July 30. 17th Week Monday of Week Seventeen
(Or optional memorial of St Peter Chrysologus)
Jer 13:1ff. Israel was as near to Yahweh as a loincloth to the body. But just as a discarded loincloth rots, the people can rot and become good for nothing.
Matt. 13:31ff. By parables, like those of the mustard seed and yeast, Jesus reveals what has been hidden since the creation of the world.
Despite our sinful past, we will receive mercy
Jeremiah foresaw a time of reckoning for his people; the rotten loincloth was “good for nothing” and must be thrown away. Yet, the story does not end here, for there is another aspect of the mystery of salvation, “hidden since the creation of the world,” to be revealed in the parables of Jesus. If we seek a key word to help explain this message, it may be the twice repeated, “hidden.” Paradoxically, what hides, also reveals. Jeremiah is told: “Take the loincloth you are wearing, and go to the river Parath, there hide it in a cleft of the rock.”
Jesus spoke about matters “hidden since the foundation of the world,” quoting from the opening lines of Psalm 78, “Listen, my people, to my teaching. I will open my mouth in a parable, I will utter mysteries from of old.” This long psalm of seventy-two verses recounts the history of Israel, from the exodus from Egypt to the choice of David as king and Mount Zion as the sacred site of the temple. Through Ps 78, the first reading about Moses and the golden calf becomes a part of God’s eternal mystery of mercy and salvation, hidden since the creation of the world.
Each person, family, nation or race carries the seeds of destruction, as well as the potential for rising to new life day by day (Rom 6:5; Gal 2:19-20). Israel is not the only one to carry the memory of its golden calf and reckless revelry. We all have a share in Israel’s promise and Israel’s blame. Like Israel we share the privilege and pledge of being the chosen people, intimately united with God. In Jeremiah we find the image of the loincloth to manifest this intimacy. “As the loincloth clings to the loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel cling to me,” says the Lord.
Jesus’ parables offer a view of the process of purification. Because “Israel,” each of us as God’s chosen people, contains the high potential of the mustard seed, the mystery of good life is also developing within us. For goodness will triumph. The healthy body (God’s mystery of yeast and mustard seed,) will eject the poison (the mystery of sin and the memory of evil deeds). At the end we shall be found cleansed, healed and purified.
First Reading: Jeremiah 13:1-11
Thus said the Lord to me, “Go and buy yourself a linen loincloth, and put it on your loins, but do not dip it in water.” So I bought a loincloth according to the word of the Lord, and put it on my loins. And the word of the Lord came to me a second time, saying, “Take the loincloth that you bought and are wearing, and go now to the Euphrates, and hide it there in a cleft of the rock.” So I went, and hid it by the Euphrates, as the Lord commanded me.
And after many days the Lord said to me, “Go now to the Euphrates, and take from there the loincloth that I commanded you to hide there.” Then I went to the Euphrates, and dug, and I took the loincloth from the place where I had hidden it. But now the loincloth was ruined; it was good for nothing.
Then the word of the Lord came to me: Thus says the Lord: Just so I will ruin the pride of Judah and the great pride of Jerusalem. This evil people, who refuse to hear my words, who stubbornly follow their own will and have gone after other gods to serve them and worship them, shall be like this loincloth, which is good for nothing. For as the loincloth clings to one’s loins, so I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord, in order that they might be for me a people, a name, a praise, and a glory. But they would not listen.
Gospel: Matthew 13:31-35
He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfill what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”