31Jul 31 July. Tuesday, Week 17

1st Reading: Jeremiah (14:17-22)

Jeremiah laments his people’s destruction and begs God for mercy

You shall say to my people this word:
Let my eyes run down with tears night and day, and let them not cease,
for the virgin daughter, my people, is struck down with a crushing blow,
with a very grievous wound.

If I go out into the field, look, those killed by the sword!
And if I enter the city, look, those sick with famine!
For both prophet and priest ply their trade throughout the land,
and have no knowledge.

Have you completely rejected Judah? Does our heart loathe Zion?
Why have you struck us down so that there is no healing for us?
We look for peace, but find no good;
for a time of healing, but there is terror instead.

We acknowledge our wickedness, O Lord, the iniquity of our ancestors,
for we have sinned against you.
Do not spurn us, for your name’s sake;
do not dishonour your glorious throne;
remember and do not break your covenant with us.

Can any idols of the nations bring rain? Or can the heavens give showers?
Is it not you, O Lord our God? We set our hope on you, for it is you who do all this.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 79)

R./: Save us, O Lord, for the glory of your name

Do not hold against us the guilt of our fathers;
may your compassion quickly come to us,
for we are brought very low. (R./)

Help us, O God our saviour,
because of the glory of your name;
Deliver us and pardon our sins
for your name’s sake. (R./)

Let the groans of the prisoners come before you;
with your great power free those doomed to death.
Then we, your people and the sheep of your pasture,
will give thanks to you for ever and ever;
through all generations we will tell your praise. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (13:36-43)

Jesus explains the parable of the sower in terms of the final judgment

Jesus left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

BIBLE

The Way of the Covenant

It sounds like a rather gloomy message, with Jeremiah speaking about eyes running down with tears, and wondering if God has completely rejected his people; and then in the gospel Jesus speaks about the final judgement, including the punishment of the wicked like weeds being burned in a furnace. It is the kind of serious moral message that caused Ignatius of Loyola to reconsider his priorities in life, when he went on retreat to Manresa and opened his heart to a profound conversion.

But seen from another angle our readings have a comforting promise too: God does not forget his covenant even if we human beings so often fail in our moral response. And while Jeremiah fully confesses that he and his people have sinned, he still prays with confidence “do not forget your mercy towards us.” Further, while Jesus does indeed speak about the unrepentant “weeds” being thrown into the fire, a warning against taking sin too lightly or neglect what God requires of us, the ultimate aim of the divine Harvester is to gather us safely into God’s barn. The parable ends with the promise that “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their father.”

Taken together, today’s readings can have upon us the sobering effect of an old-style parish mission, reminding us of the eternal truths: death, judgement, heaven and hell. The way of the covenant is surely open to us; and God intends us each one of us to enjoy eternal life. But We may not be complacent about this and expect to be saved without our own willing cooperation. This surely is included in Jesus’ crisp advice: let anyone with years listen!


Leave judging to God

In interpreting his parable, Jesus speaks of the final separation of the good and the evil at the end of time. The story itself had suggested that before that final separation at the end of time, good and evil will co-exist in the world and in the church, and within each one of us. The weeds and the wheat grow together. There will be a final separation but that will be done by God. It is not our place to make that separation in the here and now. We will invariably get it wrong, both in regard to ourselves and in regard to others. We will inevitably pull up wheat as well as weeds. A point emphasised by Pope Francis is that we should we slow to judge. It can be all too easy to see ourselves as wheat and identity various groups of other people as weeds. Saint Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians says to those who were judging him, ‘With me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court… It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore, do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes.’ This morning’s first reading reminds us that the Lord who will judge is a ‘God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.’


CANDLE

(Saint Ignatius of Loyola, priest)

Ignatius (1491-1556), a Spanish knight from a Basque noble family, who converted from a life of soldiering to become a hermit and later a priest. In 1539 along with Peter Faber and Francis Xavier he founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits) which grew to be a major force in the Counter-Reformation. Loyola’s devotion to the Church was marked by absolute obedience to the Pope, with a solemn promise made by all Jesuits to go out on mission to wherever the Pope would send them. His Spiritual Exercises, based on contemplation of the life of Christ have so influenced Catholic spirituality that pope Pius XI declared Ignatius the patron of all spiritual retreats.

3 Responses

  1. Akanduhura peterclaver

    This is good brothers

  2. Brian Fahy

    Old faithful

    An old Redemptorist missioner lay dying in his bed in Bishop Eton, Liverpool. His name was Willie Doyle. We heard the story told about him that on his dying day he sat up in bed and preached one of his mission sermons and then lay back on his pillow and breathed his last.

    In those days, missioners, like old music hall artists, carried round with them on their travels a set of sermons or acts that could last them a lifetime as every place they came to was a new place in which the sermon could be heard, and in those days before media entertainment, a good long sermon was well worth listening to and being entertained by. Committed to memory and preached so often in all parts of the country, it is no surprise that the old missioner was able to sit up and preach it one more time before he died. Faithful to the last.

    It reminds me today that the mission of the Church and of all its members is to preach the gospel of love, in season and out of season and to the end of time. At present we could say that the season we are in is out of season, with so many difficult changes for us all to endure. But then life is like that. Childhood and youth are exhilarating times. Mid life is often crisis time and full of stress. Old age can be a great burden to us also. The gospel is to be listened to and practised and preached in all these seasons.

    I remember my dear mother, who lived to be 94, as the great preacher of the gospel in the whole course of my life – my father too. In her final two years my mother was bed bound and her serenity was wonderful to see. She who had done everything for everyone, in her family and in her nursing life, now needed to allow others to do all ministrations for her. She was patience itself in those days. Faithful to the end.

    We do well to remember that no matter what changes there are in the world around us, no matter how much the struggle in the Church in these times, our central focus must be on the mission we all have received to live the gospel each day and to preach it with our lives. We live among the wheat and the darnel. We are called to be faithful to the end.

  3. Dennis Cox

    Thank you for the great reflection. Im a lay leader for liturgy of the word with communion services. Finding good reflections over many years has always been a challenge. I read reflections from several sites before finding yours and using it for today’s service. Thanks again!


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