June 6, 2008

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionHosea’s prophecy provides this weekend’s first reading.

Often, little is known about the prophets. However, Hosea is different. It is known that he was the son of Baari, although nothing else is known about his ancestry. His wife, Gomer, was unfaithful to him. He was the father of two sons and a daughter. He was a contemporary of the prophet Amos. He was active as a prophet about 750 years before Christ.

Gomer’s unfaithfulness is an important factor to consider in reading the prophecy of Hosea. Her adultery not only rejected Hosea, her husband, but also was a rejection of God.

For Jews, infidelity in marriage was especially horrific. It upset the bond of marriage and of the family. This confounded the integrity, unity and purity of the one people chosen by God.

Hosea saw more than even this very solemn understanding of adultery. He saw in it a reflection of the Chosen People’s willful diversion from God.

Just as Gomer was unfaithful, the people were unfaithful. Hosea did not feel that he deserved this rejection on the part of Gomer.

God hardly deserved the disobedience of the people. God, after all, repeatedly had rescued the people from peril and death, despite their sins.

In the end, Hosea is reassuring. God does not forsake the Chosen People. He forgives. He redeems. He gives life anew. But the people must be true to God.

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

Paul wrote this epistle to the community of Christians in Rome. The population of this community at the time of Paul is unknown. Likely, however, it was not inconsiderable.

The fact that Christians were in Rome is not surprising. Rome was the absolute center of the Mediterranean world. It was by far the largest city. It was the cultural and economic center. It was the capital.

The reading has strong Hebrew overtones, not surprisingly since Paul was a very well-educated Jew. The focus is on Abraham’s faith.

God rewarded it first by giving Abraham a son then by stopping Abraham from killing his son as a sacrificial victim. The message is that God gives life.

St. Matthew’s Gospel provides the last reading.

Two events are in this reading. The first is the supper in which Jesus literally broke bread with tax collectors and sinners.

Sinners would have been bad enough. Devout Jews spurned those who publicly affronted God. But tax collectors were the most disgusting of sinners. The system of Roman imperial taxation was legalized larceny. Modern American law, for example, would see it as the utmost in corruption.

Also, tax collectors acted with and upon Roman authority. They were quislings of the worst sort.

Yet, Jesus dined with them. Eating with someone was almost a sacred gesture in first century A.D. Jewish Palestine. It implied not tolerance, but acceptance and even respect.

The second event was Jesus’ call to one of these tax collectors, Matthew, to the exalted position of Apostle.

Pharisees scorned all but the devout. Jesus reached out to gather even sinners, but only repentant sinners, into the household of salvation.

Matthew’s instant acceptance of the call to be an Apostle demonstrates how even sinners yearn for God and for peace of soul.


We think of sin as an act of disobedience. This it is. But, essentially, it is idolatry and a repudiation of God. The sinner elevates self over God.

By rejecting God, sinners reject life. They condemn themselves to everlasting death. The wonderfully good news is that there can be a tomorrow. Jesus has paid the price of our sins. He offers life to us by forgiving us. But we must turn to God, ask forgiveness and reform ourselves so that we are genuine disciples. †

Local site Links: