June 13, 2008

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Exodus is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

It is centered about the Exodus, the journey of the Hebrew people from Egypt to the Promised Land. This long, often daunting, passage from Egypt to freedom was the setting in which the identity of God’s Chosen People was finally established.

Important in understanding this reading from Exodus is a realization about both the misery that the Hebrews knew in Egypt, where they were slaves under the rule of a cruel pharaoh, or king, and also a sense of the uncertainty and even peril that they met as they traveled on foot across the bleak and unforgiving desert of the Sinai Peninsula.

God assured Moses that, if the people were obedient to the Commandments, they had nothing to fear. It proved to be true.

The Hebrews, led by Moses, who was guided by God, passed through the desert and reached the land that God had promised them.

An element of the dialogue between God and Moses not to be missed in any reading of Exodus is God’s great love for the people. Even when they sinned, God forgave them.

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

Paul uses an interesting phrase to describe life without Christ. He refers to persons living lives without the Lord as “powerless.”

Just as God loved the Hebrews, Paul reassures the Christian Romans that God loves them, and that in this love is their strength needed to live so as to reach everlasting life. Salvation is in and through Jesus, the Savior.

Again, some awareness of the historical context helps in understanding this Scripture passage. The Christians of Rome were bombarded by a hostile culture. More than this, persecution threatened to overtake them and end their lives.

Paul had to accomplish two objectives. He had to turn these Christians to the true purpose of life, namely eternal life with God, then he had to console them. Even in the face of the Roman Empire, they were not weak or helpless if they were with the Lord.

This weekend’s last reading is from St. Matthew’s Gospel.

In the story, Jesus is with a large crowd. The theme of divine love, already presented in the earlier readings, occurs again. Jesus had “pity” on the crowd. He loved the people.

Loving the people, Jesus summoned the Apostles and bestowed upon them the powers to restore life damaged by sickness and to expel evil spirits from people. The more dramatic of these two powers was the transmittal of power over the devil. Only God can rule the devil.

The Gospel carefully names the Apostles. Matthew, for instance, was called the tax collector. There was no room for imposters or substitutes.

The early Christians surely appreciated the exactness of this list. These Christians wanted to know who the authentic Apostles were because the genuine Apostles had been the Lord’s special students. He had commissioned them, and empowered them, to continue with the task of saving the lost.


We can relate to the Hebrews as they struggled to escape harsh slavery in Egypt, and find peace and safety in the land that God had promised them.

Life is often called a journey. It is indeed. From birth onward, we encounter different conditions. Events leave a mark upon us, for good or bad. We enter relationships. Some end with not the happiest of feelings or results. Circumstances change.

Always, we are tempted to sin, the doorway to eternal death. Always, peril awaits us.

The message of these readings is that God loves us. In this love is our strength. In this love is our hope of being forgiven.

Jesus provides for us. He gave us the Apostles. They are with us, with their power and with their knowledge of God, in the Church. †

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