Weekday Gospel Reflection

Monday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 12:38-42 - World English Bible

38 A few of the scribes and Pharisees said, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from you."

39 But Jesus answered them, "An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, but no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet. 40 For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will stand up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and behold, someone greater than Jonah is here. 42 The queen of the south will rise up in the judgment with this generation, and will condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, someone greater than Solomon is here."

In Matthew 12, Jesus wove two themes into the image of Jonah. Jonah lived in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights; his experience foreshadowed the death and resurrection of the Christ. Jonah went on to preach repentance in Nineveh and the pagans heeded his call; the Messiah and his disciples reflected that fact in their own calls for metanoia. Notice in the image of Jonah both resurrection and preaching conversion were present so Jesus could use the prophet as a point of departure. Someone greater than Jonah stood before the contemporaries of Jesus but those men rejected the Lord; in turn, the people who heard the message of Jonah would condemn that generation. Jesus did not stop at that point. He also stated his preaching was the wisdom of God, greater than that of Solomon. Those who rejected his preaching would be condemned by the queen of the south who sought the wisdom of David's son.

In the end, those who condemned "this generation" were not God's own people but Gentiles. Jesus implied the people of Nineveh and the queen of the south would hear the message and accept it with joy. Righteous before God, they would have the right to condemn those who assumed a place in the Kingdom simply because of birthright.

How have you heard the word of God this day?

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Tuesday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 12:46-50 - World English Bible

46 While Jesus was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, seeking to speak to him. 47 One said to him, "Behold, your mother and your brothers stand outside, seeking to speak to you."

48 But he answered him who spoke to him, "Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?" 49 He stretched out his hand towards his disciples, and said, "Behold, my mother and my brothers! 50 For whoever does the will of my Father who is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother."

At this point in Matthew, Jesus identified his new family, the Church. Blood relationship of the clan did not define his disciples; doing the will of the Father made one a brother or sister to the Lord. Indeed, family would reject a disciple in their midst, so that follower of the Christ would join a new family with tighter bonds, ones of faith.

Do you feel closer to a Christian friend than a blood relative? Are you surprised?

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Wednesday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 13:1-9 - World English Bible

1 On that day Jesus went out of the house, and sat by the seaside. 2 Great multitudes gathered to him, so that he entered into a boat, and sat, and all the multitude stood on the beach. 3 He spoke to them many things in parables, saying, "Behold, a farmer went out to sow. 4 As he sowed, some seeds fell by the roadside, and the birds came and devoured them. 5 Others fell on rocky ground, where they didn't have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of earth. 6 When the sun had risen, they were scorched. Because they had no root, they withered away. 7 Others fell among thorns. The thorns grew up and choked them. 8 Others fell on good soil, and yielded fruit: some one hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty. 9 He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

In Matthew 13, Jesus taught the people from a boat, just offshore. In our minds, we can see the people standing on the side of a hill towards the shore, so they could hear the Lord clearly. There, he told the parable of the Sower and the Seed. I like to call this story the parable of the Wasteful Farmer. Even though Galilee had rich soil and produced greater yields than neighboring areas, foreigners owned the land, rented it out to tenant farmers and extracted so much profit these farmers lived a subsistence levels. Beyond that, the tenants fed their families from their take and kept just enough seed to plant for the next season. They tended the soil, planted carefully, nursed the seedlings and prayed drought or disease would not devastate the crop; that misfortune would mean starvation and death for family members. So, when Jesus told this story, he pricked the ears of his audience by its absurdity. What farmer in his right mind would be so careless, so wasteful? He threw seed every which way. The yields Jesus described were equally absurd. Most farmers hoped for a yield two to three times what they planted; yields of thirty, sixty or a hundred were unthinkable. And that was why he told such stories; there absurdity made people wonder: what was this rabbi really talking about?

We'll explore the answer to that riddle in a few days.

Have you wondered what the Lord was telling you?

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Thursday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 13:10-17 - World English Bible

10 The disciples came, and said to Jesus, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"

11 He answered them, "To you it is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven, but it is not given to them. 12 For whoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance, but whoever doesn't have, from him will be taken away even that which he has. 13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they don't see, and hearing, they don't hear, neither do they understand. 14 In them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says,

'By hearing you will hear,
and will in no way understand;
Seeing you will see,
and will in no way perceive:
15 for this people's heart has grown callous,
their ears are dull of hearing,
they have closed their eyes;
or else perhaps they might perceive with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their heart,
and would turn again;
and I would heal them.'

