31 July 2023 – Monday of Week 17

31 July 2023 – Monday of Week 17

Memorial: St Ignatius of Loyola 1491-1556, Spanish, founder of the Jesuits, wrote the Spiritual Exercises.

1st Reading: Exodus 32:15-24 etc

Despite the scandal of the golden calf, Moses leads his people on toward the Promised Land

Then Moses turned and went down from the mountain, carrying the two tablets of the covenant in his hands, tablets that were written on both sides, written on the front and on the back. The tablets were the work of God, and the writing was the writing of God, engraved upon the tablets. When Joshua heard the noise of the people as they shouted, he said to Moses, “There is a noise of war in the camp.” But he said, “It is not the sound made by victors, or the sound made by losers; it is the sound of revellers that I hear.” As soon as he came near the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, Moses’ anger burned hot, and he threw the tablets from his hands and broke them at the foot of the mountain. He took the calf that they had made, burned it with fire, ground it to powder, scattered it on the water, and made the Israelites drink it.

Moses said to Aaron, “What did this people do to you that you have brought so great a sin upon them?” And Aaron said, “Do not let the anger of my lord burn hot; you know the people, that they are bent on evil. They said to me, ‘Make us gods, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.’ So I said to them, ‘Whoever has gold, take it off’ so they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and out came this calf !”

On the next day Moses said to the people, “You have sinned a great sin. But now I will go up to the Lord; perhaps I can make atonement for your sin.” So Moses returned to the Lord and said, “Alas, this people has sinned a great sin; they have made for themselves gods of gold. But now, if you will only forgive their sin, but if not, blot me out of the book that you have written.” But the Lord said to Moses, “Whoever ha sinned against me I will blot out of my book. But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; see, my angel shall go in front of you. Nevertheless, when the day comes for punishment, I will punish them for their sin.”

Responsorial: Psalm 105:19-23

R./: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good

They fashioned a calf at Horeb
and worshipped an image of metal,
exchanging the God who was their glory
for the image of a bull that eats grass. (R./)

They forgot the God who was their saviour,
who had done such great things in Egypt,
such portents in the land of Ham,
such marvels at the Red Sea. (R./)

For this he said he would destroy them,
but Moses, the man he had chosen,
stood there in the breach before him,
to turn back his anger from destruction. (R./)

Gospel: Matthew 13:31-35

By parables Jesus reveals things hidden since the creation of the world

He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Jesus told the crowds all these things in parables; without a parable he told them nothing. This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth to speak in parables; I will proclaim what has been hidden from the foundation of the world.”


Healed and purified

As life moves along, earlier sins seem to meet with their nemesis. Even though God did not immediately punish the people for worshipping the golden calf with lustful revelry, he says that in due time they will be punished. Yet, the story does not end here, for there is another aspect of the mystery of salvation, “hidden since the creation of the world,” to be revealed in the parables of Jesus.

Jesus spoke about matters “hidden since the foundation of the world,” quoting from the opening lines of Psalm 78, “Listen, my people, to my teaching… I will utter mysteries from of old.” This long psalm recounts the history of Israel, from the Exodus to the choice of David as king and of Mount Zion as the sacred site of the temple. The story about Moses and the golden calf becomes a part of God’s eternal mystery of mercy and salvation, hidden since the creation of the world.

Exodus reminds us more than once that God is faithful even to the thousandth generation. Yet in today’s reading God says, “I will punish them for their sins.” If we link Jesus’ parables with this statement, it seems to speak of purification. Because “Israel,” each of us as God’s chosen people, contains the high potential of the mustard seed, the mystery of good life is also developing within us. Goodness will triumph. The healthy body (God’s mystery of yeast and mustard seed,) will eject the poison (sin and the memory of evil deeds). At the end we shall be found cleansed, healed and purified.

Planting a mustard-seed

The two parables today reflect the effect of Jesus’ ministry. His work in Galilee is like the mustard seed and the leaven. It is on a small scale and seemed unpromising. Jesus has not been sweeping all before him. He has been going about his work quietly without fanfare. Yet, these small beginnings are the promise of something wonderful to come, just as the mustard seed becomes a tree where the birds of the air build their nests and the tiny leaven has a huge impact on three measures of flower.

Humble beginnings can have a great outcome if what is attempted a work for God. The Lord encourage us to keep doing the little bit of good we are able to do. It may not seem much in our own eyes or in the eyes of others, yet God can work powerfully through whatever little good we do, in ways that will surprise us. We can plant the equivalent of the mustard seed; we can all be like the leaven. The little initiative, the small gesture, the offer of help, can bear fruit in ways we might not imagine. Our smallest efforts are worthwhile if done for love of him. Our calling is to plant some good seed and to trust that the Lord will do the rest.

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