September 1, 2023

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

The Sunday Readings

Msgr. Owen CampionThe Book of Jeremiah provides the first reading for Mass this weekend. Since Jeremiah was the son of a priest, Hilkiah, he was almost certainly reared amid great devotion to Hebrew religious tradition. A prophet for two generations, he unfailingly was outspoken, easily provoking opposition and controversy. Angry listeners even threatened to kill him.

Undaunted, Jeremiah ignored these criticisms. Instead, he only reinforced and repeated his denunciations of all the violations of God’s law occurring around him. Earnestly believing that God had called him to be a prophet, he insisted that he had no other choice than to be faithful to that call.

Jeremiah boldly spoke out for obedience to God and let the chips fall.

Yet, even in this conviction, he did not fail personally to say that he had resisted the divine call. Indeed, Jeremiah frankly admitted that pursuing the call given him by God created all the misery and abuse that he experienced. Nevertheless, he never renounced his calling.

As other prophets, Jeremiah saw human misfortune ultimately as the result of sin. He bluntly told the people that their disloyalty to God would reap for them the whirlwind.

Jeremiah is regarded as one of the major prophets. It is no wonder. The Book of Jeremiah is long in length, but the prophet’s eloquence, drawn from his deep faith, makes it outstanding.

St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans supplies the second reading. In this reading, Paul pleaded with his readers, the Christians of Rome, to offer “their bodies as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God” (Rom 12:1). The language was relevant for the Roman Christians. The culture around them seethed with hedonism and gross sexual license. To be true to the Gospel, Christians had to exercise virtuous restraint.

Looming ahead in not too much time was actual persecution. Being a Christian soon became a capital crime, as Paul’s own martyrdom would show. Christians would pay for their faith by surrendering their own bodies for torture and execution under terrifying circumstances.

For its last reading, the Church this weekend presents a passage from St. Matthew’s Gospel. It is a continuation of the reading from Matthew last week.

In this story, the Apostles remain with the Lord at Caesarea Philippi, the place that now is something of a resort, at the beginning of the Jordan River north of the Sea of Galilee. Earlier, the reading recalled Peter’s fervent proclamation that he believed that Jesus was the “Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16). It was a glorious proclamation and raised the image of the Lord’s triumph. Easily following this image was the thought of victory over evil and oppressive forces, of vindication after suffering.

Jesus warned and indeed insisted that true followers of the Gospel must themselves endure much. They would have to carry their crosses in the footprints of Christ the crucified.


Many, many centuries have passed since the time when Jeremiah wrote. Almost 20 centuries have come and gone since the preaching of Jesus. While times have changed, however, little basically in human experience fundamentally has changed, since human nature has not changed.

Sin still lures humans into confusion and heartache, and indeed even into a state of eternal death. Sin leads to further sin. Our sinfulness disorders our lives. Human sin deforms our entire world.

Christians must live amid this distortion and chronic sin.     

Therefore, it is important for us to realize that these ancient Scriptures have a relevance and immediacy for us.

To the point, sin brings to us nothing good. Loss of eternity, of course, but disorder and often heartbreak in this life. Jeremiah told his contemporaries to obey God, for their own sake. It was the message of Jesus. †

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