November 4, 2022

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThis weekend, the Church presents as the first reading a section from the Second Book of Maccabees.

Maccabees, First or Second, rarely appears as a reading at Mass. These books date from a period only two centuries before Christ. They rose from a very dark period in the history of God’s people.

Alexander the Great had conquered most of the Middle East during the third century before Christ. After he died, his generals scrambled to succeed him. One of them, Ptolemy, became the pharaoh of Egypt, an ancestor of Cleopatra. Another of them, Seleucus, became king of Syria.

A successor of Seleucus, Antiochus IV, believed himself to be divine. He demanded that his subjects, including the Jews, worship him. Anyone who refused this demand paid dearly.

The two books of Maccabees lionized the pious Jewish martyrs who refused to forsake the one God of Israel.

This weekend’s reading describes quite vividly the penalty Antiochus IV reserved for those who denied that he was a god.

Heroism, therefore, is one lesson. Another is about the afterlife. The reading mentions the afterlife as a reward for holy living on Earth. The afterlife as a doctrine was not well refined in the more ancient Hebrew writings. The books of Maccabees expanded the notion.

St. Paul’s Second Epistle to the Thessalonians provides the second reading. This work, too, was written when times were very hard for true believers, but for Christians in this case. This passage is challenging but also encouraging. Regardless of whatever may lie ahead, Paul insists that disciples must hold firm to their bond with the Lord. Times may be bad, even terrifying, but they will pass. God and those devoted to him will be victorious.

St. Luke’s Gospel, the source of the last reading, continues the theme of the afterlife. Its message is clear. Those who are faithful to God in this life will live with him triumphantly and eternally in the next life.

This reading also says that the ways of God are beyond our experience and our understanding. We are humans, nothing less but nothing more. We are nothing less in that we can decide to live properly to receive as God’s gift eternal life itself. We are nothing more in that we need God.


War has tormented every generation of Americans since the Revolution. Americans died in the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Iraq, Afghanistan and various other military actions. While tensions often preceded the wars, often a sudden event ignited them. People’s lives forever changed.

Then came COVID. In early 2020, no one realized that human life would change because of it, but life changed.

St. Luke wrote for believers who knew that catastrophe and death might come to them because of the persecution then underway.

The Gospel consoled and inspired them. It told them, as it now tells us, that human sin—turning away from God— brings upon people enormous injury and ultimate destruction.

If we follow God, we find the better way to life, concord and wholesomeness. God’s law has proven its worth. No other human philosophy can make the same claim.

Finally, God’s eternal reward, awaiting the just, will never fade or go away. True believers move not to death, but they pass death as a milestone on their way to eternal life.

Life on Earth is uncertain. The wars show this. So have all the pandemics that have infected people. Sin inevitably weaves a deadly web. We know “not the day nor the hour.” In this “vale of tears,” Christians must endure terrible things. But if they cling to Christ, the future is glorious. †

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