August 25, 2023

Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time / Msgr. Owen F. Campion

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe first section of the Book of Isaiah provides the first reading for Mass this weekend.

In this passage, Isaiah speaks for God. With God’s authority, Isaiah declares that a new master of the court should be named. The master functioned as the king’s chief representative and exercised the authority of the crown. The symbol of office was a key.

Having a master of the palace, along with subordinate figures, enabled the king to reign more efficiently. In the mind of Isaiah, and of all the prophets while the monarchy existed, the ultimate purpose of the king’s reign was to draw the people to God. Maintaining the nation’s faithfulness to God was the king’s first duty.

As part of the apparatus of government, the master shared in this duty. The royal duty also bound the master, who would be the king’s delegate. Hence, the appointment of the master was a serious step.

This reading is hardly the only occasion when God speaks to people through human instruments. This is the message: We have our needs. We are only human. God lovingly supplies for our needs.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans provides the second reading. The Christians in Rome lived in what then was the most imposing city on Earth, or the Earth as it then was known in the west. Much of Rome’s splendor lay in the great temples within the city dedicated to various gods and goddesses. Even today, tourists marvel at the Pantheon, an ancient temple in Rome intact after all the years largely due to the fact that it was later turned into a Catholic church.

Paul constantly had to draw Christians away from the lure of the gaudy, materialistic, libertine Roman culture to the God of Jesus. In this reading, Paul extols the majesty of God, greater than any earthly majesty.

For its third reading this weekend, the Church offers us a selection from St. Matthew’s Gospel.

The setting is Caesarea Philippi, a place northeast of Capernaum, still quite picturesque and pleasant. The Jordan River forms southward from springs in this place. Even today, Israelis go there to relax.

Jesus and St. Peter enter a dramatic exchange. The Lord asks Peter, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”

(Mt 16:13). Jesus identifies himself as the “Son of Man,” an Old Testament title describing one who acted on God’s behalf and was unfailingly true to God.

Peter replies that people are confused. Some see Jesus as John the Baptist, Elijah or another prophet. But, for himself, Peter declares that Jesus is the “Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).


World Youth Day 2023 in Lisbon, Portugal, a few weeks ago, was exciting to watch, even if our own youth has long gone personally and if the sight was only provided by television or on online.

More than a million Catholic young people from around the globe gathered around the pope. They enthusiastically proclaimed their faith in Jesus Christ, and they enthusiastically proclaimed their faith.

None knew what the future would hold, but they were confident and hopeful. Jesus, the Son of God, the loving Lord, the Risen, the Redeemer, was with them and would be with them.

Through the centuries, countless numbers of people, young and old, have found excitement in knowing that the Lord lives, and that the Lord is beside them and with them at every moment of life, be it sad or glad.

Nothing equals the relief, joy and perception discovered when Christ fills a human heart. It is no wonder that believers can exclaim with the determination of Peter, “You are the Christ the Son of the living God.” †

The Criterion will not have an issue next week due to its summer schedule. The reflection of Msgr. Campion for Sunday, Sept. 3, will be posted at

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