August 11, 2023

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe First Book of Kings is the source of the first reading for Mass this weekend. The two Books of Kings highlight the kings of the united kingdom of Israel, Saul, David and Solomon. But neither book is a political history. Both books are religious works. The chief purpose of these writings is to call the people to be loyal to God.

Thus, along with the kings, and often more emphatically and extensively than the kings, these books mention prophets who spoke for God.

For example, this weekend’s reading centers on the prophet Elijah who tries to hear God, believing that he will speak to him. But Elijah wrongly expects to hear the Almighty in raging storms and other natural upheavals.

Such are not the ways through which God communicates. At last, Elijah hears a tiny whispering sound. It is the voice of God.

Several lessons are in this reading. First, God communicates with humanity in ways that they can perceive.

Second, in communicating with humans, God does not always meet their expectations. Elijah looked for God in great outbursts of nature, in a storm and an earthquake. The prophet believed that God is supreme over nature, as indeed he is.

But, as the New Testament eventually would more clearly teach, God’s ways are not human ways. Not acting in human ways, God appears in places and events that people might least expect, such as in tiny whispering sounds in the middle of storms and earth tremors.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans this weekend furnishes the second reading.

In this reading, Paul verified his own status as an Apostle and his own truthfulness. He had to identify himself because he faced imposters. His writings made clear the fact that some disputed Paul, questioning his vocation as an Apostle.

He also mourned that many of his kin did not accept God. Despite the fact that some walked away from the Gospel, however, Paul insisted that he would remain true to his calling as a Christian and as an Apostle. He urged the Romans also to be faithful.

For its last reading this weekend, the Church turns to St. Matthew’s Gospel.

In this story, the Lord literally walked on water to reach the boat in which the Apostles were fishing. St. Peter, impulsive as ever, leaped from the boat attempting to meet Jesus. Indeed, Jesus had invited Peter to come forward.

As often happened, Peter’s initial impulsiveness gave way to uncertainty and doubt. When these feelings took hold, Peter began to sink.

Jesus, not at all outdone by Peter’s lack of faith, pulled Peter from the water, rescuing him from death.


It is a truism today that God’s ways are not our ways. Of course, they are not. We are limited. Our perceptions are blurred. Selfishness and fear lead us astray.

Life cannot be measured just by earthly standards. It must be measured by its totality, in other words, with attention, given the fact of eternity.

Jesus is the Son of God. He walked on water. He is the source of life. He is the only security. He alone gives eternal life.

The greatest practical lesson to learn from these readings is that in fact we are only human. Our outlook is not necessarily on target. Our wishes are not always pure. We may love the Lord and attempt to be with the Lord. But at times we try to find happiness by relying on ourselves. We try to walk on water. When that happens, we always fall into the water as did Peter.

We need God’s strength. First, we must humbly realize who and what we are.

The Criterion will not have an issue next week due to its summer schedule. The reflection of Msgr. Campion for Sunday, Aug. 20, will be posted at

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