One of the beauties of Ordinary Time is the opportunity to “play the long game” when it comes understanding Jesus and his teachings. We literally journey with Jesus and the Apostles during his mission to spread the Word, and because many of our readings pick up where we left off the previous week, we have an opportunity to learn as we go, much like the Apostles themselves.
The Word for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm: 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Our first reading comes from the Book of Wisdom. This book, coming about 50 years before Christ (most likely from the Jewish Community of Alexandria) served, like most of the wisdom books, as a kind of “catechism” for the faithful. Our passage this week reminds us that God is both mighty and benevolent. In fact, the text goes to great lengths to say that this might comes from his benevolence. Not only has God taught us what good (through The Law), he gives us the opportunity to repent… to change our ways least we be judged by our sins. Our Psalm reflects God’s goodness and forgiveness.
This idea of giving us time to repent is also reflected in our Gospel from Matthew. Picking up where we left off last Sunday (with Jesus teaching us about parables), Jesus tells us the parable of the Weeds Among The Wheat. In a story that is unique to the gospel of Matthew, and enemy has sown weeds among the freshly planted wheat. When the master’s slaves see the weeds growing among the wheat, they ask if they should pull them out, but the master warns them that by doing so, they could uproot the wheat as well. Instead, he instructs them to let the weeds grow, and come harvest they can separate the wheat from the weeds, gathering the wheat into his barn, and burning the weeds. In the longer version of this week’s gospel, Jesus continues with the parable of the mustard seed, and the parable of the yeast. Then again like last week’s gospel, we are reminded why Jesus has chosen to teach using parables, and takes this opportunity to explain the parable of the weeds to his disciples (and us).
Jesus’ explanation of the parable is straight forward enough… even we can follow… the weeds are children of evil and are sent to be burned, while the wheat is gathered into God’s kingdom. What Jesus doesn’t explain, however, is why they wait until the harvest to separate the good from the bad… or does he? The other two parables give us the explanation. The parable of the mustard seed shows us that the least among us can be the greatest, while the parable of the yeast shows us that the yeast can cause the entire loaf to rise. In other words, when good flourishes, it can be an example to others. As reflected in our passage from the Book of Wisdom, God is merciful, and gives us every opportunity for repentance… but only until the harvest.
Our second reading continues our study of Paul’s letter to the Romans. Picking up near where we left off last week (that through the Spirit we are redeemed), this week’s short passage, though short, gives us a lot to think about. According to the text, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, but we don’t know how to pray as we ought?” Then the text tells us “the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones…” In short, the Spirit knows our needs, even though we may not know them ourselves, and further, the Spirit knows our hearts.