June 16, 2023

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first reading for Mass this weekend is from the Book of Exodus. It describes an event in the flight of the Hebrews from Egypt, where they had been slaves, to the land promised them by God, the place mentioned elsewhere as the land flowing with milk and honey” (Ex 3:8).

The Hebrews recalled in this reading, however, saw little evidence of anything lush and blooming with sweet things. The Sinai Peninsula was as harsh then as it is today. The people were frightened and surely disheartened.

Speaking to Moses, God assured the people that they were not hopelessly lost on an unforgiving desert. God had recused them. He led them away from Egypt. He was with them still. He always would be with them.

For the second reading, the Church presents a passage from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans. Reflecting upon a key phrase in this reading provides all that is needed to understand it and to comprehend the entire letter.

The phrase is “courage to die” (Rom 5:7). The Christians of Rome to whom Paul sent this letter needed courage and fearlessness in the face of death. Roman laws then and for three centuries to follow outlawed Christianity. Professing Christianity was a matter of life and death, a capital crime and Roman executions were terrifyingly brutal.

Paul urged the Christians of Rome to hold onto Christ, to live with him and to proclaim him whatever the cost, even the possibility of death by being burned at the stake, nailed to a cross or devoured by lions.

The great Apostle also assured the Christian Romans that the courage to be disciples truly came as God’s gift, not occasionally or weakly, but generously and lavishly.

In the final reading, from the Gospel of St. Matthew, Jesus is recalled as selecting 12 men, none of them especially noteworthy, to be his Apostles. The Gospel names them, one by one. This careful listing reveals how critical the identity of each of the 12 was to the first Christians.

The first believers to follow the Lord, in the Church, wanted to precisely know the words of the Gospel literally from those who heard the Lord speak the words and whom the Lord commissioned to carry these words to all people in all creation.

The Apostles, and only the Apostles, were their leaders and teachers.


During the Second World War, many Catholic nuns, clergy and laity risked their lives to protect Jews from the Germans intent on annihilating the Jewish people forever.

Among them were bishops and school teachers, bankers and seamstresses, even a Belgian queen who was the great-grandmother of Belgium’s current monarch.

All acted for one reason: to give testimony to the mercy of Jesus and to the dignity of every single person. Their heroism balanced, if not outshone, the fear that led other Catholics to be complicit in the German effort.

A group of French priests took some Jewish men into their monastery. Spring came. The priests celebrated Holy Week and Easter, but they also arranged an observance of Passover. One of them was puzzled. Why give Passover a thought? They were Catholics.

One of the other priests explained that Passover commemorated the Exodus, and while the Exodus had special meaning for Jews, whom the monastery had chosen to respect, it presented a lesson for anyone.

All people are at risk. All are on unfriendly ground. All are pursued. God protects all, guides all, strengthens all, and leads all to a “land flowing with milk and honey,” rich in peace and purpose in this life, but surely pointing to joy in the next.

Paul reminded the Christians in Rome that they were pursued. So are we all. God is our protector, leading us through our own exodus, our own Passover. †

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