Monday, July 17, 2017

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) July 23, 2017

Reading I: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Responsorial Psalm: 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Reading II: Romans 8:26-27
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-43

This Sunday's Gospel contains so many great seeds of wisdom, so many verses we would do well to memorize, and classic parables.  Today, as we review the readings, let us take a moment to ponder the mustard seed . . . .  I found this thought-provoking article by Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field. 
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants (Gospel).

Thinking Small
A year ago, I was at a religious education conference which had as its keynote speaker Maya Angelou, a black woman of considerable talent and remarkable graciousness. Among the many things she shared was this story:
  “When I was six years old,” she said, “one summer day on the playground a little boy called me a nigger. Fall came that year, winter came that year, spring came that year and brought with it all kinds of flowers, and summer came in all its splendour and beauty—but, in all that richness, the only thing I can remember from that whole year is being called a nigger!”
Hearing her, I was reminded of a story I once heard from John Patrick Gillese, one of our Western Canadian writers. He tells the story of going home, to the small town in Alberta where he had grown up, for a funeral of an elderly woman. Among the many messages of condolence that were sent to her family there was a note from a family who now lived in British Columbia and who had left that small Alberta district some 30 years before. The note expressed sympathy to the family on the loss of their grandmother and added simply: “We will never forget how kind she was to us back in the 1930s.” Here was a family who remembered a small act of kindness, whatever it was, fifty years later.

These stories, although they make the point in opposite ways, teach the same thing: Small acts, of cruelty or kindness, leave their effect long after the effects of events of seemingly much greater importance have passed away.
There is, I believe, a profound lesson in this. The Kingdom of God, as Jesus assures us, is about mustard seeds, about small seemingly unimportant things, but which, in the long run, are the big things.

I have always found it ironic that we easily forget the big things, the events that seem of great importance.
Not much in our world today helps us to believe that. Most everything urges us to think big and to be careless about small things. The impression is given us that what is private in our lives is little and unimportant. Likewise what is played out on the smaller stage of life—in the more domestic areas of family, marriage, and our exchanges with our neighbors and colleagues—is also deemed to be of little consequence. The big stage is what is important. What mark have you left in the world? What have you achieved on the bigger stage? What has been your involvement in the great causes? Nobody cares about your little life!  Private morality, private grudges, the little insults that we hand out, our many angers and resentments, the small infidelities within our sexual lives, the many little acts of selfishness, and, conversely, the small acts of sacrifice and selflessness that we do and the little compliments that we hand out, these are not valued much in our culture. As a song suggests: “Our little lives don’t count at all!”

I remember a young man, very dedicated to social causes, once asking me: “Do you really think that God gives a damn whether or not you say your morning prayers, or whether or not you hold some small grudge, or whether or not you are always polite to your colleagues, or whether or not you are always chaste sexually? That’s petty, small, private stuff that deflects attention off of the bigger moral issues.”

Well, I believe that God does care, and that God cares a great deal because, in the end, we care and small things, as these stories illustrate, effect a great deal.

I have always found it ironic that we easily forget the big things, the events that seem of great importance. Who won the Nobel prize for literature two years ago? Who won the academy awards last year? Who won the Super Bowl three years ago? Who won the World Cup 10 years ago? Who starred in that Broadway (or West End) play three years ago? It’s funny how quickly we tend to forget these things. It is also curious what we do not forget.
We tend to forget quickly who won such or such an award, or who starred in such and such a movie or play. But we remember, and remember vividly, with all the healing and grace it brought, who was nice to us all those years ago on the playground at school. We remember who encouraged us when we felt insecure. Conversely, we also remember, and remember vividly, with all the scars it brought, who laughed at us on the playground, made fun of our clothes, or who called us stupid.

Falls come, winters come, springs come, summers come and go, and sometimes the only thing we can remember from a given year is some small mustard seed, of cruelty or kindness.
Ron Rolheiser*

Currently, Father Rolheiser is serving a President of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas. he can be contacted via his website:


Matthew 13:31-32    (part of Sunday's Gospel Reading)31He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.32 It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
Matthew 17:2020He said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”
Mark 4:30-33
30He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?31It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.32But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
Luke 17:5-65And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”6The Lord replied, “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to [this] mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞

Memory Verses for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) July 23, 2017

Wisdom 12:19c

And you gave your children good ground for hope . . . . 
(see also Jeremiah 29:11 ---->)


Psalm 86: 5-6
5Lord, you are good and forgiving,
most merciful to all who call on you.b
6LORD, hear my prayer;
listen to my cry for help


Romans 8:26

The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we ought. 


