August 6, 2010

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Wisdom provides this weekend’s first reading.

The development of this book is interesting.

The Hebrew people never headed the list of major powers in the ancient Middle East or were creators of the most profound human wisdom. This meant that their steadfast devotion to the One God of Israel, merciful and almighty, more easily was dismissed since it was at odds with the mythologies of the great societies of the time.

This book—and others in its genre—insist that the Revelation of God, as taught to and believed by devout Jews, represented the most profound wisdom, so deep that humans could not attain it without divine help.

Essential to genuine wisdom is the realization that humans are limited, both in their ability to ascertain and in their ability to act. In a word, they need God.

Throughout the history of God’s people, the Almighty communicated with them through visible figures and intervened in human history. Completely unimpeded by the natural restrictions that so often stand in the way for humans, God can act decisively and immediately.

This reading refers to the Exodus, the flight of God’s people, with God’s help and guided by God through Moses, from slavery to freedom, from death to life. Without God, the people would have been doomed to ongoing misery.

For the second reading, the Church presents this passage from the Epistle to the Hebrews.

It speaks of faith, giving Abraham and his wife, Sarah, as examples of deep and true faith. Because of the faith of Abraham, a race of believers came to be. Through Abraham, God’s name was revealed and proclaimed from generation to generation.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading.

The Church’s teaching regarding biblical interpretation is that the Gospels must be read with three perspectives in mind.

The first is the circumstance that surrounded the Lord as the words recorded in the Gospel were spoken.

The second is the situation that existed when the Gospel itself was written. It always is important to note that all four Gospels, while each was composed at a different time and under different conditions, appeared some years after Jesus.

The last is the literary and theological context of the writing itself. Each Evangelist followed a particular style and technique, and each had a specific point to make.

Common both to the contemporaries of Jesus, and to Christians alive when the Gospels finally were produced, was weariness in the face of tyranny, sin and idolatry.

Seeing these problems as outrages, many of the people around Jesus, and many of the first Christians, surely wondered when God’s justice would prevail.

This passage, quoting Jesus, warns that all of the people should be ready for the unexpected. Further, Jesus reminded the people that God would prevail in the end and that evil would be vanquished.


The reading from St. Luke’s Gospel in this weekend’s liturgy, which is stark and direct in the style of this Synoptic Gospel, more often is used as a warning that death can come at any moment for anyone.

Certainly, as human experience so abundantly illustrates, this reality is quite possible.

Another message is that whatever Providence has in store for any of us, the obligation to live as children of God remains. Varying from God’s law of love and justice upsets life.

Our generation has lost this sense of reality, but it was very strong in the minds of the ancient Hebrews and early Christians.

In terms of the human relationship with God, living in sin or showing indifference to God, leads to eternal death.

God controls human life—its end as well as its beginning. We must not dig our own graves. We must live on Earth so as to live forever with God. We must be wise, farsighted servants of the Lord. †

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