Prayer and Meditation for Sunday, July 23, 2017 — “For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved.”

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 106

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Reading 1  WIS 12:13, 16-19

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.

Responsorial Psalm  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.

Reading 2  ROM 8:26-27

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.

Alleluia  CF. MT 11:25

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel  MT 13:24-43

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.”

OrMT 13:24-30

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.”‘

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Reflection From The Abbot in the Desert

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Monastery of Christ in the Desert, Abiquiu, New Mexico

My sisters and brothers in the Lord,

The Letter to the Romans tells us in the second reading today:  “we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  That is pretty strong!  Because our world is so messed up, we are often confused about what is right and what is wrong—so we don’t know how to pray as we ought.

The first reading today, from the Book of Wisdom, reminds us that God is all powerful and because of that, God can love and judge and deal with us with leniency and mercy and forgiveness.  Those who are powerful can be generous!  This can remind us that our own personal power should always reflect in mercy, generosity and forgiveness.

The Letters to the Romans reminds us that our prayers are very often just our own prayers and not the will of God.  Instead, we can allow the Spirit to pray within us so that the prayer is God’s prayer.  It is easy to do this.  All we need say is “O God, may I do your will and pray for what you want.”

The Gospel from Saint Matthew today, in the longer version, gives us three parables.  The shorter version gives us only one parable and without its explanation by the Lord.  All three parables are about the kingdom of God.  We can understand from these parables that it is difficult in this life to separate the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds.  We can see that the Kingdom is a small seed that can grow enormously.  And we can understand that if we live the Kingdom, it becomes like leaven in bread in our lives and in the lives of others.

The teaching today is that we must be slow to judge others, slow to think that we understand the Kingdom and how it is present and slow to presume that we know the ways of God.  Rather, we must look at others as possible Kingdom bearers, we must be still before the mystery of God so that we can begin to be aware of the Kingdom and we must look for God in all that happens to us and to others.

When Jesus tells us parables, it is because He wants us to look at life in ways that are different from our normal ways.  We should never think that we are the wheat and that others are the weeds!  Rather we need to pay attention to the weeds of our lives and be aware of the wheat in the lives of others.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like a small seed that can grow into a large tree, we should be aware of the gifts of others and aware that we are still small.  When Jesus tells us that the Kingdom is like leaven, we should strive to be aware of how others are leaven already and that we can become leaven.

Let us be aware of God’s love for others and reflect God’s love for others in our own lives through mercy and forgiveness.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip

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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore

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23 JULY, 2017, Sunday, 16th Week, Ordinary Time

EMBRACING IMPERFECTIONS IN THE CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ WIS 12:13,16-19PS 85:5-6,9-10,15-16ROM 8:26-27MT 13:24-43 OR MT 13:24-30]

The Church is supposed to be the budding of the Kingdom of God.  All of us are called to holiness of life.  The early Christians called themselves saints of God.  Indeed, the Church is called to be different from the rest of the world.  We are called to be the sacrament of Jesus in the world, the sacrament of love and unity.  Unfortunately, many who join the Church fail to realize that although the Church aspires to be the community of saints, we are still pilgrims on earth.  The Church is both a community of saints and sinners.  We have not yet arrived but are on the way to the fullness of life in the heavenly kingdom.

As such, the Church, being a pilgrim church on the way to perfection, must learn to accommodate the sinfulness of her members and the imperfections of community life and the institution at large.  Failure to realize this reality will cause much disillusionment, disappointment, anger and resentment against the Church.  Indeed, many Catholics labour under the false notion that all Catholics are perfect, holy, loving, considerate, kind, giving, gentle, compassionate, forgiving, etc.   And when they find that their brothers and sisters, and most of all, the Church leaders, laity or clergy or religious are not manifesting the compassion and love of our Lord, they are easily scandalized. They are shocked that Catholics are not behaving in the way Christ asks of us in the gospel.  As a result, many leave the Church and join other churches or other religions, or give up on God completely.

The irony of such a reaction is that all other Catholics seem not to be good enough, except themselves.  Often, such people who are judgmental, intolerant of others’ weaknesses, whims and fancies, dissatisfied with the institutions, condemning everyone else except themselves, fall into the sin of presumption.  We are quick at passing sweeping judgements on the actions of others without trying to understand the person, his struggles, his constraints, circumstances and limitations.  The truth is that no one is perfect and we cannot expect others to live up to our standards when we ourselves have failed miserably as Catholics, if not in the particular area we are not pleased about, surely in other areas of our life.

St Paul and James warned us about the foolishness of pronouncing  judgement on others instead of leaving the judgement to God.  (Cf. 1 Cor 4:3-5; Jms 4:11f)  In fact, if we are not careful, we can become the enemy itself who would be sowing darnel among the wheat.  When we judge, condemn and criticize others destructively, we are destroying them and also the community.  Instead of promoting unity through compassion, understanding and patient meditation, we circulate on social media the sins and imperfections of others and the community or the organization.  This is tantamount to helping the Evil One to sow seeds of division in the community.  We should be sowing good seeds; not making the situation worse than it already is.

