Friday, July 15, 2011

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) July 17, 2011

Reading I: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19  
 “ . . . those who are just must be kind”

The Wisdom author provides a unique insight into the Old Testament perception of God’s power and mercy.

Responsorial Psalm: 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16  
R.  Lord, you are good and forgiving.

Psalm 86 is a lament. The psalmist sings of a life afflicted and asks God to give his servant relief. The song indicates the faithfulness of the singer, even in times of distress. The theme of forgiveness and mercy are confidently expected for those who believe and trust in God.
Reading II: Romans 8:26-27  
 “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought.”
St. Paul’s dialogue has been explaining to the Romans that the glory Christ will be shared by those who believe in him and the sufferings of the present life are preparatory to future redemption. It is through the Holy Spirit that this interior will is communicated to God in prayer. Even imperfect intent is received because of the intercession of the Spirit and because of God’s love and mercy.
Gospel: Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30 
The “kingdom of heaven” is continually being established by a God who is amazingly patient. This Sunday’s three gospel parables illustrate this well.
In the first, God exercises patience until the wheat grows enough so the weeds can be pulled without destroying the wheat. 

“While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.”
In the second, God waits patiently until the tiny seed grows into a large enough plant to welcome the birds of the sky. 

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.”
In the third, God patiently allows time for the yeast to work its leavening effect on the dough.

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast . . . ”

God has all the patience in the world, and so must we if we are truly to be God’s servants..

At the end of today's Gospel we read, 
Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.  His disciples approached him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
Jesus goes on to explain. We are all familiar with the passages that tells us:
“The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.”
We, in 2011, might be helped to understand more fully by making sure we understand a bit of historical and cultural context.
Experts describe Mediterranean society as agonistic, that is, hostile and conflict-oriented. Today’s opening parable is an illustration of this feature.

An enemy has sowed weeds among the wheat. The fact is mentioned without comment. Jesus’ audience understood this perfectly. Birth into a family means not only inheriting that family’s honor status and its friends but also inheriting its enemies.

There are many reasons why families become enemies in the ancient world, but the consequences are always the same. A state of feuding develops and persists over a long period of time. One never knows but must always suspect that a feuding enemy is seeking to shame one’s family.

In this story, the shame is planted soon after the wheat seeds are sown, but it does not become full-blown shame until the weeds have matured to the point where they are clearly distinguishable from the wheat. Now the entire village discovers the shame along with the landowner, and they begin to laugh.

The laughter grows even louder when the landowner instructs his servants to allow the weeds to grow alongside the wheat until harvest. The peasants expect retaliation and revenge. Instead, the landowner appears helpless and bested by his enemies. Before the invention of electricity and television, such feuds provided entertainment for the village.

But appearances are deceiving. The landowner is shrewd as well as being a savvy farmer. He knows that the wheat is strong enough to tolerate the weeds’ competition for nutrition and irrigation. After the harvest, the landowner will not only have grain for his barns, but extra, unanticipated fuel for his needs. Instead of shaming this landowner, the weed strategy has backfired and shamed the enemy. The landowner and his servants have the last laugh. The enemy bent on shaming others is shamed instead!

There is an interesting lesson here. Once again, Jesus’ peasant audience recognized that this was not a lesson in agriculture. It may have been a lesson about cultural values. The “something other” or “something more” of this parable may well be the landowner’s refusal to retaliate, to get even with the enemy. In a society dedicated to revenge, the landowner’s victory by seeming to do nothing is a powerful lesson.

The confidence of the landowner that his wheat will survive the effect of the weeds is worth pondering. A trust in goodness that is greater than the fear of wickedness could be a powerful weapon against rampant, senseless violence. It has worked before in history, and could work again if given a chance.


Lorraine Bezuidenhout - "The Mustard Tree"

"Mustard Seed"   by Martha Spong 
~~set to AMAZING GRACE~~

Oh, once there was a mustard seed
Almost too small to see.
I planted it and watched it grow
Into a spreading tree.

The tree became a home for birds;
The branches held their nests.
The birds they came from miles around
to find a place to rest.

But mustard seeds will never grow
Into such spreading trees
We tell the tale so we will know
God's kingdom yet to be.

How can we live our lives today
to be the mustard seed?
We'll share God's love with all we meet
and help the ones in need.
Oh, once there was a mustard seed
Almost too small to see.
I planted it and watched it grow
Into a spreading tree.

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