Reflections for the 16th Week in Ordinary Time 2011**
** These homilies were written by Fr. Howard in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
They refer to the daily readings for the 16th Week in Ordinary Time 2011.
Sunday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
July 17, Matthew 13: 24-43
The Gospel of St. Matthew has been labeled by some authors as the “Gospel of the Kingdom.” Someone counted 51 references to the Kingdom of God in his Gospel. Three of these “Kingdom” parables are in the Gospel selected to be read on this Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: the parable of the wheat and weeds, the parable of the mustard seed, and the parable of the yeast. For our homily on this Sunday, let us focus on the first of these three parables, the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
This first parable is unique to the Gospel of Matthew. In other translations of the Scriptures the weed in our parable is identified as darnel or tares. This was a common weed in Palestine similar to dandelions in our own yards, especially in the sense that they were all over the place. When it first began to grow, darnel was very similar in appearance to wheat. That is why the farmer in the parable advises against pulling up the weeds. One might pull up the real thing along with it, not knowing the difference. However, as the wheat and the weeds grew together, the wheat would eventually grow much taller than the weed and the weed would then be easily distinguished from the wheat. Then the two could be easily separated. But at the beginning of the growth cycle, who is to say which is which?
Remember, this parable is about the members of the Kingdom of God. The point of the whole thing, I believe, is found in Matthew 7:1 where we read: “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” All people are physically living together in this Kingdom of God here on earth. There are all kinds of people in the Kingdom. Jesus even ate with some characters the Pharisees had decided should not be part of the Kingdom of the Messiah, such as tax collectors and other sinners. Jesus is telling us in the parable that no judgmental process is to be tolerated in the Kingdom. All people, no matter what we may think of some of them, are given the chance to grow and live together with everyone else until the time of harvest when Christ will come again to judge the world. Then, and only then, the Lord of the harvest, God himself, will judge and separate the weeds from the wheat.
God is the judge. We are not the judges. We have to get this through our heads. When we make ourselves judges, we are doing the work of God and he is perfectly capable of doing his own work. He doesn’t need us to do it. We must let God be God. With him alone rests the power to decide who is weeds and who is wheat.
This parable hits all of us right between the eyes. How often every day we judge other people, in thought if not in word. Gossiping and talking about other people and classes of people is our favorite recreation. Jesus is suggesting in our parable in today’s Gospel that we stop it, just stop it! Amen!!
Monday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
July 18, Matthew 12: 38-42
The disbelief and the conflict between the Scribes and Pharisees and Jesus continues and grows. Jesus urges them again to repent, convert, change, to make that U turn in their lives. But they persist in their attitudes about him and their disbelief.
I believe that most of us believe that Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah, the One who came into the world for our salvation. Our faith carries us that far. My problem, and perhaps it is yours too, is getting my actions to correspond to my belief, saying I believe and then doing things contrary to my belief. This is the mystery. I fail in so many ways to love God with my whole heart and being and my neighbor as myself.
Jesus, may your saving words break through the stubbornness of my actions.
Tuesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
July 19, Matthew 12: 46-50
“Here are my mother and my brothers. For whosoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.”
Today’s Gospel message deals with our relationship with God. We have spoken of this a number of times before. We are the Father’s adopted daughters and sons. He has told us this. And our relationship with God is to be an intimate relationship and it will not be truly intimate until we do his will for us. We have seen before in these homilies that one of the criteria for a more intimate relationship is a willingness, a desire, to change for the one with whom I seek intimacy.
What do I need to be willing to have God change in me that would bring a more intimate relationship? This is a good question for all of us to ask ourselves today.
Wednesday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
July 20, Matthew 13: 1-9
I believe that by this time each of us has read today’s Gospel parable of the sower, the seed and the soil many times. We usually put the focus on the soil, hoping we are, or will be, able to become fertile soil that produces great fruit. We can, however, look at this parable from the other points of view. The sower is usually thought to be Jesus who sows the seed (his word, his grace) on every type of ground, offering his gift to everyone regardless of whether they accept it or not. It is there for the taking by everyone.
The seed in the parable is the word or grace of God and we hope it will bring forth a bountiful harvest. We read in Isaiah, c. 55, v. 11: “So shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth; it shall not return to me void, but shall do my will achieving the end for which I sent it.” So, even if we do not hear God’s word, it will still accomplish its purpose.
I have read where a good harvest produces up to ten-fold. A harvest that produces 100 or 60 or 30 fold is out of sight for the farmer. Yet, this is the greatness of the yield of the word of God. It will be unimaginable here on earth and will even exceed that in the ages to come.
This parable reminds me of the power of the word of God, far beyond what we can even imagine. We are urged to keep on spreading this word and leave the harvest to Jesus.
Thursday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
July 21, Matthew 13: 10-17
For many the word “parable” means the same thing as a story. The word “parable” is a Greek word meaning comparison. This in turn comes from the Hebrew word mashal which can mean anything from metaphors to riddles. The idea of the Gospel for today is that the stories used by Jesus in his teaching to the people can become “parable” (confusing riddles) for anyone not open to Jesus’ words. To those who are open to Jesus, they are revelations of how it is in the kingdom of God.
The message here for all of us is that unless we are open to the truth, we are not really going to hear the words of Jesus. Let us pray that the words of Jesus to his disciples in today’s Gospel apply also to us: “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears because they hear. Amen, I say to you. many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
Jesus, keep us always open to hear and follow your words.
Friday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
July 22, Memorial of St. Mary Magdelene
St. Mary Magdelene is called “the Penitent.” Though Jewish, she lived in a Gentile town called Magdale, in northern Galilee. St. Luke tells us she was a notorious sinner and had seven demons removed from her. She was the first to see the Risen Lord following his resurrection from the dead. She was also present at the crucifixion and death of Jesus.
There is an interesting point in John’s Gospel on Mary’s feast that pertains to all of us. She went to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning and found Jesus missing. Then she sat down and began to weep. Two angels were there and asked her why she was weeping. Her reply is interesting: “They have taken my Lord, and I don’t know where they laid him.” Up to this point, it was all about Mary. Jesus was her Lord. She wept and felt sorry for herself that she could not find her Lord.
After Jesus (she thought he was the gardener) said her name, Mary, and she recognized him, then it was all about Jesus, and Mary was happy again. Same thing for us. Sometimes we get into those selfish times when it’s all about me. It is then that I lose sight of the Lord. Only when I realize it is all about Jesus does he reappear for me and I am happy.
Saturday of the 16th Week of Ordinary Time
July 23, Matthew 13: 24-30
The story of Martha and Mary is presented after the parable of the Good Samaritan to help interpret for us the Greatest Commandment. “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your being, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” How do we love God with all our heart, being, strength and mind? By doing as Mary did when Jesus came to lunch at the home of Martha and Mary; by listening to the word of the Lord with all the focus and concentration and attention she could muster. This is how we love God with all our heart, being, strength and mind.
And because we do not always hear the word of God with such attention and concentration, there is still evil in the world, which is the topic of today’s Gospel story of the weeds that look just like the wheat and is being sown in the wheat field along side the wheat. It’s as simple as that, really. We either listen and do or we do not listen and do not do.
Let’s ask ourselves just how well we listen to the word of God.