January 22, 2016

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Nehemiah furnishes the first reading for this weekend. As is the case in all the Old Testament books, this book has as its chief concern the reinforcement of the people’s fidelity to God. In this reading, Ezra, who was a priest, called together men, women and children old enough to comprehend. He admonished this gathering to listen carefully to the Scriptures.

After hearing the reading of the Scriptures, the people in this audience affirmed their faith. Ezra continued by interpreting what he had read.

Finally, Ezra and Nehemiah called the people to rejoice. God had spoken to them. God was guiding them.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians provides the next reading. It is always important to consider the atmosphere in which the Christians of Corinth lived when reading the letters written to them. Corinth was an important commercial center and meeting point, a very large city.

Even in the Roman Empire, in which vice and greed reigned supreme, the inhabitants of Corinth had the reputation of being exceedingly licentious.

This was the atmosphere. In many respects, the evils in this atmosphere were contagious, drawing many Christians to them. Paul mentions this fact in his two epistles to the Christians of the city.

Paul constantly had to call the faithful there away from the temptations the pagan environment surrounding them pressed upon them.

He also had to contend with the competitiveness among the Christians. They vied with each other, even in the Church. They quarreled with each other. They schemed against each other. They gossiped about each other.

In this reading, Paul insists that all the baptized are part of the Body of Christ. However, the Body has many members. Each has a vocation. There is no place for competition.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. Midway in this reading, the Gospel directly addresses Theophilus, using the honorific title “most excellent” (Lk 1:3). Luke’s Gospel seemingly was written for one person in particular.

Scholars debate if this person had the name of Theophilus, or was it the Gospel’s title because “Theophilus” in Greek means “friend of God.” In any case, the person apparently enjoyed some prestige, hence the use of the words “most excellent.”

In this reading, Jesus appears in the synagogue of Nazareth to explain his mission of salvation. It is clear. Salvation, a gift from God to people who had lost all by sin, was unfolding in Jesus.

God’s mercy is everlasting. Humans are not left to their doom. Jesus reads from the prophet Isaiah, who called people in times long past to be renewed in God’s mercy.


The Church has celebrated Christmas, the feast of the birth of Jesus and the feasts of the Epiphany of the Lord and of the Baptism of the Lord. In the lessons of these great liturgical events, the Church has introduced us to Jesus. He is the son of Mary, therefore human. He is the Son of God, therefore divine. He is the Redeemer.

Now the Church begins to tell us about salvation. It comes from Jesus. To know it, humans must repent.

First Corinthians sets the stage. If we have accepted Christ into our hearts, we belong to God. Each of us has a personal vocation, because each of us is part of Christ, if we truly are true to the Gospel. God provides for us in our individual vocations.

Union with Christ is our only hope. The congregation’s amazement at hearing Jesus in the synagogue is a good reminder that the Lord also has the advice humans need to reach eternal life. The people that day saw that salvation was fulfilled in the Lord. This acknowledgement is the beginning of the faith that all must possess if they truly unite with Jesus. †

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