Parables

The disciples approached Jesus and said,
“Why do you speak to the crowd in parables?”
He said to them in reply,
“Because knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven
has been granted to you, but to them it has not been granted.
To anyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich;
from anyone who has not, even what he has will be taken away.
This is why I speak to them in parables, because
they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.
Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says:

You shall indeed hear but not understand,
you shall indeed look but never see.
Gross is the heart of this people,
they will hardly hear with their ears,
they have closed their eyes,
lest they see with their eyes
and hear with their ears
and understand with their hearts and be converted
and I heal them.

“But blessed are your eyes, because they see,
and your ears, because they hear.
Amen, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people
longed to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”
(Matthew 13:10-17)

Scripture Study

13:11 Since a parable is figurative speech that demands reflection for understanding, only those who are prepared to explore its meaning can come to know it. To understand is a gift of God, granted to the disciples but not to the crowds. In Semitic fashion, both the disciples’ understanding and the crowd’s obtuseness are attributed to God. The question of human responsibility for the obtuseness is not dealt with, although it is asserted in Mt 13:13. The mysteries: as in Lk 8:10; Mk 4:11 has “the mystery.” The word is used in Dn 2:18, 19, 27 and in the Qumran literature (1Qp Heb 7:8; 1QS 3:23; 1QM 3:9) to designate a divine plan or decree affecting the course of history that can be known only when revealed. Knowledge of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven means recognition that the kingdom has become present in the ministry of Jesus.

13:12 In the New Testament use of this axiom of practical “wisdom” (see Mt 25:29; Mk 4:25; Lk 8:18; 19:26), the reference transcends the original level. God gives further understanding to one who accepts the revealed mystery; from the one who does not, he will take it away (note the “theological passive,” more will be given, what he has will be taken away).

13:13 Because ‘they look … or understand’: Matthew softens his Marcan source, which states that Jesus speaks in parables so that the crowds may not understand (Mk 4:12), and makes such speaking a punishment given because they have not accepted his previous clear teaching. However, his citation of Is 6:9–10 in Mt 13:14 supports the harsher Marcan view.

13:16–17 Unlike the unbelieving crowds, the disciples have seen that which the prophets and the righteous of the Old Testament longed to see without having their longing fulfilled.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today in our Gospel the disciples ask Jesus why he speaks to the crowds in parables.

Jesus is explaining the Kingdom of God in these provocative and puzzling stories and images that seemed to be his preferred way of preaching. And he replies to his disciples, “This is why I speak to them in parables, because ‘they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand.'” In other words, because the crowds refused to believe in him and what he has to say.

Many parables are strange and initially off-putting and puzzling. Of course, that is the point of parables: to bother us, throw us off base, confuse us a bit. How characteristic this was of Jesus’ preaching! He rarely lays things out in doctrinal form: he prefers to tell these puzzling, funny stories. Why? Because in many cases stories reveal truth that arguments can’t quite capture.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Everything for the Glory of God

Brothers and sisters:
We hold this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the surpassing power may be of God and not from us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not constrained;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not abandoned;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our body.
For we who live are constantly being given up to death
for the sake of Jesus,
so that the life of Jesus may be manifested in our mortal flesh.

So death is at work in us, but life in you.
Since, then, we have the same spirit of faith,
according to what is written, I believed, therefore I spoke,
we too believe and therefore speak,
knowing that the one who raised the Lord Jesus
will raise us also with Jesus
and place us with you in his presence.
Everything indeed is for you,
so that the grace bestowed in abundance on more and more people
may cause the thanksgiving to overflow for the glory of God.
(2 Corinthians 4:7-15)

Scripture Study

4:7 This treasure: the glory that he preaches and into which they are being transformed. In earthen vessels: the instruments God uses are human and fragile; some imagine small terracotta lamps in which light is carried.

4:8–9 A catalogue of his apostolic trials and afflictions. Yet in these the negative never completely prevails; there is always some experience of rescue, of salvation.

4:10–11 Both the negative and the positive sides of the experience are grounded christologically. The logic is similar to that of 2 Cor 1:3–11. His sufferings are connected with Christ’s, and his deliverance is a sign that he is to share in Jesus’ resurrection.

4:12–15 His experience does not terminate in himself, but in others (12, 15; cf. 2 Cor 1:4–5). Ultimately, everything is ordered even beyond the community, toward God (2 Cor 4:15; cf. 2 Cor 1:11).

4:13–14 Like the Psalmist, Paul clearly proclaims his faith, affirming life within himself despite death (2 Cor 4:10–11) and the life-giving effect of his experience upon the church (2 Cor 4:12, 14–15). And place us with you in his presence: Paul imagines God presenting him and them to Jesus at the parousia and the judgment; cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Rom 14:10.

