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. In Jeremiah’s works, God often speaks in the first person.
Such is the case in this reading. The reading reveals the disorder, indeed even the turmoil, that existed in Israel at the time. The split was not only political. It was religious as well. 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 warns the people against these varying approaches to religion. His warning is severe. These persons, imposters in prophecy, lead people astray. Caring for the people, and for their well-being, God predicts doom for those who would mislead others in matters of religion.
God’s people are not helplessly the victims of these frauds. God will send legitimate prophets.
Two lessons are clear: Objective truth is real, given by God. God’s truth is not simply the conclusion reached by humans as to what the truth should be. Individual, subjective interpretation of divine Revelation is in fact quite foreign to the Scriptures.
The other truth is that people do not have to struggle to find God’s truth. God will send representatives to speak the truth.
For the next reading, the Church presents a passage from the Letter 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, circumstances or background.
St. Mark’s Gospel furnishes the last reading. It is a reading 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. It is evident that many people were assembling around Jesus at the time.
However, Jesus quite pointedly took the Apostles aside. He led them to a quiet, private place.
This was not a rare occurrence. Jesus often took the Apostles to be alone with them. They were the special students. They were especially commissioned. They knew things about the Lord’s teachings that the rank and file did not know.
Directly and clearly 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 amending. 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 mislead 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 ethnicity or earthly advantage. It is offered to all. Importantly, however, we need it.
The path to Christ, and thus to God, is not of our own human creation. Those whom Jesus appointed to be our guides, namely the Apostles, whose teachings the Church devoutly keeps and gives to us, guide us along the path.
Just as the Old Testament belittled individual interpretation of revelation and emphasized the prophets, so the New Testament emphasizes the Apostles.
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