26Jul 26th July. Saturday, Week 16.

Saints Joachim and Anne.

Pious tradition identifies as Joachim and Anne the parents of Mary, the Mother of Christ. We have no historical evidence about their lives, or even their names. The charming stories about Mary’s father and mother come from the 2nd-century “Pre-Gospel of James”.

1) Jeremiah 7:1-11

(Words and ceremonies need to be accompanied by social justice.)

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”

For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.

Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”, only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord.

Gospel: Matthew 13:24-30

(Parable about wheat and weeds growing together. At harvest the weeds will be burned; the wheat will be gathered in the barn.)

Jesus put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'”

Covenant and Justice

The prophets oppose excessive ritual in our celebrating the covenant. Jeremiah insists that words, no matter how sacred, cannot save or sanctify, unless matched by a life of justice and true devotion. In mimicry of ritual repetition, the prophet repeats three times, “The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!” Church ceremony and our moral living must complement and reinforce each other. Social injustice, as Jesus repeats in another prophetic occasion, makes God’s house into a “den of thieves” (Mt 21:13).

Yet today’s gospel advises patience and hope, in face of wrongdoing by others. If weeds are detected in a wheat field and the prophet-servants want to go out and pull them up, the master says, “No! If you pull up the weeds and you might take the wheat along with them.” It is not that God tolerates evil forever, but allows plenty of time for the harvest to be properly brought home.

Jeremiah was told: “Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.” But if you amend your ways and your doings and act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.

What a powerful call to renewal, both for us individually and for our church as a whole.