Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Book of Jeremiah is the source of this weekend’s first reading. One of the three major prophets of ancient Israel, Jeremiah so firmly saw himself as God’s representative that he wrote as if God were writing through him. So, in Jeremiah’s works, God often speaks in the first person.
Such is the case in this reading. The reading reveals the disorder, as well as the turmoil, that existed in Israel at the time. The split was not only political: It also was religious, because various views and different interpretations of the Law of Moses did battle with each other.
Assuming the role of prophets, persons on their own pressed for this viewpoint or another.
In the writing of Jeremiah, God warned the people against these varying approaches to religion. God’s warning was severe. These persons, imposters in prophecy, led people astray. Caring for the people, and for their well-being, God predicted doom for those who would confuse others in matters of religion.
The people were not helpless victims of these frauds. God promised to send, and did send, legitimate prophets.
Two lessons are clear: Objective truth, given by God, exists. God’s truth is not simply the conclusion reached by humans as to what seems reasonable to them. As an aside, individual, subjective interpretation of divine revelation always has been foreign to the Scriptures.
The other truth is that people do not have to struggle to find God’s truth. God has sent representatives to speak the truth.
For the next reading, the Church presents a passage from the Epistle to the Ephesians. This reading recalls that the privilege of the Jews was to know God, whereas other nationalities long were in the dark.
Now, with and through Christ, all peoples can know God. The Holy Spirit comes to all who hear Jesus and who love God, irrespective of race, circumstance or background.
St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is strong in its explanation of the role and identity of the Apostles. In the story, the Apostles have come back to Jesus, having been sent on various missions to teach what the Lord had taught them. Clearly, many people were assembling around Jesus at this time.
Quite pointedly, Jesus took the Apostles aside, away from the crowd, leading the Twelve to a quiet, private place.
Jesus often took the Apostles to be alone with them, because they were the special students, especially commissioned for special undertakings, given insights into the Lord’s teachings that were not provided to the rank and file.
Directly and frankly, the Church in these readings introduces itself and sets forth its credentials. In so doing, it stresses a fact of belief firmly presented since the days of the Old Testament.
God’s truth is exact. It is neither fluid nor open to compromise and qualification. It simply is as it is. All else is fraud and unreal. The prophets stressed this fact in the Old Testament. Those persons who usurped the prophets’ places were guilty of great fault and brought upon themselves God’s rebuke, for they misled the people whom God loved and whom God intended to be holy.
The same theme is evident in this weekend’s New Testament readings. Ephesians assures us that the salvation achieved for us by Jesus does not depend upon anyone’s earthly advantage. It is offered to all. Importantly, all of us need it.
Mercifully, God offers us knowledge of truth. He sends us Christ. In turn, here on earth, Jesus appointed as our guides the Apostles, whose teachings the Church so carefully keeps and reveres.
Just as the Old Testament belittled individual interpretation of revelation and emphasized the prophets, so the New Testament discounts any personal definition of truth by emphasizing the place of the Apostles.
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