May 30, 2008

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Deuteronomy provides the first reading for this weekend.

Deuteronomy is among the first five books of the Old Testament, appearing in current translations as the fifth in the sequence of the books attributed to Moses or inspired by Moses.

These five books contain the foundations of Judaism. They contain the basic beliefs regarding God, as understood by Judaism and by Christianity, and the fundamental beliefs concerning the response of humanity to God, the eternal Creator of all.

In this reading, the speaker is Moses. The audience is the Hebrew people, fleeing across the Sinai Peninsula—under the leadership of Moses, but always ultimately under the protection of Almighty God—as they escaped from slavery in Egypt and progressed, albeit hesitantly and with great hardship, toward the land that God had promised them.

Moses conveyed the Ten Command­ments, which were revealed to him by God, to the people. Moses called for obedience to these commandments. However, the result of disobedience was not a punishment that would come and go. Instead, the outcome of rejecting God’s commands would be death itself.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans supplies the second reading.

The epistle, as is the case with so many of the Pauline verses, hails the Lord Jesus and sees Jesus as the Redeemer, the sacrificial lamb. The Lord’s willing sacrifice on Calvary reconciled sinful humanity with God.

Paul calls upon the Christian Romans to not only acknowledge Jesus as Savior, but also to have faith in Jesus. Proving this faith requires living in obedience to God in the model of the Lord.

For its last reading, the Church presents a selection from St. Matthew’s Gospel.

The reading is quite frank. Jesus addresses these words to his disciples.

Despite an initial decision to follow Christ, a genuine disciple must live each day by obediently following the law of God and, in the example of the Lord, by committing every aspect of the self to the Father.

Baptism, or an intention to be a disciple, does not end the story of a personal soul. At the end of life, each Christian will be judged, as will every human being. The question will be whether or not God’s will was obeyed.


There is no mistake about what the Church is telling us in these readings. Deuteronomy is very clear.

If we ignore or defy God by breaking the Ten Commandments, then we will expose ourselves to a punishment that will be applied and one from which we may not recover. In truth, we could die an eternal death and lose life itself.

Unforgiven sin is no mere pause or occasional detour on the otherwise straight path to eternal life.

St. Matthew’s Gospel, quoting the Lord Jesus, is equally clear, and its message corresponds with that of Deuteronomy.

Truly being a disciple of the Lord means much more than simply giving lip service to the idea. It means literally to live as Jesus lived, and to be obedient to God as Jesus was obedient, even at the cost of earthly life.

These readings are not vague or compromising. However, they do not constitute a story of doom and gloom.

No matter how terrible our sins, no matter how outrageous our defiance of God, Paul insists in Romans that Christ the Redeemer has paid the Lord the price of our transgressions in full.

We simply must associate ourselves with the Lord’s great and final act of obedience by determining ourselves to reject our sins, beg forgiveness and live for God in Jesus. This makes real our hope. †

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