Isaiah 56: 1,6-7 – Romans 11: 13-15 – Matthew 15: 21-28
For the most part, I suspect, many of us do not like things that are different or strange or foreign. We prefer to stay with what is safe and comfortable, to stay in our own cocoons. Thus, the incident that was recorded in the gospel of Saint Matthew, that was read today may have been strange to those who heard it. The tradition is that St. Matthew addressed his gospel account to those who were of Jewish background. What Matthew wrote has an element of an understanding that could be identified with the words of Isaiah which we also heard. Isaiah recognized that there would be others, not of the Covenant tradition, who would acknowledge the God of the Covenant and were to be accepted.
In this account, however, we can easily understand the reaction of the Apostles, and of Jesus. The Apostles wanted to send this annoying and foreign woman away. Jesus, initially points out that his ministry was directed to the Chosen People of that Covenant with God. It is just because of those reaction, I believe, that Matthew included this incident. It not only called upon his listeners to open up their hearts and minds, it also calls upon us, who hear it today, to open up, as well, our minds, our hearts, our own way of thinking.
In a rather humorous manner, this foreign woman persists in her request. What this points out is that more must be considered than the superficial elements of her difference, her being foreign. The initial reaction of Jesus is overcome by the faith and the trust that she placed in Jesus and what he would be able to do for her. It was not what the woman was on the surface that was important, but who she was in her belief and her confidence in Jesus.
How we can experience the revelation of God’s presence and action in our lives can often be found in unusual and unexpected circumstances. It can be found even in what might be considered different, uncomfortable, or even foreign. It is not just a matter of what we might hear or what we might say. It is how we respond that is significant. It is not just taking the love and presence of God for granted in situations or circumstances that are familiar and comfortable. It is how we react to what is challenging or difficult that is important.
As I mentioned earlier, Isaiah proclaimed that foreigners, those who did not benefit like the chosen People, can be a source who teach, a source by which we can learn how to know the goodness of God. Paul, too, recognized what he had gained in his life. Although he was saddened by the rejection of Jesus by his own people of the Jewish tradition, he realized that it opened the door for him to preach the Good News, the Gospel, to the non-Jews, the Gentiles he was addressing.
Every day and each day, every one of us, no matters our age or experience today, is offered the opportunity, some of which may not be comfortable or familiar, to experience the active and loving presence of our God. Rather than lament what was and is no longer, or what could have been, rather than viewing in a negative way what might be difficult or foreign, we need to realize the challenge, the opportunity that each day, each experience, each person, offers to us. In what might seem to be a simple incident in the day of the life of Jesus, that Saint Matthew deemed important enough to include in what he wrote, we are called to explore every opportunity to experience, to know and to appreciate the richness and wonder of our good and gracious God.
1 Kings 19: 9a, , 111-13 – Romans 9: 1-5 – Matthew 14: 22-33
There are times when what we hear from the Scriptures, God’s communication with us as a part of our celebration of the Mass, require us to dig a little deeper to appreciate the message. Then there are times when the message is quite evident. Today is one of those latter instances.
In the story that we heard today from the Book of Kings of the Old Testament, Elijah encounters the Lord, but not in ways that might be expected. The Lord is not in a strong and fearful wind. The Lord is not in an earthquake. The Lord is not in fire. It is in a gentle wind that the Lord is experienced. The Lord’s presence is portrayed as a cooling breeze on a hot day, a refreshing and reviving presence.
In the gospel account, Saint Matthew portrays a similar image, but it starts with a stormy wind. As we heard, the Apostles are out in a boat when the wind starts to toss them about causing them to be gripped with fear. In the midst of all of this, the Lord appear. He is a calming vision in the midst of the storm.
Both images are rather obvious and are also especially pertinent right now. Certainly in all of our lives little would be more disturbing or disrupting than the experience of these last few months and the world-wide pandemic. While we might focus on our own particular situation and how we are each affected, the experience has clearly touched every part of the world in some way. At the same time we can also look at other aspects of our lives that make it seem as if a tempest or a storm is striking us. Our lives can feel like they are filled with the earthquakes of upsetting and tragic events. There can be the fires of strong and disheartening conflicts, or the stormy winds of illness, suffering and injustice. We can feel ourselves tossed about aimlessly in the ship of life.
In the midst of all of this, the Lord comes to us as a calming presence. Frequently, like the Apostles, we do not recognize the Lord, thinking the Lord to be a phantom or a ghost, an unknown, even adding to our fear. But our Faith tells us that the Lord is with us, even in the midst of a storm. The Lord comes as one who reaches out to us, as one to whom we can reach out in return.
