August 20, 2010

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe third part of the Book of Isaiah is the source of this weekend’s first reading.

It adds an important dimension to the record of God’s people and their salvation.

While the children of Abraham indeed were chosen by God to be the special people, they were not the only humans to possess dignity and worth.

This reading speaks of the plan of God to reach persons of other races. Indeed, speaking through the prophet who wrote this section of Isaiah, God states the intention “to gather nations of every language.”

The Chosen People were privileged, of course, already to have heard the revelation of God’s existence and indeed the revelation of God’s own person, but were by these facts the instruments on Earth to bring God to the world.

For the second reading, the Church offers us this selection from the Epistle to the Hebrews.

In this reading, the author refers to Proverbs. In this quotation is a puzzling remark. It is said that the Lord disciplines the beloved. God “scourges” every son.

These hardly are descriptions that would suggest the merciful, forgiving father. However, in Jewish culture of the first century A.D., they would not have seemed out of place.

In this culture, fathers joined in the task of parenting boys only after the youths reached adolescence. The commonly accepted technique used to instill discipline and order into their young lives was by placing heavy demands on them. If these demands were not met, even in the slightest sense, then literal corporal punishment followed.

Such punishment is not in vogue today, however it should be remembered that good, attentive fathers required much of their sons—and if their sons failed to met these expectations then the truly loving fathers applied punishments to strengthen the son and focus the son’s mind upon what was right.

St. Luke’s Gospel furnishes the last reading.

Over the centuries, an attitude developed among many Jews, and certainly it prevailed widely among Jews at the time of Jesus, that all descendants of Abraham were entitled to salvation. They drew this right from the mere fact of their descent from the great patriarch.

By contrast, the Pharisees held to a tradition that only a small segment of truly devout Jews would achieve salvation.

Yet another custom was that sharing a meal represented a bond, virtually a bond as strong as familial relationship.

Replying to questions about which of these views, in effect, was correct, Jesus told a story. It is about the host at a dinner. The Lord is the host. Those people seeking entry into the dining room want a relationship with God.

Jesus expands the idea of who is worthy of salvation, almost giving a universal definition. However, anyone who ignored the Lord, and the Lord’s word, will be turned away.


This summer, the Church teaches us to be good disciples. Discipleship is more than vague good intentions or the inevitable.

Instead, we must hear the Lord. We must meet the Lord at the everyday crossroads of our lives. We must follow the Lord. The Lord leads us in definite paths. He selects the way. It is not our choosing as simply following “my feelings” would imply.

Hearing Jesus, and coming after Jesus, means seeing God as the supremely good and powerful Father. He is the Creator. He is the judge. We must obey God. At times, this will require us to overrule our own wishes and indeed our instincts. But we must indeed subordinate our human inadequacies and tendencies to the divinely given vocation of discipleship.

Overruling self means that we must be disciplined people. Loving us with a perfect love, God the Father wants us to be holy. He therefore strengthens us as a good Father would do for his children. †

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