February 12, 2010

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend is within Ordinary Time. However, on Feb. 17 the Church will observe Ash Wednesday.

These readings from Scripture might be seen as a prelude to Lent or more directly as an invitation to join in the observance of Lent.

For its first reading, this weekend’s liturgy presents a selection from the Book of Jeremiah.

Jeremiah must have been intense in his personality. Certainly, he was strongly committed to the task of being a prophet. He keenly felt that God had called him to be a prophet and that his calling was evidence of God’s will for the salvation of the Chosen People.

Upsetting the story was the spiritual sluggishness—if not the downright sinfulness—of the people. Often, the people strayed from God because—instead of following God’s will—they followed the fads of the time or earthly leaders.

Jeremiah continually and eloquently insisted that true peace and well-being existed only by obeying God, and by listening to God’s word in making decisions about life.

To use a simile, life can be like being alone in a wasteland. Knowing God and following God’s will provide an oasis.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians supplies the second reading.

Paul’s two existing letters to the Corinthians, both of which are part of the New Testament, easily show us how challenging he found their tendency to accept the Gospel halfheartedly or with reservations.

In a way, it is understandable that they were difficult to convince and fully convert. They lived in a city renowned across the Roman Empire for material excesses. Being in such surroundings surely made attention to the spiritual foundations of the Christian Gospel less than quick and easy.

Paul calls the Corinthians to spiritual values. They alone endure, and they alone will satisfy the people.

For its last reading, the Church this weekend gives us a reading from St. Luke’s Gospel.

This passage is part of the Synoptic Tradition. Similar readings are found in Matthew’s Gospel and Mark’s Gospel.

Luke’s approach to religion was very similar to that of Jeremiah. Luke’s approach was bold and urgent.

He minced no words. He cut to the chase, in modern day terms, so the situations in the life of Jesus that appealed to him were those in which the Lord was the most direct and emphatic.

Such directness at times took the form of warnings as is the case in the latter part of this reading. On other occasions, it appeared in a lesson or in a compliment.

Jesus makes very clear that true discipleship involves the spirit. The things of this Earth come and go. In the end, all the things of this Earth will go. Those people who set their sights on material goals or live only for material advancements do so at their own peril.


The Church in this liturgy, and through these readings, prepares us for Lent. By definition, Lent will be a time of reflection. It will be a reflection in which—to be beneficial—we must be completely focused and starkly realistic.

In these three readings, ending with the words of Jesus, the Church presents as the most fundamental facts the reality that earthly incentives are fleeting in survival and rest on quicksand.

Only the spirit is everlastingly alive. Only judgments based on spiritual motives have lasting effects. In these quite somber teachings, the Church leads us down no primrose path. It warns us that we are of the world so the enticements of the world are especially appealing to us.

Nevertheless, they can bring us only emptiness and maybe eternal death if we do not turn to the Lord.

Choosing our future path is our task. Lent is designed to assist us in making the choice to follow a spiritual route in our life journey. †

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