August 29, 2014

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Jeremiah provides this weekend’s first reading. Jeremiah was the son of a priest, Hilkiah, and therefore of the priestly caste. He was active as a prophet for two generations. Critics denounced him as disloyal to his people and race. He was so blunt and controversial that angry listeners at times went so far as to threaten his life. Once he was thrown into a cistern and left to die, but he survived.

He withstood these criticisms, but he did not abide the outrages without protest. He devoutly believed that his role as a prophet resulted from his acceptance of God’s call. He complained to God that this divine call led him into the abuse and rejection that he experienced. Nevertheless, he never renounced his calling.

As firm as his sense that he was called to be a prophet was his firm belief that the people’s sinfulness would send the entire society to doom.

This weekend’s reading includes Jeremiah’s protest about being a prophet as well as a warning that disaster awaited the people’s continued sinning.

Jeremiah was eloquent. He describes his vocation as a “fire burning” in his heart (Jer 20:9).

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the source of the second reading. In this reading, Paul pleaded with his readers, the Christians of Rome, “to offer” their bodies “as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1). The Christians in the great imperial capital were immersed in a culture utterly at odds with the Gospel of Jesus. Integral to this culture were hedonism and gross sexual license.

Paul urged the Christian Romans to resist this culture at all costs, even the loss of their earthly lives.

This admonition implied true consequences. On the horizon was a political and legal antagonism against Christianity. Many surely knew dark days were coming. Christians would be abused, tormented and executed under terrifying circumstances. (Paul himself would be executed.)

For its last reading, the Church this weekend presents a passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is a continuation of the reading from Matthew last week.

The Apostles still were with the Lord at Caesarea Philippi, where the Jordan River still forms north of the Sea of Galilee. In the reading last weekend, Peter had proclaimed Jesus the “Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). It was a glorious proclamation, and it raised the image of glory and triumph. Easily following this image was the thought of victory over evil and oppressive forces, and vindication after suffering.

Instead of assuring the Apostles that they themselves would be the instruments whereby vindication quickly and automatically would come, Jesus warned and indeed insisted that true followers of the Gospel must endure much in this life. They would have to carry their crosses in the footprints of Christ crucified. His kingdom is not of this world.


Many centuries have passed since Jeremiah wrote. Indeed, almost 20 centuries have elapsed since the preaching of Jesus. Much has been constant through the ages, however, and much today is exactly the same as what pertained during the time of Jeremiah or the time of Jesus.

Persecution from hostile governments and philosophies endures today, but in this country real persecution comes more subtly, albeit intensely, from the conventions of life around believers and from temptations besetting them.

Christians must live amid rebuke and rejection, at times quite direct. They always find sin attractive.

Doom and gloom are not the final points in this message. Rather, the lesson is that God does not forsake us. He offers us the way to salvation. Jesus is the Savior. He strengthens us. He is God. In the Lord is genuine, everlasting reward.

In the miracle of grace, and in their bond with Christ, Christians will be victorious, over all, forever! †

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