4:16–18 In a series of contrasts Paul explains the extent of his faith in life. Life is not only already present and revealing itself (2 Cor 4:8–11, 16) but will outlast his experience of affliction and dying: it is eternal (2 Cor 4:17–18).

4:16 Not discouraged: i.e., despite the experience of death. Paul is still speaking of himself personally, but he assumes his faith and attitude will be shared by all Christians. Our outer self: the individual subject of ordinary perception and observation, in contrast to the interior and hidden self, which undergoes renewal. Is being renewed day by day: this suggests a process that has already begun; cf. 2 Cor 3:18. The renewal already taking place even in Paul’s dying is a share in the life of Jesus, but this is recognized only by faith (2 Cor 4:13, 18; 2 Cor 5:7).

Scripture Reflection

In contrast to the greatness of the Gospel—the “treasure” entrusted to them by God—St Paul emphasizes the limitations of its ministers: they are “earthen vessels.” To illustrate this he describes the afflictions and persecution to which he finds himself subjected and in which God’s grace always comes to his aid.

In some way these sufferings of the apostles and of all Christians reproduce in their lives the sufferings of Christ in his passion and death. In his case his suffering opened the way to his glorification after the Resurrection; similarly his servants, even in this life, are experiencing an anticipation of the life they will attain in heaven; this helps them overcome every kind of affliction.

St Paul’s attitude is a model for the kind of supernatural way the Christian should look at everything that happens to him; they should try to see events the way God does, and should concentrate ones’ attention on the things that cannot be seen. By doing this they will more easily recognize the difference between the fleetingness and insignificance of the good things of this life, and the solidity and permanence of heaven: “Let us drink to the last drop the chalice of pain in this poor present life. What does it matter to suffer for ten years, twenty, fifty … if afterwards there is heaven for ever, for ever, … for ever?” – St Josemaría Escrivá

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Something Greater

Some of the scribes and Pharisees said to Jesus,
“Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.”
He said to them in reply,
“An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign,
but no sign will be given it
except the sign of Jonah the prophet.
Just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale three days and three nights,
so will the Son of Man be in the heart of the earth
three days and three nights.
At the judgment, the men of Nineveh will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah;
and there is something greater than Jonah here.
At the judgment the queen of the south will arise with this generation
and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth
to hear the wisdom of Solomon;
and there is something greater than Solomon here.”
(Matthew 12:38-42)

Scripture Study

The scribes and Pharisees refuse to accept the exorcisms of Jesus as authentication of his claims and demand a sign that will end all possibility of doubt. Jesus’ response is that no such sign will be given. Because his opponents are evil and see him as an agent of Satan, nothing will convince them.

12:38 Teacher: for Matthew, this designation of Jesus is true, for he has Jesus using it of himself (Mt 10:24, 25; 23:8; 26:18), yet when it is used of him by others they are either his opponents (Mt 9:11; 12:38; 17:24; 22:16, 24, 36) or, as here and in Mt 19:16, well-disposed persons who cannot see more deeply. Thus it reveals an inadequate recognition of who Jesus is.

12:39 Unfaithful: literally, “adulterous.” The covenant between God and Israel was portrayed as a marriage bond, and unfaithfulness to the covenant as adultery; cf. Hos 2:4–14; Jer 3:6–10.

12:40 While the sign was simply Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites (Lk 11:30, 32), Matthew here adds Jonah’s sojourn in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, a prefigurement of Jesus’ sojourn in the abode of the dead and, implicitly, of his resurrection.

12:41–42 The Ninevites who repented (see Jon 3:1–10) and the queen of the south (i.e., of Sheba; see 1 Kgs 10:1–13) were pagans who responded to lesser opportunities than have been offered to Israel in the ministry of Jesus, something greater than Jonah or Solomon. At the final judgment they will condemn the faithless generation that has rejected him.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, today in our Gospel some Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign. And Jesus replies, “An evil and unfaithful generation seeks a sign, but no sign will be given it except the sign of Jonah the prophet,” who was in the belly of the whale for three days and nights.

Jonah was called by God to preach conversion to Nineveh, which is described as an enormously large city. It took, they said, three days to walk through it. I can’t help but think of Nineveh as one of our large, modern cities, a center of all sorts of worldly activity and preoccupation.

What would its conversion look like? A turning back to God as the only enduring good. After hearing the word of Jonah, the Ninevites “proclaimed a fast, and all of them, great and small, put on sackcloth.” What is the purpose of these ascetic practices? To wean people away from an attachment to worldly pleasures.

