October 13, 2023

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

The Sunday Readings

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

Understanding the cultural, social, political and economic context surrounding the composition of biblical texts always helps to capture their meaning.

As a general rule, times were not good for the chosen people. Aside from bursts of prosperity and peace under David and Solomon, they usually had to cope with war, invasion, want or worse.

Also, usually, the prophets saw little in which they could truly rejoice. They invariably wrote that human sin, not divine revenge or indifference to human distress, was the cause of trouble in the world.

So, the prophets frequently counseled the people to be always true to God.

This passage was written when times were not all that bad, but dark clouds lay on the horizon. The people, generally speaking, were lukewarm in honoring God. Isaiah loudly protested that the sluggishness in religious devotion would be their downfall.

The prophet also insists that if the people are faithful to God, all will be right. Peace and security will reign. Prosperity will prevail. The holy city of Jerusalem, God’s city, and the royal capital, will be seen throughout the world as the center of a great nation.

The second reading is from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. On several occasions recorded in the Acts of the Apostles or in Paul’s epistles, the Apostle was imprisoned, having been arrested for preaching against the establishment or simply for disturbing the peace. This passage from Philippians was written during one such period of captivity for Paul.

Being jailed, humiliated and abused were his plight. Nevertheless, Paul says that his faith in God never wavers. His commitment to proclaiming the Gospel always leads him. Nothing else matters to him, not even his comfort or personal well-being. God gave Christ to the world. Paul must extend this gift far and wide.

St. Matthew’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. The reading is a parable with three parts.

In the first part, a king (who represents God) invites guests, familiar and even privileged, to a wedding banquet for his son. These people reject the invitation. The king invites other guests. Again, the invitation is ignored. Then, in the second part, the king invites outcasts and strangers to the feast. They come.

However, in the third part, the king sees a guest at the banquet improperly dressed. He orders this guest to be removed.

The king’s servants represent the prophets. The prospective guests who spurn the invitation represent the people of Israel. The outcasts and strangers represent the aliens and the sinful.

The message is that God’s mercy extends to everyone. Even so, God drags no one into the kingdom of heaven. Sinners must reform to be worthy of heaven.


These readings recall several basic facts. The first is that God never fails in mercy. He does not disown the promise spoken long ago through the prophets, and then finally by Christ, to guide people to everlasting life by revealing to them the laws of righteousness and by strengthening their resolve to be righteous.

The second fact is simple and constant throughout history. Humans just cannot accept it. The fact is that humans sin. The sin of Adam and Eve always weakens humans. Their nature is distorted. They are myopic. They exaggerate their own powers, therefore discounting their need for God.

Conversion requires a frank realization of who and what humans are. We are sinful, but God loves us.

In this realization, humans come to the same conviction that drove St. Paul to proclaim the Lord in spite of all. Nothing matters other than to be in union with God. Everything other than living in union with God is fickle and impermanent and foolhardy. †

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