October 24, 2008

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Exodus provides this weekend with its first reading.

In ancient Jewish tradition, Exodus came from Moses. Therefore, in a most special way, it is the very word of God since Moses represented God and was the link between God and the Chosen People.

Through Moses, God gave the Hebrews directions for every aspect of their lives. This weekend’s reading from Exodus addresses certain very specific realities in daily life, such as the lending of money.

Primary in the Hebrew religion from the beginning was a respect for each person, a respect founded on the notion of God as Creator and final governor of human lives.

Every person has the right to be respected and treated justly. No one can be exploited or mistreated, not even strangers or enemies.

Of course, the details are important, but of even more importance is the spirit underlying human obedience to God.

For the second reading, the Church presents a reading from St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Thessalonians.

The Apostle Paul’s advice is firm. He urges obedience to God. He offers his own devotion to the Lord as an example and insists that following Jesus brings joy.

Bearing witness to Christ—evangelization—to use a theological term often appearing in modern times, is an opportunity for Christians.

Paul urged the Christian Thessalonians to be a model for all the people of Macedonia and Achaia. He tells the Thessalonians that their faith, their turning away from idols, was an inspiration to many people.

St. Matthew’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is a familiar and beloved text.

Often seen as an effort to trick Jesus, the question of the Pharisees in this story may have had a more pragmatic purpose.

The Pharisees were teachers, constantly instructing others about the law of Moses and constantly calling others to obey this law.

Reducing any teaching to a summary is always a good educational technique. Even so, good will cannot be assumed without any other possibility. After all, many Pharisees disliked Jesus and would have liked to discredit the Lord’s message.

The Lord’s reply is obvious. It certainly is no departure from or repudiation of Jewish religious tradition. It echoes ancient and fundamental Jewish belief.

His lesson is to the point. God is supreme. The true disciple must balance every decision against the standard of love for God, uncompromised and absolute. True discipleship also means active respect for every other person since every human being is God’s treasured creation.

God’s law is one and inseparable. It is supreme. It is a mandate to love others. It cannot be set aside.


True Christianity is more than an intellectual assent to certain theological propositions. While the creed of the Church is vital, Christianity is a way of life.

Christianity means a heartfelt, personal choice to recognize God’s supremacy. Christianity is more than lip service. It means loving others as God loves them, caring for others and resisting any effort to belittle or exploit others.

First Thessalonians reminds us Christians of the need to bear witness to God’s love and justice far and wide.

The message is especially important today in a world in which so many people are used and exploited, indeed even in advanced, free societies.

Free, advanced societies can be very guilty in offenses committed against God and against vulnerable people. Not only tyrannies are at fault.

People in free societies are even more responsible before God since they truly can influence public policy and form the culture.

Christians in democracies not only have the opportunity but, in fact, the duty to show God’s love for all people and to insist upon respect for everyone. †

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