16th Sunday A
July 22, 2017 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
The kingdom of heaven is like….
INTRODUCTION: This Sunday we continue to hear from the Parable
Discourse of Matthew’s chapter 13. The structure of this Sunday’s
reading is similar to last Sunday’s: 1) parables to the crowds, 2)
comment on the reasons for parables, 3) private instruction to the
disciples giving an explanation of the parable of the wheat and darnel.
HOMILY: This Sunday we hear three parables of Jesus: wheat and weeds,
mustard seed, and leaven. In the first of the three we notice that this
time the problem is not the ground on which it falls, but on the kind of
seed and on the distinction between the sowers. In the second, the size
of the seed is stressed. In the third it is not about seeds used for
planting but about seeds used for food, namely meal.
1st parable: Up until the parousia the church will always be a
mixed bag of good and evil. The advice is tolerance and patience until
God renders his definitive decision. The householder does not retaliate
against his enemy. He even uses the weeds as fuel to burn. Drawing
good out of evil. The parable concerns the proper attitude toward the
mixed reception accorded to Jesus. * Confusion will clarify.
2nd parable: contrast between the small, unpromising beginnings of
the kingdom and its full, triumphant expansion. Yet not the
triumphalness of a cedar but a mustard tree. * Littleness grows.
3rd parable: uses a well known symbol in an unusual way. Yeast or
leaven was for Jews and Christians a symbol of corruption. Perhaps
because Jesus gathers round him the unclean sinners of the land, he
prefers to use yeast as a symbol of the kingdom which comes in small,
hidden, and perhaps despised beginnings. The amount of flour is
ridiculously large, another example of hyperbole to stress the vast
success of the kingdom. * The hidden be seen.
v. 36 The return of Jesus to the house signals his break with the
crowds and symbolically his break with Israel. It is a TURNING POINT IN
THE GOSPEL. It is not an accident that this rupture occurs halfway
through the gospel. Henceforth Israel will show greater and greater
hostility, and Jesus will turn more and more to his disciples, to devote
himself to their formation.
Explanation of the Parable: While the parable was concerned with the
coexistence of good and evil persons in the Kingdom, the explanation
focuses on the harvesting at the end of time. In vs. 40-43 the language
is highly apocalyptic, looks to the last judgement: images of end of the
world, harvesting, the fiery furnace, reaping angels and weeping and
gnashing of teeth (intense distress and rage). It looks forward to the
parable of the separation of the sheep and goats at last judgement.
This language has the effect of shifting the focus from patient
tolerance in the present to the spectacular events that will constitute
the end of the world. It is God’s business to decide who belongs to the
kingdom. He will reward the just and cast evildoers into the fiery