24Jul 24 July. Tuesday, Week 16

1st Reading: Micah (7:14-15, 18-20)

Israel’s God is always faithful and forgiving

Shepherd your people with your staff, the flock that belongs to you, which lives alone in a forest in the midst of a garden land; let them feed in Bashan and Gilead as in the days of old. As in the days when you came out of the land of Egypt, show us marvellous things.

Who is a God like you, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of your possession? He does not retain his anger forever, because he delights in showing clemency. He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. You will show faithfulness to Jacob and unswerving loyalty to Abraham, as you have sworn to our ancestors from the days of old.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 85)

R./: Let us see, o Lord, your mercy

O Lord, you once favoured your land;
you have brought back the captives of Jacob.
You have forgiven the guilt of your people;
you have covered all their sins.
You have withdrawn all your wrath;
you have revoked your burning anger. (R./)

Restore us, O God our saviour,
and abandon your displeasure against us.
Will you be ever angry with us,
prolonging your anger to all generations? (R./)

Will you not restore again our life;
and shall not your people rejoice in you?
Show us, O Lord, your kindness,
and grant us your salvation. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (12:46-50)

My brother and sister and mother are those doing the will of my heavenly Father

While Jesus was speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brothers were standing outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, “Look, your mother and your brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you.” But to the one who had told him this, Jesus replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And pointing to his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

BIBLE

Widening our circle

The final prayer in the prophecy of Micah reflects Israel’s liberation and journey towards the Promised Land, under God’s shepherding care, and it also stresses Israel’s separateness from all other nations. Matthew, on the other hand, sees Jesus forming a new family of outsiders, based on “whoever does the will of my Father.” This qualification enables Christianity to form a chosen people from among all nations and races, with no exclusivity.

To our ears, the Old Testament often sounds restrictive and biased, yet its very tribalism reminds us that unless we first rally together in a strong family bond, we will have little to share with others. Only a loving family can open its doors freely to neighbours and outsiders. Wisely, the Church reveres both Testaments, the Old and the New, as forming one Bible of God’s inspired word.

In today’s reading God is trusted to “show faithfulness to Jacob, and grace to Abraham.” This prayer, tacked on to Micah’s prophecy, was composed after Israel returned from the Babylonian exile, with the people still reeling from this traumatic event. They beg for a renewal of the days of Moses, and for the wonderful signs God showed to their ancestors. But in this period of regrouping they felt it necessary to exclude all outsiders. Verses 16 and 17, omitted from today’s reading, are harsh towards the foreigners; for Israel first had to recover its identity in order to later open its doors and have something worthwhile to share.

Jesus opened the doors, heroically and at great cost even to his mother Mary. When his mother and brothers were seeking to speak with him, Jesus seems to pass them by. Extending his hands to the circle of his disciples, he said, “These are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is brother and sister and mother to me.”


Family matters

We all value our families. As we get older we might not see them as often as we once did, but they still matter a great deal to us. They say blood is thicker than water. When a family member is in difficulty, we will generally gather around him or her to give support. The gospels don’t tell us a great deal really about Jesus’ family. Yet, when they do mention his family, they give the impression that there was often tension between Jesus and his blood family. In this morning’s gospel, Jesus’ family, including his mother, were standing outside where Jesus was speaking, anxious to have a word with him. They were trying to get his attention, perhaps even trying to get him home, away from the crowds that were always pursuing him. However, on this occasion Jesus stood his ground; he didn’t go with his family. Rather, he redefined who his family really were. He identifies his disciples as his family, and declares that all those who do the will of his heavenly Father are now his family. As disciples we are all brothers and sisters of the Lord, and of each other, and sons and daughters of God. This is the new family that Jesus came to form, and what distinguishes this family is the desire to do the will of God as Jesus has revealed that to us by his words and by his life. That is why, together, as members of the Lord’s family, we pray, ‘Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.’


