February 14, 2020

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Sirach, the source of the first reading of Mass this weekend, is part of a collection of biblical writings that in its very origin teach an important lesson.

As various fortunes—political, economic and individual—changed again and again among God’s people in the decades after the Babylonian captivity, and as new alien empires seized the Holy Land, Jews emigrated from the homeland of their ancestors to other places.

Understandably, many went to places where opportunities were more plentiful.

While certainly some of these emigrants not only survived, but possibly did well in their new surroundings, something important was lacking. They were living in a society often ignorant and disdainful of the God of Israel.

To record their ancient religious beliefs, and more importantly to pass these beliefs along to oncoming generations, Jewish scholars composed books such as Sirach.

The essential point in Sirach was that human reason and honoring God are not ideas at odds with each other. Obeying God, logic can prove, is the way to order, peace, justice and reward in human life.

St. Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians is the source of the second reading. Paul, who would have been no stranger to this notion of a compatibility between divine revelation and human wisdom, as he was well trained in Judaism and knowledgeable of Greek philosophy, added a new dimension to the story. Revelation is of a reality that human knowledge often cannot comprehend.

He refers to “hidden wisdom” and “mystery” (1 Cor 2:7). Bluntly, humans simply cannot understand everything. In great love, God therefore has revealed to us what otherwise we would never know.

The Gospel reading is from St. Matthew. Speaking of God’s commandments, familiar to every Christian today as they were familiar to the Jews who heard Jesus, the Lord expounds on the meaning of several of these foundational principles for life given by God to Moses on Sinai.

This process reveals two important factors. The first is that God’s law is permanent and unchanging. This is logical. The law touches basic instincts and conditions among humans, all attached deeply and intrinsically to human nature itself, and as such it is not open to qualifications or to exemptions that humans might wish to make.

Secondly, here the Lord speaks with authority. He defines and explains the law of Moses. Jews did not regard the law of Moses as merely a set of principles composed by Moses. Rather, Moses was the medium through which God revealed the divine law to humanity. God is the author of the divine law. He is the author of the commandments. He is the lawgiver.

By defining and making more precise this law, the Lord acts in his divinity. It is an important revelation of Jesus’ identity.


Mass this weekend looks to the past weeks and feasts as background. And it looks ahead. In both cases, it confronts us with the realities of our nature. It highlights our relationship with God. It shows us that God loves us with a divine love.

At Christmas, Epiphany and at the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, the Church celebrated the events of salvation achieved for us by Christ, but it also told us about the Lord. It identified the Lord.

In these readings, the Church shows us the folly of wandering away from God’s law and following our instincts or our limited reasoning. It does not make sense. Humans, impaired by original sin, always have trouble in understanding this.

Soon, the Church will lead us into Lent, a time in which God’s grace can strengthen us to know our limitations and conform ourselves to what we are, human beings. But humans destined for eternal life with God in Jesus. †

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