02Aug 02 August. Thursday, Week 17

1st Reading: Jeremiah (18:1-6)

The Lord is like a potter, forming Israel anew from clay that was earlier spoiled

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Come, go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. The vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as seemed good to him.

Then the word of the Lord came to me: “Can I not do with you, O house of Israel, just as this potter has done?” says the Lord. “Just like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel.”

Responsorial (Ps 146)

R./: Happy are they whose help is the God of Jacob

Praise the Lord, O my soul;
I will praise the Lord all my life;
I will sing praise to my God while I live. (R./)

Put not your trust in princes,
in the sons of men, in whom there is no salvation.
When his spirit departs he returns to his earth;
on that day his plans perish. (R./)

Happy are they whose help is the God of Jacob,
whose hope is in the Lord, their God.
Who made heaven and earth,
the sea and all that is in them. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (13:47-53)

God’s reign is like a net that draws in good and useless fish; or like a storeroom with new and old objects

Jesus said to his disciples,”The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

When Jesus had finished these parables, he left that place.


New Beginnings

The symbols acted out by Jeremiah announce God’s recreative intention, like a divine potter, to collapse the misshapen clay back into a formless mass and start over again to form the Israelites as a people in God’s own image. Today’s Gospel too, which concludes Matthew’s main section about the reign of God (chapters 11 to 13) underlines God’s way of mercy, offering us the chance of starting over again. Jesus suggests that life is like a pluralistic network or a storeroom, full of new things as well as the old.

Biblical faith is marked by a hopeful vision towards a new future. It does not encourage nostalgia for a golden age long past but looks forward to the messianic age. Along the way Israel took some notable leaps, when big changes were demanded by cultural or national crises, like the Philistine threat which led to the unification of the people into a one-capital-one-temple system under David and Solomon. Other changes were needed to renew and purify the people, as Jeremiah taught by the prophetic symbol of God as a potter, moulding clay jars. Whenever the vessel on the wheel was turning out badly in the the potter’s hand, he tried again, making of the clay another vessel as he pleased.

God is the one who poses the challenge, “Can I not do to you as this potter has done?” There is continuity here, for the clay is the same and the potter remains the same. Yet the transitions can seem as drastic as the gospel parable of the dragnet, full of both useful and useless fish, a prediction of final judgment. Jesus adds another little image, that of the storeroom from which the householder brings both the new and the old. At all transitional moments in our personal life or in our church, we need to be courageous to suffer through the change, and clear-sighted to recognize the will of God and even his guidance in the new stage along the way, safeguarding tradition and genuine continuity with the past.

Living with diversity

The dragnet cast into the sea predicts an eventual separating out of the good from the wicked. However, this is God’s work and it will happen at the end of time. We often make the mistake of pre-judging people and deciding who are worthy and who are not. We might selectively judge who is good and who is bad here and now … and then behave in the light of that hasty judgement. But we see the good in ourselves more easily than the good in others and the bad in others more easily than the bad in ourselves. We might also fail to appreciate that people can change for the better, with God’s help.

The image of God as a potter suggests that the Lord can take what comes out wrong in our lives and reshape it into something good. We are all a work in progress. God may have begun a good work in us but has yet to bring it to completion. Definitive judgement belongs at the end of time, and the judging God is also the creator God who is constantly at work to bring good out of evil and new life out of what went wrong at first. As humans, we should be very slow to take upon ourselves God’s work of separating the good from the evil. As Paul once wrote, ‘Do not pronounce judgement before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness.’ (1 Cor. 4:5)

(Saint Eusebius of Vercelli, bishop)

Eusebius, born in Sardinia about 300, became the first bishop in Vercelli (northern Italy), in the early 340s. He led his clergy to form a monastic community modelled on that of the Eastern cenobites. Hence the Augustinians honor him along with Augustine as their founder. He sought a solution to the Arian crisis at the synod of Milan (355).


(Saint Julian Eymard, priest)

Peter Julian Eymard (1811-1868) from Val d’Isere in the French Alps became a priest as a member of the Marist Fathers. Later he founded two religious institutes, the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament (for clerics) and the Servants of the Blessed Sacrament, a contemplative congregation for women. One of his memorable sayings is, “You take communion to become holy, not because you already are holy.”.

One Response

  1. Brian Fahy

    If ever an image suited the Church of today it is this story of the potter and the clay. God can refashion his Church into something new when the old mould has gone wrong. I was ordained a priest in the Redemptorists on this day, August 2nd 1970 when Elvis was No. 1 with ‘The wonder of you’. It was the high summer of the Church’s vocation wealth and after that came the great decline including the great exodus of priests and religious from that old way of life. I was in ministry for 29 years. The root cause of my leaving was to be found in a recruitment policy of gathering children into the priesthood, a policy that eventually back fired when I found and married a lovely girl.

    The collapsing of the clay and the reforming of it into a new mould goes on. This is the pattern of all life. I think it wonderful today that we have a pope who is so pastoral and so at ease with the Lord’s ways. His devotion is to Our Lady, the un-tier of knots and his style says that he knows himself to be clay in the potter’s hands.

    Learning to be clay in the potter’s hands does not come easy to any of us but as we get older we begin to trust the process and to believe as the old song says, that love may grow for all we know.

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