CANDLE

(Saint Declan, bishop)

Declan was an early Irish saint of Ardmore in the Deisi Mumhan, on the south coast of Ireland. He converted the people of that region in the late 5th century and founded the monastery of Ardmore in Waterford. This Munster saint, named in a 17th century manuscript among the quattuor sanctissimi episcopi, may even have preceded Saint Patrick in bringing Christianity to Ireland. He is patron of the Waterford diocese.

CANDLE

(Saint Sharbel Makluf, priest)

Sharbel Makluf (1828 -1898) was a Maronite monk and priest from Lebanon. After his ordination he lived as a hermit, but was much sought after for advice and blessing. Remembering saints like Sharbel helps the Church to appreciate both the diversity and unity present in the Catholic Church.

3 Responses

  1. Deacon Alfred Capelle

    I believe this is the first time for me to make comments as requested. As a permanent deacon in the Catholic Church of the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) I find sources of homily helps such as this quite helpful for me in the development of my weekday and Sunday homilies. And so all I’d like to mention here is that you would please continue to provide this resource that I can consult whenever I am tasked with giving the homily and to share the Good News with my fellow-Marshall Islands Catholics.
    Thank you.

  2. Pat Rogers

    Hi Alfred

    It’s very nice to hear from you, all the way from the Marshall Islands! Let me reassure you of my hope to continue providing these liturgical resources for at least another year, if the Good Lord spares me the health, and so long as the ACP leadership approves of my inputs. I find that it’s a great help to my own thinking about the daily readings, to have to compose a few thoughts on the computer each day.
    By the way, why not write a few paragraphs for our website, telling us how you experience the life of the church in the south Pacific? If you can include a picture or two, I can upload them on this side.
    Pat

  3. Brian Fahy

    Bruce

    One day in our childhood my sister, Tricia and I went for a walk through the fields with our collie dog, Bruce. On the way we had a disagreement about whom the dog belonged to. Was he my dog or her dog? So we set the dog in the middle of the country lane half way between the two of us, and at a signal we both began to call the dog to come. Poor Bruce looked either way and his eyes became sad at being demanded to choose between us. Eventually, and reluctantly the dog moved slowly towards me, being the elder one, but not with any joy at all. My sister turned sadly away and went off home alone. I was left in that country lane also with a great feeling of sadness. I learned a lesson that day. You cannot divide love. You can only share it.

    When Jesus is preaching to people, his family, his mother and his brothers, turn up to see him. Family is his first love, as it is for most of us in life. But the day comes when we leave home to make our own way in the world, and we do so in the strength of the love that good family always gives us. Jesus set out into the world to preach love to all and today he gives expression to the power of love to embrace and include all people who do God’s will. The love we have is not meant to be limited, or divided, or kept as a private possession, but to be extended and shared with all who will receive it. The love we have learned in family life now becomes the model for the love we can practise in the wider world.

    In my life story I was encouraged to leave my family at the age of 11 and to go into a junior seminary. Nobody said it at the time – perhaps nobody even thought it – but I lost my family life in that moment, and they lost me. I lost the intimacy of my mother and father’s presence in my life, of my sisters and brother and my collie dog. I became an orphan and gave up the natural surroundings of local life to grow up in an institution. It greatly affected the rest of my life.

    Many years later, I re-found family life, in meeting Margaret, and becoming father to my son, Michael. It was a great struggle to leave priesthood, for all that I had become so unhappy in it. I read recently that when two claims are made upon the heart sometimes there is no wrong choice, and that honour is found in the struggle.

    Many people do not have the blessing of a happy family life. Too many childhoods are bruised and broken. The healing of human hearts is an everyday agenda for the followers of the Lord. The love we have in our hearts today is a powerful force. In sharing that love we will bring joy to others and cause our own hearts to grow strong. The sorrows we have known serve now to help us be compassionate to all we meet. But if I keep my love to myself it will die. It can only flourish in being given to others.

    That day long ago in that country lane has stayed with me forever and it was my collie dog – no, ‘our’ collie dog – that taught me the ways of faithful love.

    Brian Fahy


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