Promised Land.

Jesus is our guide.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. In this story, the Lord is a guest at a meal in the home of a Pharisee. Jesus uses the occasion to warn that no one should seek the highest place. Rather, the humble who is content with a lesser place will be called to higher distinction.

In addition to its obvious call to humility, the reading makes two other points. The first point is that God cannot be tricked into tolerating anyone’s self-engineered passage into his kingdom. The second point, so typical of Luke’s particular insight, is that property is not so absolutely anyone’s belonging that the owner can clutch it while others are in great want.

Emphasizing the call to humility is the detail that a Pharisee is the host. Pharisees, well schooled in Jewish theology, supposedly knew much about life, but Jesus had to instruct this Pharisee and his guests.

Reflection

Followers of Jesus always have treasured humility, a virtue also revered in the Old Testament. Humility so long has been seen as indispensable to holiness, the common denominator among all the saints, men and women of whatever circumstances, from every place on Earth.

Of course, humility means that a person does not overestimate his or her personal worth. None of us, however talented, is somehow almighty. In essence, no role, skill, possession or function raises anyone above another in having access to the eternal banquet of heaven.

Humility, however, does not debase or deny human dignity and potential. The reading from Hebrews reminds us of our extraordinary worth as Christians and as humans. The very Son of God has redeemed us!

Rather, humility follows true wisdom. The humble do not unduly belittle themselves. Rather, they simply realize their need for God, and they understand what God’s mercy has done for them.†

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