Matthew 13:30

First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.


Matthew 13:36-38

He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. 
The weeds are the children of the evil one,
and the enemy who sows them is the devil.


Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Servant of the Word - 14th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) July 9, 2017

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Catechism Links[1]
CCC 514-521: Knowledge of mysteries of Christ, communion in his mysteries
“Christ the Redeemer” 
by Andrea Del Sarto, c. 1650
CCC 238-242: The Father is revealed by the Son
CCC 989-990: The resurrection of the body

Readings and Commentary:[4] 

Thus says the LORD:
Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion,
shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king shall come to you;
a just savior is he,
meek, and riding on an ass,
on a colt, the foal of an ass.
He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim,
and the horse from Jerusalem;
the warrior’s bow shall be banished,
and he shall proclaim peace to the nations.
His dominion shall be from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.

Commentary on Zec 9:9-10

The oracle of the Prophet Zechariah speaks of the restoration of Israel following the great exile. In this section he speaks of the coming of the Messiah. “The Messiah will come, not as a conquering warrior, but in lowliness and peace. Not like the last kings of Judah, who rode in chariots and on horses (Jeremiah 17:2522:4), but like the princes of old (Genesis 49:11Judges 5:1010:4), the Messiah will ride on an ass. The Evangelists see a literal fulfillment of this prophecy in the Savior's triumphant entry into Jerusalem (Matthew 21:4-5John 12:14-15).”[5]

CCC: Zec 9:9 559

R. (cf. 1) I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

I will extol you, O my God and King,
and I will bless your name forever and ever.
Every day will I bless you,
and I will praise your name forever and ever.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

The Lord is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger and of great kindness.
The Lord is good to all
and compassionate toward all his works.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

Let all your works give you thanks, O Lord,
and let your faithful ones bless you.
Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom
and speak of your might.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

The Lord is faithful in all his words
and holy in all his works.
The Lord lifts up all who are falling
and raises up all who are bowed down.
R. I will praise your name for ever, my king and my God.
R. Alleluia.

Psalm 145 is a hymn of praise. The singer invites all to join in praising God for all the Lord has done. God is praised for his creation, his kindness, and his mercy toward those who have fallen on hard times.

CCC: Ps 145:9 295, 342

Brothers and sisters:
You are not in the flesh;
on the contrary, you are in the spirit,
if only the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Whoever does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.
If the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you,
the one who raised Christ from the dead
will give life to your mortal bodies also,
through his Spirit that dwells in you.
Consequently, brothers and sisters,
we are not debtors to the flesh,
to live according to the flesh.
For if you live according to the flesh, you will die,
but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body,
you will live.
Commentary on Rom 8:9, 11-13

After his warning in Romans 7 against the wrong route to fulfillment of the objective of holiness expressed in Romans 6:22, Paul points his addressees to the correct way. Through the redemptive work of Christ, Christians have been liberated from the terrible forces of sin and death. Holiness was impossible so long as the flesh (or our "old self") was alive. The same Spirit that enlivens Christians for holiness will also resurrect their bodies at the last day. Christian life is, therefore, the experience of a constant challenge to put to death the evil deeds of the body through life of the spirit (Romans 8:13).[6]

CCC: Rom 8:9 693; Rom 8:11 632, 658, 693, 695, 989, 990


At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to little ones.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”
Commentary on Mt 11:25-30

Jesus has just completed a fairly scathing criticism of the people in the places he has been and performed miracles, yet many have not accepted him as the Messiah. He now concludes this section as he reflects that, while the Scribes and Pharisees (“the wise and learned”) have not understood who he is, those with simple faith have accepted him freely. He then issues an invitation to all who “labor and are burdened” quoting an invitation similar to one in the book of Sirach to learn wisdom and submit to her yoke (Sirach 51:2326).

“This Q saying, identical with Luke 10:21-22 except for minor variations, introduces a joyous note into this section, so dominated by the theme of unbelief. While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus' preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. Acceptance depends upon the Father's revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus can speak of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.”[7]

The final verses of this section are found only in St. Matthew’s Gospel and promise salvation to those who are downtrodden or in pain.

