Readings and Reflections with Cardinal Tagle: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time A July 20,2014
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mt 13:24-43) Jesus explains the meaning of the parable of the weeds in the field. He said, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as 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 who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
In this new perspective Jesus takes ordinary things to explain the divine perspective of mercy from the ordinary things of the weeds and the wheat. Jesus also teaches us the lesson of patience in discernment between good and wicked people in this world – this being finally a matter of conscience known only to God – just as God tolerates evil. If one innocent person were condemned because of an overzealous prosecution of evil, this would be unjust. Better to not root up the good with the bad, but to mercifully allow the two to grow together until the judgment. Then God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, will judge. As St. Paul challenges us: “Let us no longer judge one another, but rather resolve never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother” (Rom 14:13). How can I prepare myself for the harvest of God’s judgment and be one of those shining like the sun in the kingdom of God?
Wis 12:13, 16-19 – You give repentance for sins.
Please click this link to watch the video on Reading 1 Wis 12:13, 16-19 – You give repentance for sins by Cardinal Chito Tagle
There is no god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.
For your might is the source of justice;
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.
For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;
and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us;
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
and you gave your children good ground for hope
that you would permit repentance for their sins.
Ps 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
R. (5a) Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,
abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer
and attend to the sound of my pleading.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
All the nations you have made shall come
and worship you, O LORD,
and glorify your name.
For you are great, and you do wondrous deeds;
you alone are God.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.
Turn toward me, and have pity on me;
give your strength to your servant.
R. Lord, you are good and forgiving.
Rom 8:26-27 – The Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.
The word of the Lord.
Mt 13:24-43 – Let them grow together until harvest.
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
He proposed another parable to them.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
He spoke to them another parable.
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.
Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the evil one,
and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as 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 who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The Gospel of the Lord.
Reflection 1: Let them grow together
Mother Teresa, once said: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Too often, we are in denial of our own judgmental attitude even within God’s church. We decline to believe that in our self-righteousness we isolate people whom we have judged as “not one of us.” Contrary to the Master’s advice, we cannot accept those we have classified as weeds in God’s garden and we forcibly pull them out of the scene. We blindly pull up the weeds and wheat together. We take a great risk and opt for the alternative Jesus did not decide to take in His ministry.
This is one sad story even within God’s very own flock. Where God calls us to hate evil and love good, we have chosen to make the insane attempt at calling good and evil, pretty much the same thing. Where God has asked us to unite His people, we set aside and judge some as good and acceptable while we leave some behind as sinful and broken.
Today, God talks about the way we see each other and treat others. As He is concerned about whether there will be room in our hearts to welcome each other naturally as neighbors and friends, He calls us to the Christian dimensions of total gratuity, forgiveness and reconciliation. His challenge is right within our midst-to make God’s church overcome “structures of sin and oppression” where the human and natural bonds of love and forgiveness prevail; where one accepts that we are responsible for all and not just a chosen few.
How then do we address people who fall below our expectations? St Paul in his letter to the Corinthians did not say that the strong should simply accept the weak without teaching them. He provided clear instruction to the weak concerning their weakness. He said we should receive one another and patiently allow each other time to grow in understanding. In John 16, when Jesus said “but you cannot bear them now” , He knew they were still weak and were not ready to receive all the truths. Jesus did not let them remain in their weakness, but He was patient with them while they learned and grew stronger. In the same light, He wants us to be patient with each other, allowing the weak to grow and mature while those strong in the faith are allowed to exercise their freedom with a clear conscience.
This Sunday’s gospel does not only deal with those who are weak or strong in their faith but is a reminder to all that no matter how broken and sinful a man can be, no matter how poor a Christian witness one can be, no one can ever write him off as hopeless. No one should condemn anyone as we are all imperfect – broken and sinful, in all forms and shapes. We must never commit the mistake of trying to protect the wheat from the weeds by weeding out those whom we find unacceptable and condemning them.
As we all meditate on God’s Word, let us look deep into our hearts and ask ourselves if there were people we have condemned as weeds, unworthy of any consideration, any love and mercy.
