28 July. Saturday, Week 16

1st Reading: Jeremiah (7:1-11)

Words and ceremonies also demand social justice

The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: Stand in the gate of the Lord’s house, and proclaim there this word, and say, Hear the word of the Lord, all you people of Judah, you that enter these gates to worship the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: Amend your ways and your doings, and let me dwell with you in this place. Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”
For if you truly amend your ways and your doings, if you truly act justly one with another, if you do not oppress the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own hurt, then I will dwell with you in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your ancestors forever and ever.
Here you are, trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery, swear falsely, make offerings to Baal, and go after other gods that you have not known, and then come and stand before me in this house, which is called by my name, and say, “We are safe!”, only to go on doing all these abominations? Has this house, which is called by my name, become a den of robbers in your sight? You know, I too am watching, says the Lord.

Resp. Psalm (Ps 84)

R./: How lovely is your dwelling place, Lord, God of power and might

My soul yearns and pines
for the courts of the Lord.
My heart and my flesh
cry out for the living God. (R./)
Even the sparrow finds a home,
and the swallow a nest
in which she puts her young—
Your altars, O Lord of hosts,
my king and my God! (R./)
Blessed they who dwell in your house!
continually they praise you.
Blessed the men whose strength you are!
They go from strength to strength. (R./)
I had rather one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I had rather lie at the threshold of the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew (13:24-30)

If wheat and weeds grow together, only the wheat will be gathered in God’s barn

Jesus told another parable to the crowds: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”


Social justice as an ethical need

In true prophetic style Jeremiah’s temple sermon insists that ritual must be balanced by practical morality. Then the gospel sounds a cautionary note to restrain us in our condemnation of others. The Covenant was at the heart of the Mosaic Torah, and its obligations are summed up in the Ten Commandments (Exod 20:1-17). But then a huge body of ritual instructions were added, which for some of the Jews seemed to become the main sign of religious fidelity.
Jeremiah insists that rituals, no matter how sacred, cannot save and sanctify, unless accompanied by a life of justice and true devotion. As if to mimic the superstitious reliance on ritual, the prophet repeats three times, “The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord! The temple of the Lord!” Church ceremony and daily life also ought to complement and reinforce each other. Social injustice, as Jesus repeats in another prophetic occasion, makes God’s house into a “den of thieves” (Matthew 21:13).
Today’s gospel advises patience and hope, in face of wrongdoing by others. If weeds are detected in a wheat field and the prophet-servants want to go out and pull them up, the master says, “No! If you pull up the weeds and you might take the wheat along with them.” It is not that God tolerates evil forever, but allows plenty of time for the harvest to be properly brought home.

What to do with the weeds

The Lord contrasts the attitude of the former who sowed wheat-seed in his field with that of his servants. When weeds appeared among the wheat his servants, their instinct was to dig up the weeds so as to have a field of pure wheat. The farmer’s instinct was different. In a sense, he was more tolerant of the weeds. He suggests letting both wheat and weeds grow until the harvest time, and then they can be separated. He was a patient man; he knew he would eventually get his wheat without the weeds . In the meantime, the wheat would have to live with the weeds. He didn’t have the zeal of his servants to purify his field immediately, drastically.
In this parable Jesus is saying something about ourselves– about the church and the individual disciples who make up the church. Jesus seems to be acknowledging that the church will be a mixture of the good and the not-so-good up until the end of time, when all that is not of God will disappear. As individuals, we too will remain a mixture of light and shade until we are fully conformed to the image of God’s Son in the next life. Yes, we are all the time trying to grow more fully into God’s Son. Yet, we have to accept that sin will always be part of our lives, this side of eternity. Like the farmer in the parable, the Lord is patient with us. We need to be patient with ourselves and with each other. This is not complacency; it is simply the realistic recognition that we are all a work in progress. God has begun a good work in our lives, and even if will never be completed in this life, God will bring his good work to completion in eternity.

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