26Jul 26 July, 2013. Friday of the Sixteenth Week

Exod 20:1ff. The Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

Matt 13:18ff. Jesus offers an explanation of the parable of the sower.

Alternatively: Memorial of Saints Joachim and Anne. For a colourful, 2nd-century account of the Virgin Mary’s earliest days, see the Protevangelium or “Pre-Gospel” attributed to St. James. The readings would be: Eccles. 44:1, 10-15 (Honouring the saints of old) and Matt. 13:16-17 (Many have longed to see the things that you see..)

First Reading: Exodus 20:1-17

Then God spoke all these words: I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the Sabbath day, and keep it holy. Six days you shall labour and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work – you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honour your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet your neighbour’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbour.

Gospel: Matthew 13:18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Fundamentals of Faith

No moral code is more fundamental than the Ten Commandments. The quality of life is explained by the soil and the environment, and by such essential virtues as perseverance, fidelity and thoughtfulness, a scale of values that puts money and worldly things in a lower place. These basic virtues, so ingrained in human nature, were powerfully proclaimed in yesterday’s reading from Exodus. Almost every legal code throughout the world condemns stealing, killing, adultery and blasphemy. Also, the explanation of the parable of the sower probably comes from the ancient wisdom of farmers close to the soil.

It is good to realize the earthy roots and universal appeal of biblical religion. As salubrious as physical exercise and manual labour, biblical religion does not centre on visions and miracles, or secret rules and mystic ceremonial. At its core, we must “do justice and love goodness, and walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8). Any religion that denies common sense or requires superhuman heroism on a daily basis runs counter to this earthy quality of biblical religion.

But alongside the earthy quality of biblical religion, no world religion stresses the mercy of God as much does as the Bible; nor propose to care so much for strangers and resident aliens. The appeal of the Decalogue also reaches out to include other nations. The parables of Jesus challenge us to be generous in sharing our possessions. There is an overall generosity about the Bible which makes it central to God’s hopes for the world.