Having experienced God’s love and mercy amidst our shortcomings, we should re-consider giving the very same love and mercy to those we may have caused to be estranged from God’s flock. We have to seek forgiveness for what we have done and acknowledge the weedy nature of our hearts that has caused us to judge. We have to see God’s people the way Jesus sees all of us. We have to love them the way Jesus loved them. We have to give them every chance to be closer to God rather than plucking them out and throwing them into the fire.
If Jesus has not given up on us, if he has not written us off, we ought to do the same to our neighbor! Let God be the Judge!
Today, let us follow what Jesus has revealed to us when He said: “Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.” Let us not judge but be patient and love our neighbor. Most importantly, let us, welcome every man who opens His heart to God and allow God to do His work!
“Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”
“Whoever has ears ought to hear”
Reform our ways and our deeds and make God’s flock an all-inclusive church, not for one but for all. God is good and forgiving.
“the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father”
Heavenly Father, I trust that when harvest time comes, You will find us worthy to be gathered in your barn. In Jesus, I pray. Amen.
Reflection 2: What the Hell!
An elderly lady looked worried as she celebrated her 90th birthday. Her daughter asked her, “Mom, it’s your birthday. But you don’t look happy. What seems to be worrying you?” The old lady replied, “It’s because I’m getting so old already. I’m the only one left behind. All my friends, I suppose, may now be in heaven. And I’m afraid they could be thinking I did not make it and have gone to the other side.”
Are we sometimes afraid that we might not make it to heaven? Nowadays, there are some people who, in their smug complacency, presume that they will surely go to heaven: “God is love, and He will always understand me. So, I am sure He will welcome me into His kingdom, no matter what I do in my life on earth. So, I don’t need to go to regular confession or attend Sunday Mass. If God is love, how can He condemn sinners?” Such people get offended when they hear the priest preaching about the evil of sin and the reality of Hell and eternal punishment. They consider it as being insensitive, intolerant and uncharitable.
Pope Benedict XVI has repeatedly bewailed the onslaught of what he calls the “dictatorship of relativism.” This is the thinking that everything is relative, and there is nothing absolute. In morality, it is the belief that there is nothing absolutely evil, but only relatively evil, depending on the surrounding circumstances. Hence, the claim that there is nothing absolutely sinful, and so no one deserves eternal punishment. Hell is only for the extremely evil people like Hitler. The rest of us will go to heaven. Relativism, indeed, is very dangerous because it breeds pride, complacency and presumption.
It is true that we have to “hate sin but love the sinner” for, after all, we have to follow the example of our merciful God. It is true that we must not judge anybody, for we are all sinners. This is what the parable of the wheat and the weeds clearly points out. We have no right to pull out the weeds from the field, but instead wait for harvest time when the Eternal Judge will order His angels to separate the weeds from the wheat. It is true that the people who may be considered weeds can, at a later time, become wheat as well, through the grace of repentance and genuine conversion. It is true that in each one of us, there are weeds and wheat, and so we all need God’s mercy and kindness.
However, while we should not judge and condemn anybody, and must in fact be understanding, kind and loving to those considered as weeds, we have to proclaim the truth of the Gospel, no matter how unpleasant and painful it is to some people. In the Gospel this Sunday Jesus makes it very clear that besides the hope and assurance of heaven, there is also the frightening reality of hell: “They will throw them into the fiery furnace where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth” (Mt 13:42).
Definitely, this is a terrifying image. But Jesus and his followers did not avoid speaking about hell, nor did they use euphemisms in referring to it. St. Paul, for example, gives us a stern warning by mentioning specific sins that keep a person out of heaven. In his First Letter to the Corinthians he said, “Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor practicing homosexuals nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6:9-10 NAB).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church clearly states the doctrine of hell: It is the “state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed…To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from Him for ever by our own free choice” (no. 1033).
The key word here is “self-exclusion.” The image of a God who mercilessly throws down an unrepentant sinner to hell is not accurate. Rather, the sinner, by his free choice, has rejected God, and thereby willfully excluded himself from the relationship and communion with God. Hell, therefore, is self-exclusion. It is the person’s free choice.
