August 29, 2008

Twenty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

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

Since Jeremiah was the son of a priest, Hilkiah, he almost certainly was born of a priestly family. He was active as a prophet for two generations. Outspoken, he easily provoked opposition and created controversy. Angry listeners at times not only resisted him, but even threatened to kill him.

His criticism of the ways in which most people of his time lived soon caused many to say that he was no friend of the nation nor was he loyal to his own ethnic background.

Undaunted, he ignored all these criticisms, but only in the process of reinforcing and repeating his denunciations of all that was occurring around him. He said that he had no choice other than to condemn sin since God had called him to the role of prophet.

Yet, even in this conviction, he did not fail personally to say that the divine call had overwhelmed him and had created all the misery that he experienced in the face of abuse and rebuttal. Nevertheless, albeit his complaints to the Almighty, he never renounced his calling.

As other prophets, he saw human misery as ultimately the result of human sin. Thus, he warned people that their disloyalty to God would reap for them the whirlwind.

Jeremiah is regarded as one of the Major Prophets. It is no wonder. The Book of Jeremiah is long in length. But the prophet’s eloquence, drawn from his deep faith, makes it outstanding.

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

In this reading, Paul pleaded with his readers, the Christian Romans, to offer “their bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God.” The language was very relevant indeed for the Roman Christians. The culture around them seethed with hedonism and gross sexual license. To be true to the Gospel, Christians had to exercise virtuous restraint.

Looming ahead in not too much time was actual persecution. Being a Christian soon became a capital crime as Paul’s own martyrdom would show. Christians would have to pay for their faith by surrendering their own bodies for torture and execution.

For its last reading, the Church this weekend presents a passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is a continuation of the reading from Matthew last week.

In this story, the Apostles remain with the Lord at Caesarea Philippi, the place that now is something of a resort, at the beginning of the Jordan River north of the Sea of Galilee.

Last weekend, the reading recalled Peter’s fervent proclamation that he believed that Jesus was the “Son of the living God.” It was a glorious proclamation, and it promised in the end glory and triumph. Attached to this promise was the thought of victory over evil and oppressive forces, and vindication after suffering.

However, despite the final attainment of glory, Jesus warned and indeed insisted that true followers of the Gospel must themselves endure much suffering. They would have to carry their crosses in the footprints of Christ the crucified.


Many centuries have passed since the time when Jeremiah wrote, and almost 20 centuries have come and gone since the preaching of Jesus. However, while times have changed, little basically in human experience has fundamentally changed since nothing in human nature has changed.

Therefore, these Scriptures, while composed so long ago, have relevance and immediacy for us.

Sin still lures humans into confusion and heartache, and indeed even into a state of eternal death. Sin leads to further sin. Our sin disorders our lives. Human sin deforms our entire world.

Christians must live amid this distortion and chronic sin.

In the end, it is not a gloomy or terrifying thought. God does not forsake us. With the help and guidance of Jesus the Savior, we can bring hope and peace into our hearts and into the world. †

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