SUNDAY READINGS REFLECTIONS
For the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle A) – July 23, 2017
Liturgical Color – Green (Stands for Growth, hope, life.)
Purpose – To recall the life of Christ, reminded that God is always there to help us live as Christians.
(Cycle A) – Matthew’s Gospel is used primarily during the Sunday Mass, Liturgy of the Word’s Gospel Reading.
WHY BIBLE STUDY?
The desired end result of true study of the Bible is to hear God’s voice. That is, to find Him in His word and understand His word so that it may generate in us both gratitude and obedience. Add to this that the Christian faith is not something to be enjoyed alone, but to be shared.
“God gave us the Bible so we could know Him and live in a way that pleases Him.”
“By our attitudes, actions, and words, we have the privilege of revealing our loving Father
to a world that desperately needs Him.”
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Theme: God’s Forbearing (enduring) Patience .
Reading 1 and the Gospel reading speak of God as both patient and merciful with sinners. Paul, in Reading 2, tells his readers that one of the functions of the Holy Spirit is to help us to pray, especially when we feel inadequate and weak.
- Reading 1 – Wisdom 12:13,16-19 God has shown Himself to be a God of justice and mercy.
- Responsorial Psalm – Psalm 86:5-6,9-10,15-16 A prayer to God for mercy.
- Reading 2 – Romans 8:26-27 The Holy Spirit intercedes for us with God.
- Gospel – Matthew 13:24-43 Jesus offers parables about the Kingdom of Heaven and explains them to His disciples.
(This Bible Study’s primary references used are from St Joseph Sunday Missal (Themes), Loyola Press, CatholicCulture.org, Ascension Catholic Church Sunday Reflections, USCCB, Understanding the Scriptures by Scott Hahn, St Thomas Aquinas’ Works, RSV Oxford Annotated Bible, Ignatius Catholic Study Bible, St Charles Borromeo Bible Studies, LUMINA Bible Study, The Franciscans St. Anthony’s Guild, and Haydock’s Catholic Bible Commentary.)
Reading 1 Wisdom 12:13,16-19 (God’s Mercy)
Context – The Wisdom of Solomon (aka. Wisdom) is one of seven Wisdom Books of the Bible (including: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs (Song of Solomon), Ecclesiastes, and Sirach). It was written a century or two before Christ. It’s main lesson is God rewarding those who are faithful to His law. “Wisdom” here means not merely the practical ability to succeed well in life, or even the art of behaving ethically, but spiritual vision, understanding of God and His activity in our lives and history. To strengthen the faith of his co-religionists, to console them in their afflictions, to raise their hearts above the sordidness and immorality by which they were surrounded – this was the main purpose of the writer of the Book of Wisdom. But he also had another purpose in view. Many Jews, anxious to gain the good will of the Egyptians, had faltered in their allegiance to Yahweh and gone over to the camp of the enemy. To these unfortunates the sacred writer addresses himself time and again, warning them of the impending judgment of God and conjuring them to return to the path of true Wisdom which alone leads to perfect happiness. The Christian finds in it the highest religious and moral lessons – lessons which are of paramount importance today, just as they were over two thousand years ago.
Today’s Reading – We are reminded of God’s tolerance and merciful patience. Though God is all-powerful, He uses His power to show mercy and clemency. By doing this, God is seeking to teach people to treat each other (including non-believers) with the same kindness and to temper justice with mercy.
There is no God besides You who have the care of all, that You need show You have not unjustly condemned. For Your might is the source of justice; Your mastery over all things makes You lenient to all. For You show Your might when the perfection of Your power is disbelieved; and in those who know You, You rebuke temerity (foolish disregard of danger). But though You are master of might, You judge with clemency (compassion), and with much lenience You govern us; for power, whenever You will, attends You (God’s power is His might as well as His ability to control it.). And You taught Your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and You gave Your children good ground for hope that You would permit repentance for their sins (Under a God of such clemency, none of us should despair.).
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. The just believer tries to imitate the God of Justice and the strong believer appreciates the danger of excessive use of power – these types of believers appreciate God for being able to engage and handle the messiest aspects of life with compassion, wisdom and finesse. Such is true wisdom. Wise believers likewise willingly wade into the fray of life and risk the chaos, the complications, the injustices, and the human foibles of all such issues. Wise believers who engage life survive and thrive even as they respect everyone concerned.
All of this is good medicine for today’s rampant political polarization and disingenuousness in America!
Responsorial Psalm. Psalm 86:5-6,9-10,15-16 (Kindness and Fidelity)
Today’s Psalm – This lament places emphasis on God’s patience and forbearance in line with the theme of Reading 1 and the Gospel reading.
R. – Lord, You are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon You. Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. – Lord, You are good and forgiving.
All the nations You have made shall come and worship You, O LORD, and glorify (revere/venerate/ worshipful praise, honor, and thanksgiving) Your name. For You are great, and You do wondrous deeds; You alone are God.
R. – Lord, You are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are a God (See PAUSE, below) merciful and gracious, slow to anger (God’s anger prolongs itself, allowing for people to repent before punishment is inflicted.), abounding in kindness and fidelity. Turn toward me, and have pity on me; give Your strength to Your servant.
R. – Lord, You are good and forgiving.
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. “You, O LORD, are a God” – St. Thomas said to Jesus, after His resurrection, as he put his fingers on Jesus’ wounds – “my Lord and my God”. This phrase is mentioned some 19 times in the Bible.