If people obstinately persist in their sins and do not reform their lives, they are going to end up in hell. This truth has not and will never change. And it should be told to everybody as warning. Hiding this truth and being silent about it, for fear of offending the feelings of some people, or of being accused as intolerant and uncharitable is actually the most uncharitable thing to do. Seeing a man walking towards a cliff and you did not say or do anything to stop him is grossly uncharitable and outright cruel. The prophet Zechariah pointed this out: “If I say to the wicked man, ‘You shall surely die’; and you do not warn him or speak out to dissuade him from his wicked conduct so that he may live: that wicked man shall die for his sin, but I will hold you responsible for his death” (Ez 3:18).
The parable of the wheat and the weeds is not meant to scare us and drive us into panic. Rather, it still is good news for all of us – for several important reasons. First, it reminds us that it is God who will ultimately judge us in the end. Today’s first reading declares, “But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us (Wis 12:16). Second, it proclaims the truth of God’s universal love for all people, both the good and the bad, for he allows the wheat and the weeds to grow together until harvest and “he makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous” (Mt 5:45). And third, it reveals God’s boundless mercy for us sinners, giving us all the time and opportunity to reform our lives and be saved. Through the prophet Zechariah, He declared, “For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign LORD. Repent and live!” (Ez 18:32) – (Source:Fr. Mike Lagrimas, Our Lady of Guadalupe Parish, Palmera Springs 3, Susano Road, Camarin, Novaliches, Caloocan City 1422).
Reflection 3: The quiet growth of God’s kingdom
Purpose: Today’s homily can focus on God’s mysterious and unobtrusive plan for initiating and extending his loving rule over all creation. Unlike earthly kings and rulers, who are anxious to proclaim their authority loudly, and impose it as quickly and decisively as possible, God has chosen to manifest his eternal sovereignty over the world, little by little, quietly and patiently, allowing time for our sins, mistakes, and incompetence to work themselves out. He, therefore, requires moderation and tolerance on the part of Christian leaders, in both Church and State. The Responsorial Psalm—emphasizing that the Lord is merciful, kind, and slow to anger—can be seen as summarizing the main message of today’s readings, a message that has been developed anew in Vatican Council II’s teaching on the human person’s right to civil liberty in religious matters.
Readings: Wis 12:13 ● Rom 8:26-27 ● Mt 13:24-43
Today’s reading from St. Matthews’ Gospel follows from last Sunday’s reading, with more parables using the analogy of a seed that sprouts, grows, and bears fruit. However, this time the seed represents something more than the preached word of God; it is now likened to something much larger: “the kingdom of heaven.”. This is Matthew’s preferred term for what Mark and Luke call “the kingdom of God.” This kingdom includes “heaven” in the popular sense—eternal happiness with God after death—as our final destiny; but it has already been mysteriously initiated in earthly history and, as it unfolds, the whole meaning and purpose of creation is progressively revealed. For God’s kingdom is the gradual establishment and manifestation in history of his intimate presence among us as Shepherd and sovereign Ruler. This is the most tremendous, mind-blowing reality we could ever imagine, and yet, paradoxically, it’s one which begins very modestly and unobtrusively, like the tiny mustard seed in one of today’s short parables. The kingdom begins to develop in the quietness of humble and prayerful hearts—often with the Holy Spirit prompting and assisting us to reach out to God with “inexpressible groanings” that manifest our ignorance of how to pray, or, even what we should pray for (2nd reading).
The first reading from the Book of Wisdom shows us something of how the Lord was already establishing his kingdom under the Old Covenant. In contrast to the “might-is-right” scenario that prevailed in many “god/king” autocracies of the ancient Near East, the surpassing might of Israel’s Shepherd manifests itself precisely in his justice and clemency towards his frequently straying sheep. With no fear of any possible rival, he has no need of deceit, bluster, cruelty, or treachery to establish and maintain his rule: “For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.” What Wisdom there is in those words!
