June 20, 2008

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Jeremiah supplies this weekend’s first reading.

Jeremiah wrote at a time when life was hard for God’s Chosen People.

The land given by God to the people was unified under one ruler for a relatively short period of time, comparatively speaking. There was only one Golden Age, namely the years of the reign of David and then the time of the rule of David’s son, Solomon.

After Solomon, the country was divided. Weakened, often at odds with each other, the two resulting kingdoms never attained the level of prosperity and contentment that the single nation had known under David and Solomon. Moreover, dismembered and quarrelling among themselves, the two Hebrew states were attractive prey for ambitious neighbors.

All this was bad enough. For prophets such as Jeremiah, the worst aspect was that the people had grown sluggish in their obedience to the Commandments and in their reverence for God. The prophets saw in this deflation in religious enthusiasm the principal threat to the future security of the people.

In other words, the people had brought bad times upon themselves.

This reading from Jeremiah reflects the sad state of affairs. It calls the people back to God. Only in being faithful to God will they assure their own security.

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

A verse read on this weekend (Rom 5:12), is one of the few biblical texts about which the Church infallibly and formally has spoken. The teaching of this verse is simple. Humans themselves brought sin and evil into the world via the sin of Adam. Jesus, and Jesus alone, brought salvation, repairing the damage inflicted by sin.

Matthew’s Gospel provides the last reading.

To understand any Gospel text, it helps to recall that the Gospels were not written at the time of Jesus. None of the Gospels is a diary of the Lord’s days on Earth, written each day as a record of all that had occurred.

Rather, they are recollections of Jesus, all written many years after Jesus was crucified by persons who either knew the Lord or those with firsthand information from others who literally had heard Jesus and had met Jesus.

Therefore, the context surrounding the writing of each Gospel is important. It is not as if an Evangelist invented what was written and put his fiction forward as the teaching of Christ. Rather, each holy writer applied what Jesus taught to events of the day in which the Gospel was written.

Important in understanding this weekend’s reading is knowledge of the peril facing the early Christians. The culture thought them to be fools and even worse. This is why the law turned against them, and they faced persecution as a result.

In this text, the Lord encourages the Apostles, bracing them for what they will encounter in a hostile culture. At a time when Christians, and so many others, were accorded no respect, it must have been most uplifting to know that God treasured every hair on their heads.


Times have changed since the first Christians faced the hostility of their neighbors and of the mighty Roman Empire. Then again, times have not changed. Thankfully, Christians today, at least in this country, have no reason to fear that the police will suddenly be at their door to arrest them for the crime of Christianity.

However, the culture in which we live is boldly hostile to many of the basic ideals of the Gospel.

These readings speak to us. Just as Jeremiah warned his contemporaries, turning away from God is the doorway to disaster, and certainly to eternal death.

Paul reminds us that Jesus alone is the source of life and joy. The Lord encouraged the Apostles. He encourages us to be strong. The reward will be great. †

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