July 21, 2023

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Wisdom provides the first reading for Mass this weekend. Wisdom is the name of this biblical book. But it also refers to an entire set of Old Testament writings. Collectively, their purpose is to convey in human language, and for situations in human life, the wisdom that can come only from God.

Always important as backdrop in reading the wisdom literature, or in reading any Scripture for that matter, is the admission that humans necessarily are limited. We cannot understand everything. We cannot see everything. Even what we see at times, and perhaps more often than not, is distorted and blurred.

We need God. We simply cannot survive without divine wisdom. God offers this in the revealed Scriptures.

This weekend’s reading salutes God the Almighty, the perfect and the perfectly just and all knowing. The reading is hymnlike, highly poetic and lyrical.

Marvelous for us, this supreme, perfect God assists us despite our limitations. We have nothing to want or to fear if we listen to God, the source of all wisdom.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the source of the very brief second reading in this weekend’s Liturgy of the Word.

Stressed here are our weakness and our limitations. Even our prayers are weak, all too often handicapped by our sinfulness and selfishness. God, however, supplies. As disciples of Jesus, born again in the life of Jesus, we speak with the life and strength of the Holy Spirit.

For the last reading, the Church presents a parable from St. Matthew’s Gospel, using agricultural imagery. At the time of Jesus, the planting and growing of crops and the keeping of herds were the most popular livelihoods. This familiar story of the sower who planted good seed in his field would have been understood by all who heard the Lord speak.

Jesus says that the story resembles the kingdom of God. Each component—the landowner, the slaves, the enemy and so on—fit into the overall picture.

To recall the story, at night, an enemy comes and sows the seeds of weeds in the landowner’s field tended by the slaves. In time, both grain and weeds come forth.

One is good, the other bad. God will separate the good from the bad. He will decide.

Another parable follows. It is the story of a mustard seed, which is tiny. Although only a seed, it has the potential of life and growth. In time, it becomes a great tree.

Finally, Jesus gives the Apostles a special and much more detailed lesson. He explains the parable of the weeds and the wheat.


An important early step in learning about Christianity is to accept the Church’s doctrine of original sin and its effects upon all people. God created everyone and vested in them free will. Some use this will to be loyal to God; others choose disloyalty. The devil tempts us to sin. We are vulnerable to these temptations.

So, in God’s creation, people divide between saints and sinners, blossoming as wheat or weeds.

In the end, God will right all wrongs. His justice will prevail. In the meantime, it is required of us to realize that faith is a seed within us, planted by God. We must nourish and protect it.

With the help of God’s grace, we can nurture the seed within us and help it grow to maturity, which is the process of personal sanctity. Or we can reject God. It is our choice. We have free will. God does not invade our souls and force virtue upon us.

Are we fragrant, fruit-bearing and a blessing to our world, or are we weeds? †

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