CCC: Mt 11:25-27 2603, 2779; Mt 11:25-26 2701; Mt 11:25 153, 544, 2785; Mt 11:27 151, 240, 443, 473; Mt 11:28 1658; Mt 11:29-30 1615; Mt 11:29 459


Unless your homes were all much better insulated than mine, most of us went to bed Tuesday night with sounds that might have reminded us of a war zone.  Fireworks are a long-standing tradition as we in America celebrate our nation’s birth.  While the actual birth date was earlier in the week, I wanted to provide just a quick reminder of what was said and codified back in 1776.  Let me just read once more the opening lines to our “Declaration of Independence.”

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—

Anyone who reads these words should have no doubt that our founding fathers were faith-filled, religious men who valued the moral and ethical statutes by which their faith informed them.  Those principles are under attack even as we celebrate some victories for religious freedom in the courts.  There continues to be a back lash in the form of a full page ad in the New York Times (which claims to be a servant of the truth) placed by the Wisconsin based “Freedom From Religion” group.  It castigates the Supreme Court for its ruling in favor of Hobby Lobby’s request for an exemption from the requirement that they pay for insurance for their employees that violate their religious beliefs and precepts.  The ad itself is blatantly anti-Catholic using such terms as ““zealous fundamentalists” and “an exercise of tyranny.” Using the image of Margaret Sanger, the racist, atheist founder of Planned Parenthood whose motto was “No Gods – No Masters” we can only assume their ultimate goal is a godless anarchy rather than “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

How different that rhetoric than what we hear from Christ in the Gospel from Saint Matthew.  The Lord, in earlier scripture, has been lamenting the fact that the Scribes and Pharisees would not accept him as the Messiah, even though he had performed numerous signs and wonders which should have convinced them.  In this passage, we just heard the Lord give us his great invitation:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

He describes himself as “meek and humble of heart” the same image predicted by Sirach in the first reading (who for good measure added the detail Jesus would later fulfill as he triumphantly entered Jerusalem- “riding an ass”).  He offers peace and his easy burden.

The easy yoke he speaks of is important for us to consider.  He is contrasting his commandments to us with the micro-management of the Pharisaic interpretation of God’s Law as delivered by Moses and the authors of the Torah.  Under the Pharisaic tradition there were over 600 individual stipulations that needed to be rigorously followed.  We have heard some of these restrictions in other stories in the Gospels – most especially Jesus' insistence on performing miracles on the Sabbath, which the Jewish Leadership considered as “work,” all forms of which were forbidden on the Sabbath.  In the Acts of the Apostles we also heard the challenge of bringing uncircumcised Gentiles into the fold.

The Lord tells us, compared with all of those customs and traditions, his yoke is easy (recall the yoke is a device placed upon work animals such as horses, mules, and oxen to steer them).  In saying this he tells us that if, for instance, we eat pork, a meat forbidden under the Torah’s dietary laws, we will not be condemned or fall from God’s grace.  In that sense we are given very gentle guidance by our Savior.

Where it gets more challenging is when we consider what is this yoke the Lord considers to be easy?  What is the one overarching commandment the Lord gives us as the yoke we are invited to take to steer us?  It is simple.  He calls us to first love God and then to love one another as he loves us; pretty simple really.  Yet in practice, this commandment is very challenging. 

To be clear, we can love a person and not consider them to be great friends.  We can love a person and, since we are not like Jesus in all things, get mad at them and disagree with them.  What we are forbidden to do by this yoke of love is to wish them harm or to embrace hatred.

The burden the Lord places upon is light indeed since he has offered to take a majority of that burden upon himself.  He offered himself on the Cross to atone for our sins, taking upon himself the great burdens we pile upon ourselves when we cannot accept the yoke of love and fall into sin.

Today we are challenged indeed.  We are attacked by those who wish to destroy the foundation of faith upon which our country was built and we are asked to love those who hate us.  Let us all do our very best to accept the easy yoke that takes us to peace and reject our natural instincts to throw that yoke off and behave as wild animals do.


[1] Catechism links are taken from the Homiletic Directory, Published by the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, 29 June 2014
[2] The picture used today is “Christ the Redeemer” by Andrea Del Sarto, c. 1650
[4] The readings are taken from the New American Bible with the exception of the Psalm and its response which were developed by the International Committee for English in Liturgy (ICEL). This re-publication is not authorized by USCCB and is for private use only.
[5] NAB footnote on Zechariah 9:9
[6] Taken in part from the NAB footnote on Romans 8:1-13
[7] See NAB footnote on Matthew 11:25ff