August 5, 2022

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Wisdom is the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend. The exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt where they had been enslaved began at night.

They saw God as their protector, assuring that their escape would succeed. Moses was God’s instrument. Very much a part of the story, therefore, was the people’s recognition of God as their deliverer, even still a keystone of Judaism.

This fundamental belief gives a logical basis for the Jewish belief in God, in ancient times especially a purpose in the wisdom literature in the Bible.

The second reading for Mass this weekend is from the Epistle to the Hebrews, written for Jewish converts to Christianity who faced the same difficulties as those experienced by pagan converts in the first generations of the Church.

After the Jews’ rebellion against Rome, quashed so brutally by the Romans in the year 70, the legal system of the empire was no friendlier to Jews that it was to Christians. Christians faced persecution because they defied laws requiring worship of the Roman gods and goddesses, including the emperor. Jews also rejected the Roman divinities.

This epistle encouraged and challenged Jewish converts to Christianity.

The passage literally sings about the majesty and power of faith, continuing one of the themes in the previous reading.  By acknowledging God, and by receiving Jesus, the Son of God, believers affirmed the fact that God is active in human life through the centuries.

Abraham realized this. God gave Abraham and his wife Sarah a child. Their prayers were answered. From this child, their son Isaac, descended the Hebrew people.

St. Luke’s Gospel provides the last reading. It is always important to realize that the Gospels were composed not during the Lord’s time on Earth, but likely decades after Jesus ascended back to heaven. Some biblical scholars think that Luke’s Gospel, heavily relying upon the Gospel of St. Mark, but using other sources as well, was written around the year 80, a half century after Jesus.

Luke knew very well the stresses facing Christians at the time when he composed his Gospel. He witnessed the ominous persecution and certainly experienced the struggle between the Gospel and the pagan culture.

So, the words of Jesus chosen by Luke and proclaimed at Mass this weekend are encouraging. They also warn.

The Lord urged his disciples to be prepared. Arrest could come at any minute, but the Lord will take care of them. Still, surviving on Earth is not the ultimate goal. Jesus would vindicate believers in the heavenly kingdom. He is the bridegroom. The wedding banquet is the celebration of love and life in heaven.

Reflection

Only two things are certain in life, so it is said, namely death and taxes. People spend much time thinking about taxes, filing returns on time, paying what is due, watching withholding statements, and resisting political efforts to raise taxes.

By contrast, even if they are healthy, few people think about death, although death is the fate of every living organism.  Death is too frightening to consider. It is easy to turn a blind eye.

These readings are blunt and realistic. Death awaits us all. Aside from final death, we can create for ourselves the living death of hopelessness, loss of purpose, and despair.

God wills that we live with peace in our hearts now and that we live forever. He gave us Moses and Abraham. He gave us Jesus, the very Son of God. Jesus will come and take us to the eternal wedding banquet in heaven.

As the Gospel tells us, as the Hebrews’ remembering deliverance told us, we must prepare ourselves to live with Jesus by being faithful and by loving God above all. God alone is our security and hope. He has proved it.

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