24Jul 24 July, 2020. Friday of Week 16

St Sharbel Makhl, priest  (Opt. Mem.); St Declan, bishop (Opt. Mem.)

1st Reading: Jeremiah 3:14-17

Israel and Judah will be united and all nations will assemble at Jerusalem

Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion.

I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.

And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, “The ark of the covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made.

At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.

Responsorial: from Jeremiah 31

Resp./ The Lord will guard us as a shepherd guards his flock

O nations, hear the word of the Lord,
proclaim it on distant isles, and say:
He who scattered Israel now gathers them together,
he guards them as a shepherd his flock. (R./)

The Lord shall ransom Jacob,
he shall redeem him from the hand of his conqueror.
Shouting, they shall mount the heights of Zion,
they shall come streaming to the Lord’s blessings:
The grain, the wine, and the oil,
the sheep and the oxen. (R./)

Then the virgins shall make merry and dance,
and young men and old as well.
 I will turn their mourning into joy,
I will console and gladden them after their sorrows. (R./)

Matthew 13:18-23

A detailed explanation of the parable of the sower

Jesus said to them: “Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”


The kind of leaders we need

In a hopeful spirit, Jeremiah calls for strong family bond unite people in sincerity, in God. As we read earlier from Micah, we must “do justice and love goodness, and walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8). Isaiah’s call is just as down to earth, “Cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim; redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow” (Isa 1:16).

Any religious system that denies common sense or requires superhuman heroism on a daily basis runs counter to a basic quality of biblical religion. Long before the Word of God became incarnate in the person of Jesus, God’s word had implanted itself in the earthly setting and human history of the people Israel. They were strongly knit together and possessed an exceptionally firm tribal loyalty. This tribal bond dictated many of the customs and practices of the people, as we find in many parts of the Torah, detailing the obligations of kinship. They hope for an eventual reunion of all Israel and Judah, under a single shepherd endowed with the human virtues of prudence and wisdom.

The prophet hopes for a new, more sincere, religious leadership for his people. In hope he foresees a reunion of Israel and Judah, also reaching out to include other nations. The parables of Jesus challenge us to be generous in sharing our possessions. There is an overall generosity about the Bible which makes Israel the centre of God’s hopes for the world.

Obstacles to the Word

Various obstacles that can hinder us from hearing the word of the Lord in a way that bears fruit in our lives. The first obstacle mentioned is lack of understanding. We do need some understanding of the word that we hear. We don’t necessarily need to do all kinds of courses, but we need some sense of who Jesus is if we are to hear his word with appreciation. The second obstacle mentioned is the lack of roots. Sometimes we do not allow the word we hear to enter into us deeply enough. We have a superficial acquaintance with the word, but we don’t ponder it sufficiently for it to take real root in us. What isn’t rooted in us can easily be abandoned when it begins to cost us something.

The third obstacle is worldly care and the lure of riches. We cannot serve God and Mammon; if we try to serve Mammon, the Lord’s word gets choked. The gospel reading suggests that hearing the Lord’s word in a way that bears fruit in our lives won’t happen automatically. There is a struggle involved; there are obstacles to be overcome. That is why Jesus taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” However, the Lord is stronger than any obstacle we might face, and if we open our hearts to his Spirit, to his grace, we will conquer the obstacles and our lives will be fruitful in the way that God desires for us.

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