Go beyond the mind that you have. Repent. Live as though nothing in this world finally matters. And you will be living in the Kingdom of God!

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Inexpressible Groanings

Brothers and sisters:
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness;
for we do not know how to pray as we ought,
but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.
And the one who searches hearts
knows what is the intention of the Spirit,
because he intercedes for the holy ones
according to God’s will.
(Romans 8:26-27)

Scripture Study

8:26 the Spirit helps us: When distress makes prayer difficult, the Spirit makes our groaning and sighing (8:23) an impassioned prayer to the Father (CCC 2729–31, 2739).

8:27 intercedes for the saints: The same is said of the Son in 8:34. Both the Son and the Spirit request from the Father what we need, not necessarily what we want. The will of God for our life is the determining factor.

Scripture Reflection

In this passage Paul’s discussion of the role of the Spirit in Christian life comes to its climax. The third testimony to the new life and glorious destiny of Christians is borne by the Spirit itself. Human aspirations risk being inefficacious because of the natural weakness of the flesh dominated by sin and subject to death, but the Spirit aids by its intercession, transcending the weak human condition. Without the aid of the Spirit, even the prayer of justified and reconciled Christians can fail. Even in their intimate life with God Christians are weak, and as a remedy for this weakness the Spirit intervenes with assistance.

– Joseph A. Fitzmyer S.J.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Love of Christ Impels Us

Brothers and sisters:
The love of Christ impels us,
once we have come to the conviction that one died for all;
therefore, all have died.
He indeed died for all,
so that those who live might no longer live for themselves
but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh;
even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh,
yet now we know him so no longer.
So whoever is in Christ is a new creation:
the old things have passed away;
behold, new things have come.
(2 Corinthians 5:14-17)

Scripture Study

5:14 the love of Christ impels us: The sacrificial love of Christ displayed on the Cross was overwhelming to Paul as it should be to us (Rom 5:8). This same divine love is poured into our hearts through the Spirit (Rom 5:5) and urges us to spread it among others by word and example (Jn 15:12–13) (CCC 851).

5:15 no longer for themselves: Christians are born to a new life of grace that enables them to conquer selfishness and the tendency to live solely for private, personal interests. Purchased for God at the price of Christ’s blood (1 Cor 6:20), believers should strive to live the rest of their days for him (CCC 655, 1269).

5:16 according to the flesh: According to some, this implies that Paul knew the historical Jesus during his earthly ministry. More likely, Paul is claiming that life in the Spirit brings a new perception of things, more penetrating than natural reason (1 Cor 2:12–15). Whereas the crucified Christ appears dead and defeated from a human viewpoint, from a spiritual viewpoint his Cross is a powerful sign of victory and life.

5:17 a new creation: Baptism transfers us from the bondage of sin and slavery to the blessings of salvation and sonship. The New Covenant thus begins a new order in history where creation is steadily renewed, beginning with our souls and extending into every corner of the cosmos (Rom 8:19–25; Rev 21:1–5). Christ does not destroy the old order of creation but heals it, perfects it, and elevates it with supernatural life (CCC 1214, 1265). ● The prophets of Israel envisioned this renewal far in advance of Christ’s coming. Isaiah announced that Yahweh would restore the world, beginning with Israel (Is 42:6–9; 43:18–21; 65:17; 66:22). Other oracles foretold a return to the conditions of creation in Eden before sin and decay entered in (Is 51:3; Ezek 36:33–35).

Scripture Reflection

“The love of Christ impels us.” With these words, St Paul sums up what motivates his tireless apostolic activity, the love of Jesus. So immense is this love that it impels him to spend every minute of his life bringing this same love to all mankind. The love of Christ should also inspire all Christians to commit themselves to respond to Christ’s love, and it should fill them with a desire to bring to all souls the salvation won by Christ through a life modeled by His love.

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Lord of the Sabbath

Jesus was going through a field of grain on the sabbath.
His disciples were hungry
and began to pick the heads of grain and eat them.
When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him,
“See, your disciples are doing what is unlawful to do on the sabbath.”
He said to the them, “Have you not read what David did
when he and his companions were hungry,
how he went into the house of God and ate the bread of offering,
which neither he nor his companions
but only the priests could lawfully eat?
Or have you not read in the law that on the sabbath
the priests serving in the temple violate the sabbath
and are innocent?
I say to you, something greater than the temple is here.
If you knew what this meant, I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
you would not have condemned these innocent men.
For the Son of Man is Lord of the sabbath.”
(Matthew 12:1-8)

Scripture Study

12:1–2 The picking of the heads of grain is here equated with reaping, which was forbidden on the sabbath (Ex 34:21).