In addition to asking the Lord to be with us, there is another question that can arise. As believers, as practitioners of our Faith in the God and in Jesus Christ, the encounter with God which has been described today is to be an experience that others find in us. The softness of the breeze, the calming of the storm, are to be guides to us in how we choose to live our lives. But, indeed, this can be even more of a challenge to us. It is a challenge to show forth the peace, the loving-kindness, the mercy, the forgiveness that the Scriptures portrays to us. It is a challenge to recognize that this is not only what we can experience in our own relationship with God, but also what we are to reflect to others in our lives if we sincerely seek to live out the Gospel message of Jesus Christ.
So it is that we can ask ourselves: Do others – family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, store clerks and so may others – all of whom we encounter from day to day, encounter in us, the good and gracious God?
1 Kings 3: 5, 7-12 – Romans 8: 28-30 – Matthew 13: 44-46
I do not know how, in the time to come, in the years to come, we will look back on this year, these last few months, that we have been going through. I do not know what story will be told to those who did not experience them. But, I do know this. I do know that the parables and examples Jesus uses, such as we have heard today, took on a deeper and richer meaning during the two months that public Masses were suspended, and with no obligation to attend since we have started ups again
The treasure that we have found and the pearl of great price that is ours have greater meaning not only in the gift of the Eucharist we share, but also in the gift that is the presence of one another here. This has become so much more evident to me and has been an inspiration, a strengthening and reinforcement of my Faith.
So, as we have come together today, what have we heard from God through the message of the Scriptures we have heard? Simply stated, it is a response to the invitation God makes to us that is sought. We are invited to choose to make known the great value of the active presence in our lives of the relationship we enjoy with our loving God.
The thoughts of Saint Paul that we heard are a starting point. All things, even the most difficult, work for the good of those who love God. We are called upon to recognize God’s purpose, God’s intent, in creation. This is what is offered to us who share the gift of Faith that has been handed down to us in different ways, and in different circumstances.What is God’s intent? To be known, to be acknowledged by us and through us.
Coupled with these more theological reflections of Saint Paul is the stunning example given by Solomon. He is assured of God’s love for him. He is given the opportunity to choose what he seeks for himself. Of all the possibilities open to him, benefits for himself that he could have wanted, such as a long life, the defeat of his enemies or untold riches, he desires understanding, a wisdom to judge right and wrong, so that he could carry out what was his role in life: being a fitting ruler of his people. So, too, we all have the chance to choose how best we are to live our own roles in life.
We can understand that Jesus is reminding us of much the same idea. The kingdom of God available to us is really an extension of God’s love for us shown in Jesus Christ. But we must respond to this offer. It is our choice. Do we value being part of that abiding presence of God in our lives like a treasure which we might conceal, or a valuable pearl for which we sell everything we might have in order to possess?
In some ways these images from ancient Scriptures have taken on a new meaning for me. It is my hope that you can join me in recognizing that this particular time we are experiencing is a true opportunity to express a renewed, a deepened, a strengthened faith in a truly good and gracious God.
Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19 – Romans 8: 26-27 – Matthew 13: 24-30
Along with the parish maintenance personnel, I join in appreciation for the encouraging comments made about the appearance of the parish grounds. For myself, I see working on the property as a type of parable in itself. God has given us the beauty of creation. We work with that creation in a way to enhance this little part of it that we have been given. This is a reminder of the idea that we work in union with God to do the best that we can with the possibilities given to beautify he gift of life we have all received.
As to the particular parable we heard from Jesus today, I have to admit that my immediate reaction would be to side with the workers who wanted tear out the weeds that had appeared. They wanted to do it immediately. But we ca gain deeper insight into the lesson Jesus is proposing when the thoughts found in the reading from the Book of Wisdom are considered. That message to us is about God’s actions on our behalf.
We all realize that in the course of our living weeds appear along the way. We fail, we distance ourselves from God in various ways. Rather than immediately being condemned for such failures, our loving God patiently waits for us to grow and mature. Like wheat that grows to be ready for a bountiful harvest. The weeds will be eliminated, and discarded at that point.
So, we know that weeds know that weeds are present in our lives, what can we learn from them? First, that our lives are journeys. We still have work to do to realize the potential that is there if we truly wish to reflect godliness in our lives. Second, the Spirit of God, as St. Paul tells us, is with us. We are not alone in the journey of our lives. We van live in a partnership with our loving God. We can work with the Spirit of God to overcome barriers, to remove obstacle that we so often set up in our relationship with God, with others, and even with ourselves.
Weeds represent the continual struggles we have with ourselves. But they also point to the loving mercy of God that is available to us. In a prayer on the most solemn night of the Church’s year, the Easter Vigil, the following words are heard: “O felix culpa,” “O happy fault.” A humble acknowledgment of our failures gained for us a closer enduring relationship with God in the redeeming life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
In a particular way this is brought home to us in our Catholic faith in the beauty of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, Confession. The celebration of the Sacrament is a specific opportunity to confront ourselves with our failures and to be reassured by another of the love and mercy of our God. In our lives and in the life of the Church that we are, weeds are present. But, more importantly, we are sacramentally assured in our Faith of the trust we have in the mercy and forgiveness of our good and gracious God.