Today, we take the cue from the scripture readings as to how we should see the imperfections of community, whether at church, in our homes or in our offices.  Unless we integrate such stark realities in our lives, we will end up destroyed by the evils that we hate.  Those of us who cannot accept the sins and imperfections of the members of the community will end up frustrated, resentful and even vindictive.  This is particularly true when we belong to a religious order, or any closely knit Catholic cell group or organization.  By embracing both the strength and weaknesses of the individuals and the organization, we can grow as individuals and as a community to be more like Christ.  We must remember that grace is also at work in disgrace.

For this reason, Jesus told the disciples the parable of the Darnel and the Wheat.  This was what the servants said to the master.  “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from? Do you want us to go and weed it out?”  This is unfortunately the impatience reflected in every Christian community.  As the bishop, I receive countless letters of complaint against priests and fellow Catholics; even from non-Catholics.  All express anger, disappointment and disenchantment with what is happening in the Church, the conduct of both the lay faithful and the Church leaders.  They write to me, expecting and even demanding that I exercise my juridical authority to immediately weed out such people from the Church.  They hope that I will shame them publicly, make them lose face and discredit them.  Most are not seeking to help those who are wayward in their Catholic way of life but to see them punished, humiliated and excommunicated.  There is so much lack of charity, compassion, forgiveness and tolerance among Catholics.

Clearly the gospel tells us that we should allow good and evil to co-exist.  We should not be in a hurry to weed out all those who fail and have shortcomings.  The master said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”  In other words, we must allow sin and grace to co-exist.  If we are intolerant and impatient, not only might we lose all the sinners but we might even hamper the growth of those who are seeking holiness of life.

The truth is that we all grow through our weaknesses and our strengths.  It is through our interaction with others that we learn to discover more about ourselves, our likes, attitudes, fears, inadequacies and our charisms and potentials as well.  Only through difficult situation are we challenged to our limits.  This is just like the trees in the forest.  They all strive against each other to seek sunlight.  Even the creepers in the forest know how to find their way to the top.  So we must take fellow Catholics as spiritual benefactors, helping us to purify our faith and our love for God and for humanity.  Instead of seeing them as obstacles to our faith, we must see them as persons allowed by God to test us in generosity, in forgiveness, in mercy and in patience.  Instead of marginalizing them, we must be ready to continue to reach out to them in humility and love in spite of their hostility towards us.

In the first reading, we read how God manifests His mercy and love for all.  Although He is a God of justice, He cares for all and is just to all.  “There is no God, other than you, who cares for everything, to whom you might have to prove that you never judged unjustly.  Your justice has its source in strength, your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all.” This is how God has taught us to exercise love and mercy.  The author says, “By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people how the virtuous man must be kindly to his fellow men, and you have given your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance.”  So we must not give up on others because they fail in their Christian life.  Rather, recognizing our own failures and imperfections, we must also grant them the same mercy and compassion that God has for us in our sinfulness.

Most of all, we must pray in our weakness.  This is what St Paul urges the Christian community.  “The Spirit comes to help us in our weakness. For when we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means, and that the pleas of the saints expressed by the Spirit are according to the mind of God.”  Only prayer can change lives.  Only prayer can give us the patience, the magnanimity and power to forgive those who have hurt us or failed us.  When we face such nasty parishioners or uninspiring priests in our lives, rather than condemning them, we must pray for them earnestly. We have no right to correct them if we have not yet prayed for them.

If we follow this principle, then indeed, in its own time, the Kingdom of God will flourish. This is the promise of Jesus in the parable of the mustard seed and the dough. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.”  Indeed, with perseverance we will see the full flowering of the tree.  So let us be good dough doing our little part and our best to contribute to the growth of the community and our personal life.  Instead of seeking to marginalize and exclude those who are not living a good Christian life, we must show mercy and compassion.  No one should be excluded from the Church, the divorced, those with same-sex attraction, the addicts, etc.  We must welcome them to the Church and help them to experience the unconditional love and mercy of Jesus through us.  God will heal them through us.  We only need to be docile to the Lord and allow Him to make use of us.

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Written by The Most Rev William Goh Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

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Why let the bad mix with the good?

“…if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest…” (Matthew 13:29-30).

I read our Gospel today, and I remember the spicy surprise that met a Jesuit who transplanted sprigs of basil beside some sili. After a few weeks, the basil was not just basil anymore. It had acquired a peppery flavor and required a new name: ba-sili.

Scientifically, this incident provides too small a sample size for any conclusion, but our Scripture today prompts me to ask, “Should we let the weeds grow with the wheat?” What if the weeds change the wheat? Why let the bad mix with the good?

