17th Week in Ord. Time, Tuesday – 27th July 2021 — Gospel: Mt 13,36-43
The Righteous Shine Like the Light
The parable focuses on the final judgement: the judgement of God ‘at the end of the age’. This judgement transcends all boundaries of space and time. Harvest-time is a frequent image for the last judgement in both the OT and the NT. The image of fire is used for the punishment of sin (Mt 3,10.12; 5,22; 7,19), which denotes suffering in ‘the age to come’ (12,32). The terrible finality of God’s judgement highlights that only the truth matters. If the present truth is that we are caught up in sin, and we admit it and seek God’s mercy and forgiveness, he will heal us. If we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge our sin, all we can expect is to continue living a life now and to end up destroying our lives. In both we are called to repentance while there is still time. All evildoers, including Jesus’ disciples, will suffer the same fate as unbelieving Israel. While the true disciples, designated as “the righteous” will share the divine glory, and will be transformed into beings of light (Dan 12,3). The allegorical interpretation seems to shift the parable’s center of gravity from the need for patience and tolerance with the weeds to the fearful judgement to come.
17th Week in Ord. Time, Monday – 26th July 2021 — Gospel: Mt 13,31-35
Triumph of God’s Dominion
Often the two parables of the mustard seed and the yeast have been sadly reduced to remarkable growth arising from insignificant beginnings. The parable of the mustard seed is set among the parables emphasizing abundant harvests. But this parable focuses on the shrub that is sturdy enough to house the nests of birds. This idea overlooks the parabolic difficulties it poses, because to say it becomes the “greatest of shrubs” is faint praise and to call it a “tree” can be hyperbolic irony. For the growth of the mustard seed is closer to being a weed than wheat or tree. The better choice is the cedar tree. Eze 17,23 states that the “noble cedar” provides the kind of shelter the birds’ need. Therefore Jesus is providing a stark and surprising contrast here. In the same way, the parable of the yeast could be said as misnamed. What Jesus is talking about is the functioning of leaven which is rotting, molding a lump of bread, while yeast remains always small in quantity. The image of yeast is a negative symbol of corruption (Mt 16,6; cfr.1 Cor 5,8). Therefore the parable suggests that opposition may come even from within. The only thing more astounding in this parable is that the woman uses “three measures” of wheat, enough to make bread to feed more than 100 people. Jesus’ usage of these two images seems more contrary to the realities and cultural perspectives. Yet the mustard seed and leaven parables highlight the ultimate triumph of God’s dominion. The dominion of God is being present in hidden and unexpected ways, and proves sometimes beyond worldly standards and scandalous ways.