July 27. Friday of Week Sixteen

Jer 3:14ff. Israel and Judah will be united and all nations will assemble at Jerusalem.

Matt. 13:18ff. Jesus offers a detailed explanation of the parable of the sower.

Fundamentals of Religion

Jeremiah calls for strong family spirit that unites people in sincerity, in God. These basic virtues are so ingrained in human nature that it hardly seems necessary to make them the object of a new or special revelation. Every legal code throughout the world condemns stealing, killing, adultery and blasphemy. It is a healthy exercise to realize the earthy roots and universal appeal of biblical religion, just as good for our well-being as physical exercise and manual work. Biblical religion does not centre on visions and miracles, or secret rules and mystifying ceremonies. Just as Micah calls us to “do justice and love goodness, and walk humbly with your God” (Mic 6:8), Isaiah’s call is just as down to earth, “Cease doing evil; learn to do good. Make justice your aim; redress the wronged, hear the orphan’s plea, defend the widow” (Isa 1:16).

Any religious system that requires denial of common sense or requires superhuman heroism on a daily basis runs counter to the earthy quality of biblical religion. Long before the Word of God became incarnate in the person of Jesus, God’s word had implanted itself in the earthly setting and human history of the people Israel. They were strongly knit together and possessed an exceptionally firm tribal loyalty. This tribal bond dictated many of the customs and practices of the people, detailing the obligations of kinship. They hope for an eventual reunion of all Israel and Judah, under a single shepherd endowed with the human virtues of prudence and wisdom.

But alongside the earthy setting of biblical religion, no world religion stresses the mercy of God as much as the Bible; no set of commandments looks after resident aliens as the Bible does. If it foresees a reunion of Israel and Judah, it also reaches out to include other nations. The parables of Jesus challenge us to be generous in sharing our possessions. There is an overall generosity about the Bible which makes Israel the centre of God’s hopes for the world.

First Reading: Jeremiah 3:14-17

Return, O faithless children, says the Lord, for I am your master; I will take you, one from a city and two from a family, and I will bring you to Zion. I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding. And when you have multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, says the Lord, they shall no longer say, “The Ark of the Covenant of the Lord.” It shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made.

At that time Jerusalem shall be called the throne of the Lord, and all nations shall gather to it, to the presence of the Lord in Jerusalem, and they shall no longer stubbornly follow their own evil will.

Gospel: Matthew 13:18-23

“Hear then the parable of the sower. When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what is sown in the heart; this is what was sown on the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet such a person has no root, but endures only for a while, and when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, that person immediately falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the lure of wealth choke the word, and it yields nothing. But as for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

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