Gospel for Sunday, July 23: Matthew 13:24-43
XVI Sunday A
24He told them another parable, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25But while everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed darnel in the midst of the wheat and went away. 26When then the stalk grew and bore fruit, the darnel sprang up also. 27Then the servants went to the master of the house and said to him, “Lord, have you not sown good seed in your field? Where did the darnel come from?” 28And he answered them, “An enemy has done this!” And the servants said to him, “Do you want us to go and gather it?” 29“No,” he answered, “lest it happen that in gathering the weeds you also uproot the wheat with it. 30Let the one and the other grow together until the harvest, and at the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, ‘Gather the darnel first and bind it in bundles to burn it; the wheat, on the other hand, store it in my barn.'” 31Exposed to them another parable, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field. 32It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown, it is larger than the other plants in the garden and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
33He told them another parable, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and mixed into three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.” 34All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables and did not speak to them except in parables, 35so that what had been spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled: I will open my mouth in parables, I will proclaim things hidden from the foundation of the world. 36Then he dismissed the crowd and went into the house; his disciples came up to him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares in the field.” 37And he answered, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38The field is the world and the good seed is the children of the Kingdom. The darnel is the children of the Evil One 39and the enemy who sowed it is the devil. The harvest is the end of the world and the reapers are the angels. 40As therefore the darnel is gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. 41The Son of Man will send his angels, who will gather out of his kingdom all scandals and all who commit iniquity 42and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43Then the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s kingdom. He who has ears, let him hear!”
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Misericordie, I am Carlo Miglietta, doctor, biblical scholar, layman, husband, father and grandfather (www.buonabibbiaatutti.it).
Also today I share with you a short meditation thought on the Gospel, with special reference to the theme of mercy.
Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel is entirely constructed from parables. Six times the formula recurs: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”; ten times the noun “parables” (i.e., simile, comparison) recurs; eight times the expression “Kingdom of Heaven” occurs.
The parable of the sower dominates all the others: the kingdom of God is the seed, the boat is the symbol of the believers’ mission, the soils are us. There are seven parables (not coincidentally): that of the sower is the most important and the others correspond to the four types of soils or people who are called to listen: the tares, the mustard seed, the leaven, the treasure, the pearl and the net.
In today’s passage (Mt 13:24-43) we have three parables and Jesus’ explanation to his disciples of the first parable.
The first parable is that of God’s patience. So many times we would like God to intervene to chastise sinners even now, to destroy tyrants and oppressors. It was the great crisis of the early Christian community: the “saints of God,” the “elect” experience evil, sin, indeed death itself, without having seen the Lord’s coming. “Mocking mockers” begin to say, “Where is the promise of his coming? From the day our fathers closed their eyes everything remains as at the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:3-4). And various answers are attempted: “The Lord does not tarry in fulfilling his promise, as some believe; but he uses patience toward you, not willing that any should perish, but that all should have opportunity to repent” (2 Pet 3:9); “We beseech you, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ…, not to be so easily confounded or troubled in mind and alarmed either by inspirations or speeches, or by some letter passed off as ours, as if the day of the Lord were already present. Let no one deceive you in any way! For first the apostasy must take place and the unrighteous man, the son of perdition, must be revealed” (2 Thess 2:1-8): this text announces that before the arrival of the Lord there will be apostasy and an unidentified “unrighteous man,” the “son of perdition,” whom tradition will later call the Antichrist, must be revealed.
The great teaching of this Gospel passage is that we must learn to live immersed in a world that is steeped in iniquity, injustice, and evil. With humility, without justicialistic ambitions, but in the certainty that in the end the Lord will set things right and that there will only be more of a Kingdom of peace, of beauty, of justice, of love.
The second and third parables remind us that the Church, while anticipating the Kingdom, must never lose its awareness of being a minority, of being the “remnant of Israel” (Is 10:20): Jesus speaks of them as the “mustard seed” (Mt 13:31), the “leaven” (Mt 13:33), the “salt of the earth” (Mt 5:13), the “little flock” (Lk 12:32), all images that refer to a dimension of modesty, humility, smallness.
“In society the “weight” of Catholics is no longer that of a majority. We observe an objective loss of influence and often a cultural discredit. Social life takes place “as if God did not exist.” In a minority situation many feel the need to better delineate their identity and to have signs of their difference from others. With the obvious danger of identity retreat, which threatens every religion of our time and arouses forms of fundamentalism. How to accept being a minority without becoming a cult? This is part of the challenge” (B. Chenu).
“This smallness may give rise to doubt and discouragement in the hearts of many. But it is a discouragement to be dispelled: salvation history is governed by the law of the “remnant of Israel,” that is, the small group of genuine believers in whom the Kingdom is implemented for the benefit of all. The small flock is invited not to fear. “Do not fear” (Lk 12:32): vigilance yes, readiness and commitment, but all in an atmosphere of great confidence. The Kingdom is given (the Father has “liked to give us the Kingdom”), it rests on his love and not on our performance: so no anxiety” (B. Maggioni).
Finally, Jesus speaks to his disciples about the “fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Mt 13:42). The images of the bliss of the righteous (“Kingdom,” “holy city coming down from heaven,” “wedding feast,”…) and the damnation of sinners (“darkness,” “hell,” “eternal fire,” “fiery furnace,” “Gheenna…” ) are literary genres, and should therefore be understood according to biblical language: they are not intended to describe to us concretely places or ways of happiness or suffering, but only to express that those who have chosen God, the source of life, will have life in fullness, with the most complete joy, will live with him and of him, contemplating him face to face (1 Cor. 13:12), immersed in his Love, while those who have consciously rejected him (but the Gospel does not tell us whether anyone really did . ..) have turned away from life, and set out on a path of death, of negativity. We must therefore accept the mystery as to “how” and “when”: “We ignore the time when the earth and humanity will come to an end, and we do not know the manner in which the universe will be transformed. It certainly passes the appearance of this world, deformed by sin. We do know, however, from revelation, that … happiness will superabundantly satiate all the desires for peace that rise in the hearts of men. Then, death having been conquered, the children of God will be raised in Christ, and what was sown in infirmity and corruption will be clothed in incorruption; and charity remaining with its fruits, all that reality which God created precisely for man will be freed from the bondage of vanity” (Gaudium et Spes, no. 39).
Happy Mercy to all!
Anyone who would like to read a more complete exegesis of the text, or some insights, please ask me at firstname.lastname@example.org.