August 17, 2012

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Proverbs furnishes this weekend’s first reading.

Its origins are interesting. As time passed and events unfolded, many Jews left the Holy Land—the land that they believed had been God’s gift to their ancestors—for places with greater economic opportunity and perhaps more personal freedom.

Jews at home in the Holy Land increasingly had to contend with the presence of persons whose cultural and religious ties were elsewhere. By invasion or merely by migration, people not of Hebrew ethnicity or religious belief had come into the land.

A series of biblical works arose, occasioned either by the need to confront paganism or to convince readers of the credibility of the ancient Jewish religion in the face of contesting pagan theologies and value systems.

Proverbs stresses human logic and wisdom, but only to the extent, it insists, that God’s revelation, as heard from Moses and the prophets, constitutes the greatest wisdom, which is the human ability to perceive reality.

Proverbs presents wisdom as if wisdom were a person.

It is the author’s effort to say that wisdom comes from God, and that only God possesses true wisdom.

For its second reading, the Church this weekend offers us a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians.

At times, it is easy to presume that the earliest communities of Christians were marked by harmony and unity in action and belief. The scriptural evidence from the New Testament reveals that this was not always true.

Not all the first Christians loved each other. They quarreled, and did not always act in unison.

Thus, the theme of conciliation and common cause, based firmly on faith in the Lord Jesus and love for each other and for all people, runs throughout the Pauline Literature.

This weekend’s reading from Ephesians is within this framework. It calls the Christians of Ephesus to focus on morality and faith in their daily lives.

St. John’s Gospel provides the last reading.

It is a compelling, magnificent Scripture. It beautifully follows the reading of last weekend and the reading of three weekends ago. These past readings, and the reading for this weekend, are wonderful in their messages about our needs, God’s lavish provision for our needs and the implications for the Eucharist.

This weekend’s reading frankly states that many who heard Jesus could not understand or accept the admonition that to have eternal life they must “eat the flesh of the Son of Man.”

Nevertheless, Jesus persisted. Only those who eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink the blood of the Son of Man will live.


We are not as different from the people alive in first century Palestine as we may think. Basically, we are the same. They had trouble grasping the meaning of the Lord’s words as do we.

The common denominator is that humans are limited. The most binding limitation is that produced by sin.

Sin does not make us free. It enslaves us. It does not open our minds. It confuses us and distorts reality.

Such was and is the message of Proverbs. To be wise, we need to know God and learn from God. Only in God is truth. God cannot deceive us. His word everlastingly is perfect truth.

Jesus, the Son of God, spoke God’s truth. We must eat the flesh of the Son of Man to have eternal life. We rid ourselves of our limitations when we are virtuous and faithful.

Ephesians applies to us. The wonder is that God has spoken to us. We must prepare ourselves to hear God’s wisdom. †

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