12:3–4 See 1 Sm 21:2–7. In the Marcan parallel (Mk 2:25–26) the high priest is called Abiathar, although in 1 Samuel this action is attributed to Ahimelech. The Old Testament story is not about a violation of the sabbath rest; its pertinence to this dispute is that a violation of the law was permissible because of David’s men being without food.

12:5–6 This and the following argument (Mt 12:7) are peculiar to Matthew. The temple service seems to be the changing of the showbread on the sabbath (Lv 24:8) and the doubling on the sabbath of the usual daily holocausts (Nm 28:9–10). The argument is that the law itself requires work that breaks the sabbath rest, because of the higher duty of temple service. If temple duties outweigh the sabbath law, how much more does the presence of Jesus, with his proclamation of the kingdom (something greater than the temple), justify the conduct of his disciples.

12:7 Matthew adds the prophetic statement of Hos 6:6 to the Marcan account. If mercy is superior to the temple sacrifices, how much more to the laws of ritual impurity.

12:8 The ultimate justification for the disciples’ violation of the sabbath rest is that Jesus, the Son of Man, has supreme authority over the law.

Scripture Reflection

Again and again in the Gospels, Jesus is portrayed as violating the sacred command to rest on the seventh day. For example, he often cures on the Sabbath, much to the dismay of the protectors of Jewish law.

And then in today’s Gospel, after his disciples pick grain on the Sabbath, Jesus declares himself “Lord of the Sabbath.” It’s hard to express how breathtaking this claim would be for a first-century Jew to make. Yahweh alone could be assigned the title, “Lord of the Sabbath,” so what is Jesus implying?

In short, he is claiming that he is above their rituals, even perhaps the defining practice of pious Jews, because he is the Lord. Thus the rules must be placed in subordination to the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom that the Lord Jesus is ushering in even here and now.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Lord Remembers His Covenant Forever

Give thanks to the LORD, invoke his name;
make known among the nations his deeds.
Recall the wondrous deeds that he has wrought,
his portents, and the judgments he has uttered.

He remembers forever his covenant
which he made binding for a thousand generations—
Which he entered into with Abraham
and by his oath to Isaac.

He greatly increased his people
and made them stronger than their foes,
Whose hearts he changed, so that they hated his people,
and dealt deceitfully with his servants.

He sent Moses his servant;
Aaron, whom he had chosen.
They wrought his signs among them,
and wonders in the land of Ham.
(Psalm 105:1, 5, 8-9, 24-25, 26-27)

Scripture Study

105:5–7. Verse 7, a profession of faith which, bolstered by the narrative contained in the psalm, is similar to the summary in Deuteronomy 26:3–10 (cf. Josh 24:2–13) that the people used to profess their faith. Maybe these psalms were also recited on the feast of Weeks (cf. Lev 23:15–21) or on some other feast celebrating the escape from Egypt (Passover or Tabernacles).

105:8–11. Recalling the promise God made to give the people a land of their own, a promise made to Abraham (cf. Gen 15:1–2), Isaac (cf. Gen 26:3) and Jacob (cf. Gen 35:12), the psalmist stresses that the Lord will never go back on his word. That is why the people should offer praise; that is the ground of their hope.

105:23–36. To emphasize that the initiative lay with God, all these events are attributed to him (cf. vv. 24–26), including the sending of the plagues (vv. 28–36), eight of which are mentioned here and in a different order from that given in Exodus 7–12. Psalm 78 also recalled the plagues.

Scripture Reflection

The LORD wanted a people in the midst of all the other peoples of the world who “keep his statutes and observe his laws.” The sovereign of the universe sought to establish a colony of obedience, an enclave of those who represented and displayed his reign. This psalm has not a word to say about how God’s purpose fared in Israel’s history. The psalmist, writing after the exile in all probability, knew the painful story of Israel’s repeated failures.

But he also knew from the restoration of the people and the promised land about the power of the LORD to work out the covenant with the ancestors. So he composed a psalm that speaks only of the promise and the purpose. By it the descendants of Abraham are summoned to seek the power and the presence of their God because trust is the first act of obedience.

The lesson for the church is clear. There is a time and need for the church to hear the pristine word of God’s power and promise revealed in Jesus Christ. The church has no promise apart from its election in him and its identity as Abraham’s spiritual seed through him. God’s purpose to have a people who live by his rule in the midst of the nations persists through all times.