Generally speaking, a Lord is not an infallible nor divine being, but a master (one of higher rank) or ruler over others to whom specific types of service and obedience are due. God is infallible and divine, the eternal being who created and preserves all things. He is the source of all moral authority, the supreme being, perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe. Our ultimate love, respect, service and obedience are due Him. So, when we say “my Lord and my God” we acknowledge God as our master relative to everyday decisions, actions, and thoughts as well as our supreme Master of our spiritual and temporal being.
For Centering Prayer, the phrase “my Lord and my God” is a great spiritual focus. Or, just try saying this phrase continuously in a prayer like manner for 1 minute, 2. … .What a great experience. It’s good preparation for the Examine Prayer.
Reading 2. Romans 8:26-27 (Intercession of the Spirit)
Context – Paul’s Letter to the Romans is the most influential of all his Epistles, and the only writing of Paul’s which is addressed to a church (congregation) which he did not establish. He addresses the grounds we have for hope in Christ. Sin and death came by Adam: grace and life by Christ. The saving work of Jesus is a major theme of Paul’s letter to the Romans – salvation is offered through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Today’s Reading – Paul reminds us that we are not alone in our prayer moments. The Holy Spirit accompanies us and is always praying in us.
Brothers and sisters: The [Holy] Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes (The Holy Spirit comes to our aid by interceding for us. “Intercede” means to pray for someone else.) with inexpressible groanings (“Groanings” expresses feelings of compassion for our weak condition. The Holy Spirit requests the Father’s help for us with deep compassion.). And the one who searches hearts ( God knows our hearts. 6 times this is stated in the Bible.) knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He (Holy Spirit) intercedes for the holy ones (Christians) according to God’s will (It was part of God’s plan of salvation that the Holy Spirit should play such a dynamic role in the aspirations and prayers of Christians.).
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. We can have confidence that our compassionate God understands just how we feel (God knows our heart.) and what we want (The Holy Spirit knows this and helps to express this to God for us.), and God will respond according to His will. God’s response to all our prayers is either: “Yes”, “Later”, or “I have a better plan”.
Gospel Matthew 13:24-43 (Parable of the Weeds)
Context – Matthew’s Gospel, written prior to 70 AD, is the first book of the New Testament, not because it was written first – some of Paul’s epistles take that honor – but because it is a bridge between the Old and New Testaments. His purpose was to prove to his fellow Jews that Jesus is the One to whom all the Jewish prophets point: the Messiah, the Christ, the King of the Jews. To accomplish his mission He uses more Old Testament quotations and references than any other Gospel.
Today’s Reading – Jesus is conducting His public ministry in Galilee. Matthew presents us with three more “kingdom parables” intended to teach that the coming of the Kingdom is a growth process that occurs over a very long period. Thus, patience and tolerance are needed for the followers of Jesus.
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: “The Kingdom of Heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest (to the day of judgment); then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters (Angels, without any biases unlike us humans, will make the decision between what is the good and what is the bad), “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘” (There are three things worthy of observation in this parable. 1st. That the Church of God on earth consists of both good (true believers) and bad (only professing believers); the 2d. that God is not the author of evil; the 3d. that God does not always punish the wicked on the spot, but patiently bears with them giving them time to repent.)
He proposed another parable to them. “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. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'” (Jesus Christ here assures us, that when His Word (the seed) has been spread and promulgated by His ambassadors, viz. the apostles then by the priests, It shall surpass every other mode of instruction both in fame and extent.)
He spoke to them another parable. “The Kingdom of Heaven is like yeast (the Word of God) that a woman (the Church) took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour (the Church’s congregation) until the whole batch was leavened (evangelized congregation).” (Allegorically (symbolically): S. Bernard, says the Blessed Virgin Mary joined and united in Her womb the three natures of Christ (i.e. the 3 measures of flour), namely soul, body and divinity to the one Hypostasis of the Word. (i.e. the yeast). Hypostasis means the underlying or essential part of anything as distinguished from attributes; substance, essence, or essential principle.)
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world.” (Psalm 78:2)
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.” He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man (See PAUSE, below.), 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. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. 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 (From Daniel 12:3 – when the wise will be delivered from God’s judgment and shine forever). Whoever has ears ought to hear (That is, Let those understand who have understanding, because all these things are to be understood mystically, and not literally.).”
PAUSE and reflect on how the above speaks to you. “Son of Man” – The Lord styles Himself the Son of Man, that in that title He might set an example of humility; or perhaps because it was to come to pass that certain heretics would deny Him to be really man; or that through belief in His Humanity we might ascend to knowledge of His Divinity.
Catechism 544 – The kingdom belongs to the poor and lowly, which means those who have accepted it with humble hearts. Jesus is sent to “preach good news to the poor”; he declares them blessed, for “theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” To them – the “little ones” the Father is pleased to reveal what remains hidden from the wise and the learned. Jesus shares the life of the poor, from the cradle to the cross; he experiences hunger, thirst and privation. Jesus identifies himself with the poor of every kind and makes active love toward them the condition for entering his kingdom.
Catechism 545 – Jesus invites sinners to the table of the kingdom: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” He invites them to that conversion without which one cannot enter the kingdom, but shows them in word and deed his Father’s boundless mercy for them and the vast “joy in heaven over one sinner who repents”. The supreme proof of his love will be the sacrifice of his own life “for the forgiveness of sins”.