The Gospel passage today includes three parables of the Kingdom: two very short ones, and another longer one which Jesus subsequently explains to the disciples. The mustard seed is so tiny that it seems to have no significant potential. Likewise, what earthly, would-be king would be so foolish as to try initiating his rule by choosing as his officers a tiny handful of obvious “losers”—unlettered (and unarmed!) fishermen—and having them proclaim a message with apparently zero credibility: the folly of the Cross? What prudent, educated person will ever acknowledge the divine kingship of another obvious loser—i.e., a poor, itinerant, Jewish preacher, whose mission ended ignominiously with his execution by the Roman superpower? And yet, as they say, “the rest is history.” That seemingly powerless Gospel worked to bring new life to the world, like the small measure of yeast, that quietly mixes with flour and water, creating life-giving bread.
Today’s main parable is that of “the wheat and the weeds.” Jesus stresses here that, while God’s kingdom will indeed involve a severe final judgment upon those who persevere in obdurately resisting the Holy Spirit’s promptings, he is very patient with sinners in this life, and requires patience on the part of all Christians—especially the Apostles, and those who will follow them as church leaders. It helps us to appreciate the parable if we know that the specific weeds mentioned here (“cockle”, “darnel” or “tares”) look very similar to “the real thing” in the early stages of growth, before the actual ears of wheat appear. Likewise, while God, in his omniscience, knows eternally who will finally be lost and saved (the “sons of the evil one” and “sons of the kingdom”), this judgment call should not be presumptuously anticipated by over-zealous Christians anxious to “weed out” sinners from the church community. All too often, this will lead to rash judgments: we will condemn, and prematurely alienate, as supposed “hypocrites” many weaker brethren whom the Spirit is gradually leading to a grace-filled healing in the midst of their moral and spiritual ups and downs.
The parable does not mean there should be no church discipline—no Canon Law! (In Chapter 18 of this same Gospel, Jesus himself will give guidelines for what has subsequently taken shape as excommunication.) But over the centuries, this parable has constantly challenged the Church to beware of, and overcome, the temptation to immoderate zeal in dealing with those presumed to be false brethren. Tragically, for about half of the second Christian millennium, learned theologians explained away our Lord’s words so as to justify the intolerance of the Inquisition, and Catholic rulers who took it upon themselves to torture heretics, and send them to the stake. But our early patristic tradition had gotten it right. St. John Chrysostom, for instance, commented on this parable: “The Lord said this to prohibit any putting to death; for we ought not to kill a heretic, seeing that this would introduce a never-ending war into the world.” The Second Vatican Council’s Declaration on Religious Liberty has recalled, for the Church and the whole world, that this ancient tradition is the one that truly reflects the clemency with which God wants to build and spread his kingdom.
Read the source text: http://www.hprweb.com/2014/06/homilies-for-july-2014/
Reflection 4: The mercy of God in the books of the Bible
“Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.” This is a constant refrain throughout Psalm 136, which relates all of the actions of God toward his people throughout the Old Testament. The whole of time is based in God’s mercy because the world is created as a result of God’s grace. He wills things to exist for man and man to exist in order to turn to God through grace. To understand this, though, one must look at time from the perspective of eternity. Faith gives us the ability to do this. The Holy Spirit aids us to desire heaven and also to prepare ourselves for the grace that is our salvation. “He who searches hearts knows what the Spirit means, for the Spirit intercedes for the saints as God himself will” (Rom 8:27).
Among the wonderful gifts of the Spirit of God’s wisdom are the inspired Scriptures. Through them, God aids man to understand the eternal perspective of his plan for creating and redeeming man. The whole division of the Bible is based on that mercy, which is expressed in two covenants or testaments. In the Old Testament, God first creates man in grace and then man falls. This does not put an end to the divine mercy but brings forth from God a greater mercy. Immediately after the fall, God promises a redeemer, “I will put enmity between your seed,” God says to Satan, “and the seed of the woman” (Gen 3:15). In this God shows the wisdom of his power – a power that is almighty and yet supremely benevolent and loving. “Your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all” (Wis 12:16).