– James Mays

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

The Inner Life

At that time Jesus exclaimed:
“I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.”
(Matthew 11:25-27)

Scripture Study

11:25–27 This saying, identical with Lk 10:21–22 except for minor variations, introduces a joyous note into this section, so dominated by the theme of unbelief. While the wise and the learned, the scribes and Pharisees, have rejected Jesus’ preaching and the significance of his mighty deeds, the childlike have accepted them. Acceptance depends upon the Father’s revelation, but this is granted to those who are open to receive it and refused to the arrogant. Jesus can speak of all mysteries because he is the Son and there is perfect reciprocity of knowledge between him and the Father; what has been handed over to him is revealed only to those whom he wishes.

Scripture Reflection

Friends, in today’s Gospel we see Jesus praying to his Father. We are being given a share in the inner life of God, the conversation between the first two Trinitarian persons.

And what are the “things” that have been concealed from the learned and revealed to the little ones? Nothing other than the mystery of the inner life of God.

Now why, precisely, is this knowledge concealed from the learned and disclosed to children? The clue is in the next statement: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father.” What is the essence of the divine life? It is a play of giving and receiving.

The Father, forgetting himself, gives rise to the Son, and the Son, refusing to cling to himself, receives from the Father. The Holy Spirit is this mutual sharing of the Father and the Son. God’s ownmost life is a looking toward the other in love.

From Adam and Eve to today, the fundamental human problem is that we seek something other than God. We seek to fill up the ego with stuff, such as sex, pleasure, power, honor. But this will never work, because we’ve been wired for God, and God is love.

– Bishop Robert Barron

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.

Woe To You 1

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!

Woe To You

Jesus began to reproach the towns
where most of his mighty deeds had been done,
since they had not repented.
“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!
For if the mighty deeds done in your midst
had been done in Tyre and Sidon,
they would long ago have repented in sackcloth and ashes.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.
And as for you, Capernaum:

Will you be exalted to heaven?
You will go down to the netherworld.

For if the mighty deeds done in your midst had been done in Sodom,
it would have remained until this day.
But I tell you, it will be more tolerable
for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”
(Matthew 11:20-24)

Scripture Study

11:21 Chorazin … Bethsaida: Two cities north of the Sea of Galilee. Both are within five miles of Jesus’ home in Capernaum, and both are unresponsive to his ministry. Privileged by Jesus’ presence and works, they bear greater guilt for rejecting him than the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon, north of Palestine on the coast of Phoenicia (cf. Lk 12:48).

11:23 Capernaum: Jesus’ home during his Galilean ministry (4:13). Like his childhood home of Nazareth, this city too rejects Jesus and his works (13:53–58; Lk 4:16–30). ● Jesus’ rebuke upon the city recalls God’s judgment on the king of Babylon in Is 14:13–15. ● Morally: Capernaum signifies the soul that receives Christ but falls into mortal sin. Because Christ dwelt there, the fallen-away and prideful soul is subject to harsher judgment (2 Pet 2:20–22; CCC 678). Sodom: The city destroyed by God in Gen 19:24–25. It was a proverbial OT example of sexual sin and inhospitality that called down God’s wrath (Is 1:9; Jer 23:14; Ezek 16:44–46; Amos 4:11).

Scripture Reflection

Some of us read passages like these and are not greatly affected by them. The situation is remote, the language of prophetic judgment is foreign, and there seems to be little that fits our contemporary Christian experience. Unfortunately, this is a serious miscalculation on our part. These verses are directly relevant to the lives of God’s people today.

The lesson to be learned is simple: with great privilege comes great responsibility. The Galilean cities denounced by Jesus were blasted with unusually harsh words because they were among the precious few to see and hear and touch the Messiah in person. They had incentives to believe in Jesus that most will never have. As a result, the culpability of these towns for impenitence could hardly be greater.

What about us? Jesus has entrusted the Church with the fullness of Christian truth and grace. Christians of all confessions hold that salvation in Christ is ours for the taking and that the Bible is the living Word of God. Have we responded to these privileges with faith and zeal proportionate to their greatness? If we are honest with ourselves, we will surely find areas in our lives that are not fully surrendered to the lordship of Jesus. Yet if Christ is truly present among us—in his Word, in his Eucharist, and in his Church—then we are in a situation much like that of ancient Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum as they witnessed his ministry.

Here is a case where applying Scripture to our lives means learning from the mistakes of others. Will we, unlike the towns of Galilee, take advantage of the time that is ours to repent of our sinful ways and to pursue holiness? Or will we procrastinate until the window of opportunity closes for good? To us much has been given, and so much will be required.

– Curtis Mitch

May the virtues of faith, hope, and love go with you today – DV.