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Monday – Seventeenth Week – OT2
Readings: Jer 13:1-11; Mt 13:31-35.
Reading 1 (Jer 13:1-11):
The LORD said to me: Go buy yourself a linen loincloth;
wear it on your loins, but do not put it in water.
I bought the loincloth, as the LORD commanded, and put it on.
A second time the word of the LORD came to me thus:
Take the loincloth which you bought and are wearing,
and go now to the Parath;
there hide it in a cleft of the rock.
Obedient to the LORD’s command, I went to the Parath
and buried the loincloth.
After a long interval, the LORD said to me:
Go now to the Parath and fetch the loincloth
which I told you to hide there.
Again I went to the Parath, sought out and took the loincloth
from the place where I had hid it.
But it was rotted, good for nothing!
Then the message came to me from the LORD:
Thus says the LORD:
So also I will allow the pride of Judah to rot,
the great pride of Jerusalem.
This wicked people who refuse to obey my words,
who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts,
and follow strange gods to serve and adore them,
shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing.
For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins,
so had I made the whole house of Israel
and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the LORD;
to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty.
But they did not listen.
Gospel (Mt 13:31-35):
Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'”
He spoke to them another parable.
“The Kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.
Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: Faith must be increased, if not, it shall be decreased and lost.
Faith is a priceless gift which God gives to people through preaching of preachers. People’s duty is to make their faith to grow stronger everyday. To help their faith to grow, suffering is necessary. If there is no suffering, people have no opportunity to show their faith in God.
Today readings use three different images to highlight the necessary of staying close to God if people don’t want their faith to be decreased and lost. In the first reading, God commanded the prophet Jeremiah to buy a linen waistcloth and to hide it in a cleft of the rock in Euphrates. After a while, he commanded the prophet to come and to take it back; but it was rotted. This symbolic action implied that the Judahites and the Israelites are like the waistcloth; if they wasn’t clung around their owner, the Lord, they shall be rotten and useless. In the Gospel, Jesus gave his audience two examples on faith. It is compared like a mustard seed, though it is a smallest in all seeds; but when it grows, it becomes a big tree so that birds of the air come and dwell in its branches. Faith is also liken as yeast; it can rise three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.
1/ Reading I: Israel was liken as the linen waistcloth.
Men of old time didn’t wear trousers as we do today; instead, they used a long cloth to wrap around their loins. Looking up to the cross, we see Jesus also wrapped a waistcloth around his loins according to the Jewish tradition. The purpose of the passage wants to say that the valuable waistcloth must be wrapped around its owner as the Israelites must be to their God.
1.1/ Euphrates (600 miles) or Pharan (4 miles)? After the prophet Jeremiah bought the linen waistcloth and wrapped around his loin, God commanded him to unwrap it and to go to Euphrates region (Babylon of old and Iraq today) and hid it in a cleft of a rock there. The hidden waistcloth is useless because it is no longer used by its owner. This image is used to forewarn the exile of the Judahites to Babylon in 587 B.C.
There are two different opinions about the location where the waistcloth was hidden. One opinion said the location is Pharan which was only about four miles from Anathoth (Jeremiah’s residency) to the northeast. Aquila followed this opinion because he said that Euphrates of Babylon is too far for a person to walk. The prophet must walk 600 miles to hide the waistcloth and walk another 600 miles to take it back. The Septuagint thought the hidden place is Euphrates in Babylon because this is a place which the Israelites shall be on exile. The Septuagint’s opinion has a more sound reason. However, it is only a symbolic action, this passage can be understood as a parable.
1.2/ The meaning of the passage: This must be a lesson for the Israelites. The prophet wanted to say that the Israelites are like the linen waistcloth which must be clung to their owner, who is God; but if they are so prideful and deny to live close to God, they shall be on exile in a foreign land and destroyed as the useless waistcloth.
Due to their pride, the Israelites denied to listen to God through prophets’ oracles; they wanted to act according to their own will, not to God’s will. They turned their back to God and chased after foreign gods and worshipped them. The prophet wanted to tell them that if they want to be God’s famous nation, His praise and glory, they must cling to God as the waistcloth; but they denied to listen to him.
Therefore, “Thus says the Lord: So also I will allow the pride of Judah to rot, the great pride of Jerusalem. This wicked people who refuse to obey my words, who walk in the stubbornness of their hearts, and follow strange gods to serve and adore them, shall be like this loincloth which is good for nothing. For, as close as the loincloth clings to a man’s loins, so had I made the whole house of Israel and the whole house of Judah cling to me, says the Lord; to be my people, my renown, my praise, my beauty. But they did not listen.”
2/ Gospel: The mystery of the kingdom of heaven is compared as:
2.1/ A mustard seed: In Palestine, a seed of mustard can become a 3 or 4 meters tree, not like a mustard seed of the Oriental region which can only become vegetable. The main point which Jesus wanted to emphasize is that though it is the smallest in all seeds but it has potential to become a big tree so that birds of the sky can make their nests in its branches.
Our faith is liken as a mustard seed by Jesus (Mt 17:20), though small but with God’s strength, it can move a mountain. Nothing is impossible to the one who has a strong faith in God. The kingdom of heaven is compared as many small mustard seeds which could be many trees and give many seeds for many more trees, etc. There shall be a day when the earth is full of mustard trees. Like that, the kingdom of heaven begins with the faith of one person, and then is spread out to many until the earth is full of believers.
2.2/ A yeast for flour: Three measures of wheat flour are enough to feed one family.
To bakers, they can recognize the importance of yeast. If they bake flour without yeast, the flour shall turn out like “fortune cookies” which can feed only a person; but if they use yeast and let the flour to rise to the maximum before baking, they shall become loaves which can feed a whole family.
Like the parable of the mustard seed, the kingdom of heaven is compared like a hand of yeast, though began with a small number of apostles and disciples, but when it is spread out, it becomes numerous and immeasurable. The number of believers today is about half of the population of the world.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Our life is only meaningful when we closely connect with God, the more we live far away from God the more meaningless is our life.
– Our faith is from God and the contribution of our ancestors like a mustard seed exists is because of the previous tree. Our duty is to continue to help faith to extend to the end of the earth.
– Our faith needs to grow by God’s words and sacraments; if not, it shall be decreased and lost. A strong faith can help us to do all things.
– Our faith needs to be nourished and supported by local church and the univesal Church so that it can stand firm before trials and temptations of life.