The rest of the Old Testament is the expression of God’s merciful preparation to receive that greater mercy of the Redeemer. First, the Law is expressed; it will establish the people of Israel, from which will come the Messiah. The prophets call the people to observance and proclaim deeper characteristics of this Messiah. The Wisdom books point continually to living the holy life. The Psalms are the prayer book that Israel and the Messiah himself will use to express God’s mercy to them. The historical books are a chronicle of that progressive preparation right up until the Messiah comes. In the Old Testament, literal meanings are connected to the merciful appearance of the Redeemer. Even the first chapters of Genesis have as their literal sense the eternal truth of the Creator that sets the stage for redemption.
In the New Testament, the promises of the Old Testament are fulfilled. Mercy has come now in the person of the Redeemer, Christ, who sends the Spirit of wisdom into his Church and into us. This new wisdom allows us to acquire a new perspective that was only available to the people of the Old Testament in shadow, but which is now present with us in image. The New Testament adds to the old the interior presence of the Holy Spirit. God’s justice is truly seen in mercy. Ordinary events are cast in supernatural overtones.
The Gospels faithfully record all Jesus did and taught. The epistles explain how to live this merciful life of Christ. The book of the Acts explains how the Spirit enters the whole world through the Church. The Apocalypse displays this mercy in the liturgy and in the final judgment.
This new perspective is seen even in the form of parables, such as the one we have today. Jesus takes ordinary things from daily life – weeds and wheat – and uses them to explain the divine perspective of mercy. Since we ultimately cannot tell the difference between good and wicked people in this world – this being finally a matter of conscience known only to God – it is necessary for the Church to tolerate evil, just as God tolerates evil. If one innocent person were condemned because of an overzealous prosecution of evil, this would be unjust. Better to not root up the good with the bad, but to mercifully allow the two to grow together until the judgment. Then God, who can neither deceive nor be deceived, will judge. However, faith is necessary to fully appreciate the inspired wisdom of this parable in its literal sense.
After Vatican II, the Church wished to open the treasures of Scripture to all the faithful so that the inspired word of God might truly be the basis for our own life of mercy. The new lectionary at Mass is a wonderful means for doing this. In one year, one can experience almost all the Bible. In three years of Sunday readings, one can experience the depth of God’s mercy, which is truly wonderful. In faithful meditation on the world of God, we can truly “give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever.” (Source: Rev. Brian T. Mullady, “Homilies on the liturgies of Sundays and feasts,” Homiletic & Pastoral Review, Vol. CVIII, No. 9, New Jersey: Ignatius Press, June 2008, pp. 37-38; Suggested reading: Catechism of the Catholic Church, 101-141).
Reflection 5: The work of the enemy
The devil’s strategy consists in his sowing the seeds of hatred of the light so that, in the slaying of the man Jesus, the inconceivable – deicide – is at length accomplished….
The devil can find an entryway into God’s field, the world, only through the exhaustion of creatures (“while men were sleeping,” Mt 13:25) and their failure to keep vigil… The subverter cannot operate openly and honestly but must undermine God’s good work by exploiting the vulnerability of God’s dear ones….
The demonic seed inoculates our entire being, both intellectual and affective, with an aversion to the truth…. Here, too, lies the deepest reason for Jesus’ crucifixion: when I choose not to embrace the truth, I must put it out of my world by destroying it. Otherwise I could not bear the glare of its light continually judging the darkness I have made my dwelling place….
The devil has no separate field of his own where to grow his weeds. Evil, as Augustine says, must parasitically feed on what is good, for all of its work is destruction. The devil cannot establish a separate kingdom of his own because God is sovereign, and it is a great error to perceive any real symmetry or absolute duality between God and devil.
First and last, the devil is God’s creature. Thus, in order to create his own kingdom, the devil is reduced to vitiating God’s. He is permanently confined to being a spoiler of God’s good work, and this necessarily inferior and dependent status must greatly fuel his rage against God. Although he aspires to being lord, the Devil has no center in himself, and he leads the purely imitative existence of the negator. This is why he can be lord only of the darkness, or the underside of things, and why he must sneak around like a weasel so as not to betray his insidious presence (Source: Erasmo Leiva-Merikakis, Magnificat, Vol. 16, No. 5, July 2012, pp. 289-290).