One might attack this differently and counter, “What if the wheat changes the weeds?” Maybe the good can influence the bad and make everyone better. But for this possibility, should we be willing to risk the bad just turning everything worse? Why let the bad mix with good?

Five chapters after our Gospel today, Jesus will say, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea… If your hand or foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away” (see Matthew 18:6-9). In the body that is our community, if a member leads others to sin, should he or she not be cut off? Why sacrifice the saint for the sinner? Why let the bad continue to mix with good?

Why should we let the weeds grow with the wheat? To answer this, let us look at the two other parables in the longer version of our Gospel today.

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, Jesus says. It is the smallest of seeds, but it becomes the largest of plants. The dramatic change in size is what we usually focus on in this parable, and so we miss an important detail about the mustard bush: “the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches” (Matthew 13:32). It is not just the doves and the pigeons and the other gentle and beautiful birds that come. One can imagine crows and ravens – aggressive and not as aesthetically pleasing avian creatures – coming and dwelling as well. Jesus makes no distinctions. All are welcome. And when birds of paradise perch with vultures – as when wolves and lambs feed together in Isaiah’s vision – then the kingdom of God is in our midst.

Why let the weeds grow with the wheat? Because that is how God envisions his kingdom.

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour. Scholars say that three measures equals 50 pounds. That is a lot of flour! Again, the contrast between the pinch of yeast and the mountain of flour makes us miss an important detail: the woman kneading the yeast in. She wrestles with the dough. (Can you imagine yourself elbows deep in 50 pounds of flour and the I-don’t-know-how-many liters of water needed to make it dough?) There can be bread enough for a banquet only because there is a woman who painstakingly labors.

Why let the weeds grow with the wheat? The saint and the sinner come together in the kingdom of God, and our Lord, the Master Baker, continues to work on them because this is how he prepares a feast.

That the weeds are allowed to grow with the wheat – this is Good News for us! Many times, we are not the purest and finest wheat. Many times, we are the weeds strangling those around us, competing for what we think are limited resources when in truth, God’s mercy abounds. God allows us weeds to grow without making distinctions as we sprout out of the ground. God works on us and kneads his grace into us.

If this is how God deals with us, then it should also be how we deal with others around us. Have we let weeds into our lives? Or have we cultivated friendships only with those we know do not come with thorns and only with those we know will bear good fruit? Do we continue to gently massage even just the pinch of yeast we possess into our relationships with others so that we can all slowly rise together? Or overwhelmed, have we just given up on people?

The time for the harvest will come, when stubborn weeds who refuse God’s grace will be pulled up and burned. But the pulling up and the burning will not be our task. That will belong to God. Who is this God? Read again Wisdom 12:13-19, our First Reading today, and get to know him as the master of might who judges with clemency and governs with lenience. Encounter him as the father who gives his children good ground for hope because he allows us to repent. Learn to trust him as the teacher who by his own deeds imparts the important lesson that “those who are just must be kind.”

From 2014

Homily from the Abbot

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

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Those who are just must be kind. This small kernel of wisdom from the Book of Wisdom in our first reading today, is a wonderful teaching about God as well. Far too often there have been images of God as being just–but as a stern taskmaster who really intends to put most people into hell. Instead, this small gem of a teaching speaks of kindness. Justice and kindness are linked, not justice and sternness or justice and meanness.

Of course we know from the teachings of our Lord Jesus that God is love and that God loves all that has been created in Him. God loves us, even with our sinfulness. God invites us to share eternal life and to leave our sinfulness aside, knowing that to leave that sinfulness aside will cost us our whole lifetime.

We can hear this teaching clearly in the Gospel today, where there are many images for us to ponder. One of them is that the wheat and the weeds are always together and we need to leave the sorting out to the Lord. Did not create everything good? Then where did the evil come from? We don’t need to answer that question. We need only to keep striving to live in the good and to do good and to speak good and all shall be well. That we fail to live completely in the good, that we fail to do good always and that we fail to speak the good is part of our human condition. Every day we need to start afresh, living the joy and the love of our Lord Jesus, no matter what our previous failings.

When we are completely worn out and see only the evil in ourselves and our failures. The second reading today can help us: 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. The same is true when we do not do the good which is possible because it seems impossible in the moment. The Spirit is there and will take our hands and help us do what we can.

The challenge of living a truly Christian life is a very simple challenge: trust completely even when it seems hopeless. Trust always and in every situation. Call to the Lord when we fail and when we fall. Keep asking the Lord to help us. All of this is so simple and even small children realize its truth.

For sure there is a punishment for those who cause others to sin and there is a sorting out of the weeds and the evils at the end of time. We are all guilty and so we belong to that category as well. We need not fear. God love is a consuming fire and will purify us with love if we only call out to Him. Let us practice calling on the Lord today and always.

http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2017/07/23/1720615/why-let-bad-mix-good

 

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