January 22, 2010

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Nehemiah furnishes the first reading for this weekend.

At one time, in Hebrew editions of the Bible, this book and the Book of Ezra formed one volume. In time, they were separated, and today in English versions they remain separate books.

Although some Old Testament books tell the history of the people of Israel, all are chiefly concerned with inspiring God’s people to be faithful and eager in their religious practice.

In this reading, Ezra, who was a priest, called together men and women, as well as children who were old enough to comprehend his message, to be faithful to God. He admonished this gathering to listen carefully to the Scriptures.

After hearing the reading of the Scriptures, the people in this audience affirmed their faith. Ezra continued by interpreting what he had read.

Finally, Ezra and Nehemiah called the people to rejoice. God had spoken to them. God was guiding them.

For the second reading, the liturgy presents St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians.

The Christian community in Corinth particularly challenged Paul. Corinth was an important commercial center. It was one of the major markets and distribution centers in the Roman Empire, and was a very large city.

Troubling for Paul was not that Corinth was large and many of its residents were rich, but that its size and wealth produced an atmosphere in which vice and greed reigned supreme.

Indeed, throughout the Mediterranean world, in which license and exploitation were commonplace, Corinthians had the reputation of being exceedingly licentious. The evils in this atmosphere were contagious, drawing many Christians to them.

The Christians vied with each other, even in the Church. They quarreled with each other. They schemed against each other. They gossiped about each other. They toyed with pagan practices and customs.

Paul constantly called the Corinthian Christians away from the temptations that the pagan environment pressed upon them. In particular, he scorned the competitiveness among the Christians.

In this reading, Paul insists that all the baptized Christians are members of the Body of Christ.

However, he said, each person who belongs to the Body of Christ has a vocation to serve God.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

Midway in this reading, the Gospel directly addresses Theophilus using the honorific title of “Your Excellency.” Luke’s Gospel seemingly was written for one person and to one person.

Scholars debate whether this person had the name of Theophilus or if it was the Gospel’s title since “Theophilus” in Greek means “friend of God.” In any case, the person apparently enjoyed some prestige, hence the use of the formal title “Your Excellency.”

In this reading, Jesus appears in the synagogue of Nazareth to explain the mission of salvation.

Salvation, unfolding in Jesus, was the gift of God’s love, the final chapter in the long record of the merciful deeds of God among God’s people.


The Church has celebrated Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus, as well as the feasts of the Epiphany of the Lord and the Baptism of the Lord.

In the lessons of these great liturgical events, the Church has introduced us to Jesus. It has identified Jesus as the son of Mary. Jesus was human, and also was the Son of God. He was the Redeemer.

Now the Church begins to tell us about salvation. It tells us how we personally should respond to salvation.

The reading from First Corinthians sets the stage. If we have accepted Christ into our hearts, we belong to God. Each of us has a personal vocation, although we may consider this term too lofty or too suggestive of a religious life.

Nothing matters more than being faithful to God and to the Christian vocation that we are called to live in life.

God provides for us in this effort. He assists and strengthens us. He never forsakes us. But, as with the children of Israel, we must be loyal. †

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