November 5, 2010

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, observed by the Church as the Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time, has as its first reading a section from the Second Book of Maccabees.

Scripture passages from the First or Second Books of Maccabees rarely appear as a reading at Mass.

These books are late in the formation of the Scriptures as we now have them. They date from a period only two centuries before Christ, and describe a very dark period in the history of God’s people.

When Alexander the Great—who had conquered so much of the present-day Middle East—died, his generals scrambled to succeed him. One general, Ptolemy, became the pharaoh of Egypt. Another general, Seleucus, became the king of Syria.

A successor of Seleucus, Antiochus IV, believed himself to be divine. He demanded that his subjects, including the Jews, worship him. Anyone who refused his command paid dearly.

The First and Second Books of Maccabees were written about martyrs who defied Antiochus.

These two books of Maccabees lionize these pious Jewish martyrs who refused to forsake the one God of Israel.

This weekend’s reading reports quite vividly the penalty that Antiochus IV reserved for those who denied that he was a god.

Heroism is one lesson in this reading. Another lesson is about the after-life, and the reading mentions the after-life as a reward for holy living on Earth. The

after-life as a doctrine was not very refined in the more ancient Hebrew writings. Thus, Maccabees expands on the notion.

The Second Epistle to the Thessalonians provides the second reading.

This work also was written when times were very hard for true believers. The epistle is challenging but encouraging.

Regardless of whatever may lie ahead, it insists that disciples must hold firm to their bond with the Lord. Times may be bad, and even terrifying, but God will be victorious.

St. Luke’s Gospel, the source of the last reading, continues the theme of the after-life.

Its message is clear. Those faithful to God in this life will live with God, triumphantly and eternally, in the next life.

This reading also says that the ways of God are beyond our experience and our understanding. We are humans, nothing less but nothing more. We are nothing less in that we can decide to live so as to receive God’s gift of eternal life. We are nothing more in that we need God.


On Nov. 11, our country celebrates Veterans’ Day, a commemoration that is an extension of the observance of the day in 1918 when Germany and its allies surrendered, and the First World War ended.

No war has been fought without great suffering and death. World War I, however, was new to human experience in the huge number of lives that it took. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their lives on battlefields or during bombing raids. Millions of others starved or were maimed or died.

Today, historians look back upon this tragic time and wonder why it all happened. It is a ghastly pronouncement of bad judgment and human greed. It was proof of how badly humans can make life for themselves and for others when they ignore or defy God.

Evidence of this same reality was in the experiences that the Maccabees faced from the mighty Antiochus, who brought death and anguish. However, in the end, the just triumphed. We celebrate the Maccabees.

For the Thessalonians, imperial Rome brought terror and agony, but the just also triumphed. They are glorified. Imperial Rome is gone.

These readings remind us again that peace, justice and security come only when God is respected. They also warn us of the allurements that so often drive humans to hurt themselves and others will inevitably pass away.

Without turning to God, we are doomed, condemned by our own human inadequacies. Again and again in history, we find proof of this fact. †

Local site Links: