10Jul 10 July. Tuesday, Week 14

1st Reading: Hosea (8:4-7, 11-13)

For their sins, they shall return to slavery in Egypt. But Hosea intercedes with God for them

They made kings, but not through me;
they set up princes, but without my knowledge. With their silver and gold they made idols for their own destruction. Your calf is rejected, O Samaria. My anger burns against them. How long will they be incapable of innocence?
For it is from Israel, an artisan made it; it is not God. The calf of Samaria shall be broken to pieces. For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind. The standing grain has no heads, it shall yield no meal;
and if it were to yield, foreigners would devour it. When Ephraim multiplied altars to expiate sin,
they became to him altars for sinning. Though I write for him the multitude of my instructions,
they are regarded as a strange thing. Though they offer choice sacrifices, though they eat flesh,
the Lord does not accept them. Now he will remember their iniquity, and punish their sins;
they shall return to Egypt.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 115)

R./: The house of Israel trusts in the Lord

Our God is in the heavens;
whatever he wills, he does.
The idols of the heathen are silver and gold,
the work of human hands. (R./)

They have mouths but cannot speak ;
they have eyes but cannot see;
They have ears but cannot hear;
they have noses but cannot smell. (R./)

With their hands they cannot feel ;
with their feet they cannot walk .
Their makers shall be like them,
everyone that trusts in them. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (9:32-38)

Jesus heals, teaches and proclaims the reign of God, for the harvest is ready

After they had gone away, a demoniac who was mute was brought to him. And when the demon had been cast out, the one who had been mute spoke; and the crowds were amazed and said, “Never has anything like this been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “By the ruler of the demons he casts out the demons.”

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”


A compassionate heart

Today’s Gospel offers a striking pen-portrait of Jesus’ pastoral ministry: what a glorious combination of zeal and mercy. While driven by the Spirit’s impulse to reach as many people as possible with his healing touch and inspiring teaching, he always found time to show them compassion. He felt for people in the reality of their lives. He knew the limitations they lived with, in their simple houses and days of poorly-paid, unremitting toil. Not for him the life of a pampered courtier in King Herod’s court.

Matthew’s great summing up, “He had compassion for them” should resonate in the hearts of all Christians, but especially in those called to priestly ministry, right up to the holders of the highest pastoral offices in our Church. (Too often one wonders whether those in the Vatican, or indeed our bishops, tune in sufficiently to that profound compassion for which Jesus was so noted. If they did, would they be so ready to dismiss so many from the Lord’s Table, because of marital irregularities, or being born into a different religious tradition? Would they ignore the sense of injustice and exclusion experienced by so many women, who feel that the Church denies them the full exercise of their ministerial gifts?)

Each must be alert to whatever ways God makes it possible for us to mirror his compassion for others. “The harvest” he said “is plentiful, but the labourers are few.” Putting it more positively we can say there is always room for compassionate outreach in our Church. And the forms of that outreach cannot be narrowly confined within the limits imposed by an earlier, patriarchal, monarchical culture. It is in a spirit of hope and of Gospel creativity, therefore, that we should “ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest.”

Contrasting responses

Notice the striking contrast in this morning’s gospel story between the way the ordinary people respond to Our Lord’s healing ministry and the way the religious leaders respond to it. The people were amazed and said, ‘Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.’ The religious leaders said, ‘It is through the prince of devils that he casts out devils.’ Both saw Jesus perform the same deeds, and, yet, both interpreted what they saw in very different ways. One group saw the presence of God and the other group saw the presence of evil. One group was open to the truth of who Jesus really was; the other group were blinded by their prejudice.

Some people’s way of seeing Jesus was like his way of seeing people. He saw the goodness in people and they saw the presence of God in him. The gospel calls us to be alert to the signs of goodness in others, to the signs of God’s presence all around us, especially in those who cross our path in life. We need the generous vision of the people, and especially of Jesus, rather than the jaundiced vision of the religious leaders, if we are to see the many ways that the Lord is present and active among us.

2 Responses

  1. Bk Nwoha

    About the homily titled a compassionate heart, I see how you put in between brackets those personal thoughts.

    God doesn’t discriminate sinners by not letting them into heaven. In a similar way, the church does not discriminate against sinners by refusing them access to the most holy body and blood of Christ. We are all called to willing step out from situations of sins or disunity with God and His Church so as have access to God. If we can’t do this sacrifice, then we shouldn’t wait on God’s mercy to visit us while still in sin. You can’t serve two masters… It’s either God or the other. Even Jesus didn’t have compassion on a fig tree that couldn’t produce fruit. He condemned it straight.

    What the church needs to do more is helping people in irregular marital situations and people of other churches who refuse the Catholic faith to come out of these irregular states and be healed.

    It’s a difficult task, but with God the church will always produce fruits.

  2. Brian Fahy

    Proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom

    It is a frequent and common criticism of religion to say that it preaches ‘pie in the sky’. There are some good grounds for saying this since faith points to a world beyond our sight and to a life beyond the grave. It is also true that the faith atmosphere of my lifetime was very much focused on the rewards of heaven in exchange for our sufferings here below. Outsiders therefore found it only too easy to accuse religious people of placing all their hopes and energies on getting to heaven, and on simply putting up with the difficulties and problems that daily life in this world brings our way.

    Today we read the story of Jesus going through the towns and villages of Galilee with his message of the kingdom of heaven and of its good news. The world of Jesus would be no different from ours today and certainly the faces of the crowd are harassed and dejected faces now as then. So many people truly experience life as sheep without a shepherd, with no one to care for them or care about them. For that reason Jesus asks us, his followers to pray the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.

    Jesus does not preach ‘pie in the sky’. Wherever he goes he brings affirmation to people in the words he utters and in the healing power he pours on troubled souls. He tells us that the kingdom is among us and that we can live the kingdom life even now in the midst of this world’s agonies. The Beatitudes that form the foundation of the great Sermon on the Mount give us the formula and the grace for such a life. This is life here and this is life now. It does not admit of easy observation but it is happening all the time.

    ‘Labourers for the harvest’ was always used as a rallying cry to pray for vocations to the priesthood mainly and in my youth the Church reached incredibly huge numbers in the vocations’ stakes. After 1970, the year in which I was ordained, the numbers fell away rapidly to leave us today with few in number and old.

    The mission of the Church, and not just of its clerical phalanx, is to do as Jesus did in Galilee long ago. To preach and to teach, to proclaim a life that is truly human and hopeful, to cure all kinds of illness and disease, to care for the lost, the harassed and dejected, and to value the harvest that is the lives of all people.
    The Church of tomorrow will grow in ways that I cannot even begin to imagine. It is the Lord’s Church, not mine. But ministry, service is vital for the Church. The life is each member is to be one of service for it is in serving one another that we reign, as true members of the kingdom of heaven.

    The shake down that has come upon us in these years is far greater and much deeper than we are able to measure. It is not a matter of our patching up various elements. It truly is a purgatory, a purification that we must go through and let happen. The Lord asks us to pray for labourers for the harvest, but not according to our own notion of who those labourers should be.

    Let each one pray and let us pray together to become servants one of another so that people will see something of the kingdom in their midst. I always found it hard, not to say impossible, to pray for vocations to the priesthood on Vocations Sunday. This clearly reflected my own unexpressed unhappiness in my own life, but I also felt that it reflected the unhealthy obsession with celibate priesthood that dominated the Church of my lifetime.

    Pray to the Lord of the harvest, yes…and let us see how the Lord answers those prayers.

    Brian Fahy

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