16 "But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear. 17 For most certainly I tell you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see the things which you see, and didn't see them; and to hear the things which you hear, and didn't hear them."

Before Jesus answered the riddle of Sower and the Seed parable, he answered a larger question: why tell stories like this at all? They confused people with their absurdity, their shades of meaning, their opaque nature. Why couldn't he just say what he meant?

Jesus answered with a proverb and a verse from Isaiah 6:9-10. He would clearly explain his teachings to his followers, but to the average listener, he would speak in a way that taxed their understanding. The outsider could only receive the message if he opened his eyes and ears; then he would have an "abundance" but, if he closed his mind to what Jesus said, that overflow would be taken away. Of course, that abundance was the Good News, the mysteries to the Kingdom of God.

Jesus taught in a way to fulfill prophecy. His parables presented the Kingdom, but people chose to close their eyes and ears, minds and hearts to the message simply because of their callous hearts. For people to understand, they needed to turn back, to repent. Metanoia, after all, lay at the core of his moral message.

Jesus concluded his answer with a beatitude. God blessed the disciples, for they saw clearly, heard attentively, and witnessed to the life they shared with the Christ. That blessing extended beyond the Passion and Resurrection until today, for he lives with us now.

Pray God opens your ears and eyes to see Christ working in your life.

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Friday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 13:18-23 - World English Bible

Jesus told his disciples:

18 "Hear, then, the parable of the farmer. 19 When anyone hears the word of the Kingdom, and doesn't understand it, the evil one comes, and snatches away that which has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown by the roadside. 20 What was sown on the rocky places, this is he who hears the word, and immediately with joy receives it; 21 yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while. When oppression or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. 22 What was sown among the thorns, this is he who hears the word, but the cares of this age and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. 23 What was sown on the good ground, this is he who hears the word, and understands it, who most certainly bears fruit, and produces, some one hundred times as much, some sixty, and some thirty."

In these verses, Jesus explained the meaning of the parable he told publicly in 13:1-8. The farmer was the missionary, spreading the Good News to everyone he met. The soil represent the heart or character of the one who heard the Word. Some people had hard hearts, like the compacted soil of the road, so nothing grew. Some had fickle hearts, like rocky soil, where the Word could not take root; faith was a passing fad and faded away when it met any opposition. Some had hearts with split priorities, so concerned with the cares of the day that faith remained shallow. But, the person who possessed a good heart received the Word and allowed it to grow; this believer became the next missionary, eagerly passing along the Christian message.

Sometimes the question of the heart is not a judgment on others, but phases we go through. What phase in your heart today, hard, rocky, among the thorns or receptive?

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Saturday in the Sixteenth Week of Ordinary Time

Matthew 13:24-30 - World English Bible

24 Jesus set another parable before them, saying, "The Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field, 25 but while people slept, his enemy came and sowed darnel weeds also among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the blade sprang up and produced fruit, then the darnel weeds appeared also. 27 The servants of the householder came and said to him, 'Sir, didn't you sow good seed in your field? Where did these darnel weeds come from?'

28 "He said to them, 'An enemy has done this.'

"The servants asked him, 'Do you want us to go and gather them up?'

29 "But he said, 'No, lest perhaps while you gather up the darnel weeds, you root up the wheat with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest, and in the harvest time I will tell the reapers, "First, gather up the darnel weeds, and bind them in bundles to burn them; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"

Like the parable of the Sower and the Seed in Matthew's gospel, Jesus told a parable in public (13:24-30), only to explain it to his disciples in private (13:37-43). Like the previous parable, he built the story around a farmer and the sowing of seeds. But, unlike the Sower and the Seed, he used the narrative as a simile for the Kingdom of heaven and drew its logical conclusion in a harvest, an implicit metaphor for the end times.

The entire story hinged upon the darnel weed. This plant resembled wheat until it ripened, when it turned black, while wheat turned brown. The yield of seed from darnel was half that of wheat. It easily fell prey to a fungus that could infect the soil itself. Roman law prohibited the sowing of darnel into the wheat field of an enemy.

We'll examine Jesus' interpretation of the parable in a few more days. We can note that preachers throughout history saw the similarities between the wheat and the darnel weeds as a reason for religious tolerance in society. They envisioned the separation of the good from the bad as God's work, not man's, hence we should not judge others.

How hard is it for you to live with the "darnel" in your life?

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