September 18, 2009

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionProtestants are accustomed to reading the King James, or Authorized, version of the Bible, and often ask Catholics why Catholic versions, or the Catholic liturgy, include the Book of Wisdom. The King James Version omits it.

Wisdom was one of several books in the Old Testament that were discounted by the biblical scholars who prepared the English version for King James I of England.

The Roman Catholic Church, long before the Reformation and certainly since then, has taught that Wisdom indeed is part of the inspired word of God.

Wisdom provides this weekend’s liturgy with its first reading.

Wisdom was written amid cultural warfare in which the Jews had to fight for their identity. Many Jews had left the Holy Land to find better living conditions elsewhere. Living elsewhere meant that they resided in the midst of pagans.

These pagans had all the advantages, and they were firmly in control. Ignoring all these advantages was not easy.

Jewish parents had to inspire their children, who were understandably impressed by the dazzle of the pagan world, to hold fast to the seemingly rigid demands of the religion of their forebears.

The wisdom literature of the Old Testament, including the Book of Wisdom, developed as part of this effort to defend, explain and perpetuate the ancient beliefs of the Chosen People.

More directly, this weekend’s reading from Wisdom very clearly illustrates the struggle between good and evil. This conflict causes a situation that is not best described as two ships passing silently in the night. There is no place for evil in the presence of God, and vice versa.

The Epistle to James offers us the second reading.

This clear and frank message speaks of those human activities that are at the root of, and in expression, evil. The epistle warns that hardness of heart and wicked intentions lead humans to unholy and destructive behavior.

St. Mark’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

Jesus predicts the Crucifixion. He forecasts being seized and delivered to evil persons. He also declares that—after the Crucifixion—in three days will come the Resurrection. He will prevail!

It is important to note that in this reading, as so often in all the four Gospels, Jesus gathers together the Apostles as special students personally called and commissioned to build the Church.

However, they still are humans, vulnerable to human pettiness and sin. Reminding them to be servants to all, Jesus calls them to humility in their daily life and faithfulness to the model that the Lord has set for God’s people. In this model will be their security.


The Church has called us to discipleship through the biblical readings at Mass during recent weeks.

It has not led us down a primrose path. Last weekend, it called us to ponder, to celebrate and to connect with the cross.

If we truly follow Christ, we must walk the path through a hostile world to our own Calvary.

In this weekend’s first reading from Wisdom, we are reminded once more that discipleship is not easy. The world stands utterly opposite Jesus. We cannot stand midway between Christ and evil. We must choose one or the other.

If we choose evil, as the epistle recalls, we move toward our destruction.

However, Jesus is with us. He is with us in the teachings of the Apostles, whom the Lord commissioned to continue the work of salvation.

In their teachings, applied even now in the visible, institutional Church, we hear Jesus. He is with us in the Sacraments, also conveyed to us through the Twelve.

Jesus does not thunder into our hearts and homes. We must welcome the good and saving crucified Savior. The first step in this process is to acquire the humility to know who we are and what we need. We are humans with dignity and limitations. We need God, who is with us in Jesus. †

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