October 27, 2017

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Exodus provides this weekend’s Mass with its first reading. According to ancient Jewish tradition, the Book of Exodus came from Moses. Therefore, in a most special way, it is the word of God itself, since Moses represented God and was the link between God and the chosen people.

Through Moses, God gave direction to the Hebrews for every aspect of their lives. This weekend’s reading from Exodus addresses certain specific realities in life, such as the lending of money.

Primary in the Hebrew religion from the beginning was a respect for each person. It is a respect founded on the notion of God as Creator and final governor of human lives.

Every person has the right to be respected and treated justly. No one can be exploited or mistreated, not even strangers or enemies.

Of course, the details are important. Even more important is total human obedience to God and to his law.

For the second reading, the Church presents a reading from Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians. In this epistle, Paul’s advice is firm. He urges obedience to God, without exception, compromise or qualification.

Paul offers his own devotion to the Lord as an example. Following Jesus brings joy, the Apostle insists.

Bearing witness to Christ—evangelization, to use a theological term often appearing in modern times—is an opportunity for Christians. Paul urged the Christian Thessalonians to be a model for all the people of Macedonia and Achaia. He tells the Thessalonians that their faith, their turning away from idols, was an inspiration to many.

St. Matthew’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is a familiar and beloved text.

Often seen as an effort to trick Jesus, the question of the Pharisees in this story may have had a more pragmatic purpose. The Pharisees were teachers, constantly instructing others about the law of Moses, and constantly calling others to obey this law. Reducing any teaching to a summary is always a good educational technique.

Even so, good will cannot be assumed without any other possibility. After all, many Pharisees disliked Jesus and would have liked to discredit the Lord’s message if at all possible.

The Lord’s reply is obvious. It certainly is no departure from or repudiation of Jewish religious tradition since it echoes ancient and fundamental Jewish belief.

More broadly, the Lord’s lesson is to the point. God is supreme. The true disciple must reach every decision with the standard of love for God, uncompromised and absolute, first in their minds.

Practically speaking, true discipleship means active respect for every person, since every human being is God’s treasured creation.

God’s law is supreme and a mandate to love others.

Reflection

True Christianity is more than an intellectual assent to theological propositions. While the creed of the Church is vital, Christianity means a way of life and a state of mind, a heartfelt, personal choice to recognize God’s supremacy. Christianity is more than lip service.

In reality, unfailingly, it means loving others as God loves them, caring for others, always resisting any effort to belittle or exploit others. St. Paul reminds us Christians of the need to bear witness forever to God’s love and justice.

The message is especially important today, in a world in which so many are used and abused, indeed even in advanced, so-called “free” societies.

Face the facts. Seemingly advanced societies can be guilty of offenses committed against God and against vulnerable people. Not only tyrannies are at fault.

Actually, people in free societies are even more responsible before God since they truly can influence public policy and form the culture.

Christians in democracies not only have the opportunity, but in fact the duty to show and ask for God’s love for all. †

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