Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, (July 20, 2008)
Mt. 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 everyday 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 Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 21, 2008)
Mt. 12: 38-42
The Pharisees were always looking for some sign that Jesus was the Messiah, the Anointed One of God. Part of their problem was their inability to recognize a sign when it was staring them right in the face. Jesus told them that no sign would be given except the sign of Jonah, the Prophet. In my understanding, Jonah was a sign of Jesus. Just as Jonah spent three days and nights in the belly of the whale, so will Jesus spend three days and three nights in the grave before rising from the dead. Jesus gave the Pharisees many signs that he was the one who was to come from God, but still they did not recognize them or him.
John the Baptist was also looking for some sign, some proof that Jesus was the one he was looking for. He sent his disciples to Jesus to ask if he was the one who was to come. Jesus’ response to John ‘s disciples gave them the signs they were looking for: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, the mute speak and the poor have the Good News preached to them. John recognized these signs as signs of the Messiah and realized that he had found him.
Jesus likewise gives us many signs that he is the one we are to follow. We see his love, compassion, forgiveness, caring, service and kindness displayed by his followers every day. Let us open our eyes and go and do likewise.
Tuesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time (July 22, 2008)
St. Mary Magdalene
Today the Church celebrates the feast of St. Mary Magdelene. Mary was a Jewish girl but she lived in a Gentile town named Magdala in northern Galilee. St. Luke tells us she was a notorious sinner, and had seven devils removed from her. I read somewhere where having seven devils means that you are just about as bad as it can get. But here I can identify with Mary Magdalene. I’m a sinner too.
After Mary met Jesus, she repented from her evil life and Jesus turned her weaknesses into great strength. I can identify with this part of Mary’s life too. Once I truly met Jesus and accepted him as my way, truth and life, I’ve been just fine. Christ could see into Mary’s heart and he said, “Many sins are forgiven her, because she has loved very much.” Let us pray that we all may love Christ and our neighbor more and more that we may draw closer to the One who loves us so much.
St. Mary Magdalene, pray for us.
Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 23, 2008)
Mt. 13: 1-9
The Gospel selection for today is an abbreviated form of the Gospel we read on the Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, just a week or so ago. It is the parable of the Sower. Again I am reminded of the fact that repitition is the mother of studies. Go over something often and hopefully we will absorb it.
We remember that the parable deals with how much weight is accorded to our personal response to Jesus’ word being sown in the Gospels. We remember that we are free to accept or reject those words to one degree or another. The various stages shown in the parable lead us to the full focus and acceptance of the word of God into our minds and hearts; we listen to it attentively and put it into action. This all reminds us of the necessity of the virtue of openness in our lives. Unless we are open to the words of Jesus, nothing is going to happen. We will not accept his message or pass it on to others. We have a responsibility to Jesus as his followers to be open to his words. Let us ask ourselves today as we reflect on this Gospel again whether we are fulfilling this responsibility or not.
Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time, (July 24, 2008)
Mt. 13: 10-17
Talk about repetition! Today’s Gospel repeats yesterday’s in different words. Jesus, in today’s Gospel, tells us why he speaks in parables in the Gospels: to get us to listen to him. It’s as simple as that. People are more prone to listen to a story than to a talk or lecture on some subject. Everybody loves a story or riddles. This is why Jesus speaks in parables. And still we don’t listen! Or sometimes when we do listen, we do not act.
Jesus bemoans the fact in the Gospel that we have eyes and ears but do not see or hear his words. People like this are gross of heart. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. Jesus almost sounds frustrated in his words in today’s Gospel. He has done everything in his power to give us blessedness, happiness, by his words. If we do not have this happiness and joy, we certainly can’t put the blame on Jesus. Rather, “we have found the enemy and he is us,” as Pogo remarked many years ago.
Friday of the Sixteenth Week in Ord. Time (July 25, 2008)
Feast of St. James
Today the Church celebrates the Feast of St. James, the Apostle, sometimes referred to as St. James the Greater as opposed to a younger Apostle also named James and referred to as James the Lesser. Kind of funny wording. It sounds like one is more important than the other, rather than just being a question of age. Anyway, the James we are honoring today is the son of Zebedee and the brother of John the Apostle. Jesus called them to be his disciples at the same time and they immediately followed him and left their father at the fishing boat.
When Jesus raised the daughter of Jairus from the dead, James was with him along with Peter and John. He also was with John and Peter when Jesus was transfigured on Mount Tabor. This threesome was called by Jesus: Sons of
Thunder. James and John also infuriated the other Apostles by asking Jesus for the right to sit one at his right and the other at his left in the Kingdom. St. James was one of the first martyrs of the Church. We read in the Acts of the Apostles (12:2) that Herod killed him with a sword in an early persecution of the Church. The legend that he evangelized Spain before his death has no basis in historical fact. He is regarded as the patron saint of rheumatoid sufferers and laborers.
St. James, pray for us.
Saturday of the Sixteenth Week in Ord. Time, (July 26, 2008)
Sts. Joachim and Anne
Today the Church celebrates the Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. There is, of course, no historical evidence that they were the parents of Mary, but legend and tradition give us these names as such. An apocryphal Gospel, the Gospel of James, tells us that after years of childlessness, an angel appeared to Joachim and Anne and told them they would have a child and Anne promised to dedicate the child to God.
We should note that just because a document is apocryphal doesn’t mean that everything in it is untrue. They are historical documents and contain much truth. So with the Church, we can call Joachim and Anne the parents of the Blessed Virgin. And surely they can be models for all parents because they raised a daughter worthy to be chosen as the Mother of God. St. Anne is also the patroness of Christian mothers and women in labor.
Sts. Joachim and Anne, pray for us.