August 30, 2019

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Sirach furnishes the first Scripture reading for Mass on this weekend. Sirach is among those biblical volumes collectively called the wisdom literature. This designation means that these books attempt to show that the Jews’ ancient faith in the one God of Israel, and their insistence that God’s law be obeyed, are in no way illogical or unreasonable.

To the contrary, a person who possesses genuine wisdom realizes the fact that God lives and reigns, and also knows that all persons and all things are subject to God.

This weekend’s reading expressly refers to humility. While humility definitely is associated with Christian theology and spirituality, humility was admired and evident in the Old Testament. This was especially the case with many of the prophets, and even of some of the kings.

For instance, while David, whom God had chosen to be king, later rebelled against God and sinned, he ultimately turned back to God in humility, repenting of his sins.

“Sirach,” the name of this book, derives from the name of the author, mentioned in the book. The author was Yeshua (or Jesus in English), the son of Sira. This book was likely written in Egypt by Jewish immigrants from the Holy Land, or possibly by descendants of such immigrants, around 132 BC. The date of composition can be determined because the early verses say that it was authored during the reign of Pharaoh Ptolemy VII. The dates of this ruler’s reign are known.

The Epistle to the Hebrews is the source of the second reading. Strong with Hebrew symbolism and references to Hebrew history, this reading recalls that whereas the ancient followers of Moses, the Hebrews escaping slavery in Egypt, had crossed the forbidding Sinai Peninsula with trepidation and had trembled as God came to Moses on the mountaintop, true disciples of Jesus are ushered literally into the heavenly Jerusalem, the very home of the Almighty God.

St. Luke’s Gospel supplies the last reading. In this passage, the Lord is guest at a meal in the home of a Pharisee. Jesus uses the occasion to warn that no one should seek the highest place of honor. Rather, the humble person who is content with a lesser place will be called to higher distinction.

In addition to its obvious call to humility, the reading makes two other points. The first point is that God cannot be tricked into tolerating anyone’s self-engineered passage into the heavenly kingdom. The second point, so typical of Luke’s particular insight, is that property is not so absolutely belonging to anyone that the owner can grasp it tightly while others are in great want.

Emphasizing the call to humility is the detail that a Pharisee is the host. Pharisees, well-schooled in Jewish theology, supposedly knew much about how to live it. Jesus, however, had to instruct this Pharisee and his guests.

Reflection

Followers of Jesus always have treasured humility, a virtue also revered in the Old Testament. Humility so long has been seen as indispensable to holiness, a common denominator among all the saints, men and women, of whatever circumstances, from every place on Earth.

Humility is not self-degradation. Humility does not debase or deny human dignity and potential. Instead, it means that a person does not overestimate his or her personal worth. Still, every person possesses the distinction of being a precious creation of God.

Recent events have shocked us all with their utter disregard for human life. These readings tell us that we are God’s beloved, and that we must humbly regard all others as precious.

By realizing who and what we are and by fulfilling our destiny of being redeemed by obeying God, we wisely recognize our identity, our limitations and our potential to bring God’s love to all.†

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