June 25, 2010

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for this weekend’s liturgy is from the First Book of Kings.

While the focus, at least in terms of the books’ titles, is upon the kings of Israel, prophets play a major role. Such is the case in this weekend’s reading. The king is not mentioned in this selection. Rather, the chief figures are the prophets Elijah and Elisha.

As the Hebrew people gradually were formed into the nation of Israel, and as Moses and his lieutenants passed from the scene in the natural course of events, figures emerged to summon the people to religious fidelity.

They were the men whom generations of Jews and then Christians have called the prophets. However, the English definition of “prophet” is too narrow. Most often,

English-speaking persons associate prophecy with predicting the future.

The broader definition, which fits the roles of these Old Testament prophets, was that they spoke for God, proclaimed God’s law and called the people to religious devotion.

Although the prophets of whom we have records—and we have records of only a few—often faced rebuke and even outright hostility from the Hebrew people, they were admired and venerated as a class.

In this reading, the prophet Elijah calls Elisha to follow, and to succeed, him in the prophetic mission. In response, Elisha followed Elijah, forsaking everything that was familiar to him.

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

The theme of this reading is freedom. It expresses Paul’s—as well as the classic Christian understanding of—freedom.

Popular conversation would suggest that persons who are truly free live lives of utter abandon. The more outrageous and extreme their departure is from standards, the greater is their freedom.

Christian wisdom has another opinion. Yielding to instincts and unmanageable feelings is not a sign of freedom, but of slavery. The person who has the perception to see the outcome of certain behavior, and the strength to subordinate actions to an accepted goal, seen as a higher motive, is the person who is free.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

Even today, the route from Galilee to Jerusalem passes through Samaria. Much of Samaria is included in that politically contested part of the region that is now frequently mentioned in news reports as the West Bank.

At the time of Jesus, Samaria was inhabited by people whom pious Jews universally despised.

Centuries before Christ, when many Jews had died after repeated conquests of their land rather than tolerate the conquerors’ paganism, many in Samaria not only tolerated the conquerors and their paganism, but also intermarried with the foreigners.

This then was more than a matter of religious conflict. The Samaritans had defiled the pure ethnic line of Judaism.

Jesus spoke with Samaritans, a gesture that would have caused many Jewish eyebrows to lift in surprise and disdain.

He heard the complaints about this accommodation, and reminded the disciples that the kingdom was not of this world. In God’s kingdom, ethnicity and old scores mean nothing.


The message this weekend is about the plan of God to give eternal life to all people who sincerely seek this life through Christ.

The First Book of Kings sets the stage. From the oldest periods of history, God reached out to people. He spoke through the prophets long ago, and the prophets came, generation after generation, to call people to God.

Christ came as the Son of God. He brought wisdom and strength that make people truly free.

Essential to this wisdom is the realization that the kingdom of God is not of this world.

Our ultimate ambition should not be to find reward in this world. Indeed, this world will pass away for us all. Our eyes must be on heaven and our eternal destiny. †

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