July 2, 2021

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Ezekiel furnishes the first reading for Mass this weekend. The prophet speaks in the first person, saying that God had spoken directly to him. God told Ezekiel that he was sending him to the Israelites. They had rebelled against God’s holy law. Ezekiel was to call them to forsake their disloyalty and return to God.

God, speaking to Ezekiel, recognizes certain traits about humans. They are stubborn in their blindness. This blindness prompts them to choose their way rather than the way of God. It is folly for them. Yet, God does not desert them.

St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Corinthians supplies the second reading. As an aside, this reading includes Paul’s revelation that he himself had been given “a thorn in the flesh” (2 Cor 12:7). For almost 2,000 years, people studying this epistle have struggled to discover what this thorn might in fact have been. Some have thought that it was a chronic illness or disability, perhaps epilepsy. Others think it simply was the temptation to sin.

No one has a conclusive answer. What is clear is that life had its challenges for Paul, as it does for everyone. It is important to remember that in the pious Jewish mind of the time everything bad, including physical problems, came from the devil. The loving, merciful God would never cast such misfortunes upon people.

So, when Paul writes that Satan brought this burden upon him, he was speaking from this context.

The message is not simply that Paul had difficulties, whatever they were. It is not just that he persevered despite these difficulties. It is his testimony to the power of God. Christians receive the benefit of this power, if they honestly ask for it. With it, all things are possible and endurable.

For its last reading this weekend, the Church presents a reading from St. Mark’s Gospel.

In this story, Jesus speaks in a synagogue. People who are not Jewish often think that synagogues are churches in Judaism. They are not churches and they were not, properly speaking, places of worship in the time of Jesus. For the Jews in the earthly days of Jesus, there was one place of worship: the temple in Jerusalem.

Synagogues were places of prayer, but they were more essentially places to learn and discuss the Scriptures. Hence, Jesus stood and spoke. So did others.

He amazed everyone. His wisdom was profound. Nevertheless, in their human limitations, many did not recognize Jesus as the Son of God.

Again, as an aside, some short explanation of the reference to the “brothers and sisters” of Jesus is needed (Mk 6:3). Since Jesus is identified as the “son of Mary,” it is presumed that Joseph was dead by this time. But who were these brothers and sisters (Mk 6:3)?

Beginning with the earliest times of Christianity, one constant opinion has been that Mary, a lifelong virgin, with Jesus as her only child, was Joseph’s wife after another wife, or wives, had died.

These “brothers and sisters” were Joseph’s children by a previous marriage. If so, they would have legally and culturally been regarded as siblings of Jesus, although their mothers were different persons.


Today is Independence Day. We celebrate our past, but we live in the present and hope for the future. It is good to seek the abiding trust in God shown by Ezekiel, Paul and Mark. Jesus offers the only true law, the law designed to better all people.

Ignorance, indifference or worse may be our “thorn,” but the wisdom and strength of God brings a path to justice and peace, which is every good citizen’s dream for the future. They are in our reach. They can enrich our society. With the help of God, we can make it happen. †

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