Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – A

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The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

OPENING PRAYER

 Prayer to the Holy Spirit

Breathe into me Holy Spirit, that all my thoughts may be holy.  Move in me, Holy Spirit, that my work, too, may be holy.  Attract my heart, Holy Spirit, that I may love only what is holy.  Strengthen me, Holy Spirit, that I may defend all that is holy.  Protect me, Holy Spirit, that I always may be holy.

COLLECT

Show favor, O Lord, to your servants

and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace,

that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity,

they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity

of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

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Wis 12:13, 16-19

There is no god besides you who have the care of all,

that you need show you have not unjustly condemned.

For your might is the source of justice;

your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.

For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved;

and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity.

But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,

and with much lenience you govern us;

for power, whenever you will, attends you.

And you taught your people, by these deeds,

that those who are just must be kind;

and you gave your children good ground for hope

that you would permit repentance for their sins.

APPLICATION

The author of this Book of Wisdom had true, sound wisdom and he set out to teach it to his fellow-Jews, who because of the influence of their pagan environment were growing weak in their loyalty to the true God of their fathers. Alexandria was then a thoroughly hellenized city. The philosophy of the great Greek thinkers was influencing the minds of most of its citizens. Great advances, for that day and age, had been made in science, and progress and prosperity in this life were the aims of all, including many Jews. The author reminds his readers that, wise though the philosophers and men of science may think themselves, there is only one who is truly wise, the one who is Wisdom itself and from whom all wisdom comes. This is the God of Israel who is God of all the world. He is almighty, as well as all-wise, and even though he can and may punish those who would challenge his authority, he is all-merciful and ready to forgive those who repent of their folly.

Somebody has said, “the more we change the less change there is.” How very like Alexandria of the first century B.C. is our whole world today. Twenty-one centuries have passed since this author wrote his book. The Incarnation has taken place since, and through it the world has learned so much more about the infinite mercy of God and his interest in our true welfare. The coming of the Son of God as a human being on earth, and his death and resurrection, have proved that we were put here for a few years, in order to merit the eternal life which the all-wise and the Almighty has destined for us.

But, just as in Alexandria of old the vast majority of its inhabitants spend their days chasing after the shadows of earthly happiness and prosperity, so the vast majority of the developed world’s population today spend their time on similar pursuits. We have new philosophers, inferior in most respects to those of ancient Greece, shouting their earthly wisdom and ignoring, if not denying, the source of all wisdom, the all-wise Creator of all things. We have scientists who have discovered many of the laws of nature and put them to good earthly use, but who ignore the Lawgiver, the sovereign Legislator, who laid down the laws that these scientists discover.

It is, of course, true that the real scientists down through the centuries have recognized that they were but discoveries of the laws of nature made by One more mighty than they. But the pseudo-scientists try to use the laws that are discovered to reject the Lawmaker and ignore his claims on us. “Look what I found in the atom,” the pseudo-scientist shouts, while the true scientist says : “Look what God put into the atom.”

While we must be grateful for all the progress that science and technology have made in our day (provided they are put at the service of mankind and do not become man’s complete master), we must never forget that all these powers of nature are God’s gifts to us. They are gifts to help us on our journey to our true home, not shackles to bind us to earth and make us lose the eternal inheritance which God has destined and prepared for us.

True wisdom is the knowledge of God and the recognition of his dominion over us. The truly wise man is the man who knows that he should be grateful to the almighty Creator, who gave him life and who, as Father, has prepared a place for him in an eternal future, on condition that he does his part.

 

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16

Lord, you are good and forgiving.

You, O LORD, are good and forgiving,

abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.

Hearken, O LORD, to my prayer

and attend to the sound of my pleading.

Lord, you are good and forgiving.

All the nations you have made shall come

and worship you, O LORD,

and glorify your name.

For you are great, and you do wondrous deeds;

you alone are God.

Lord, you are good and forgiving.

You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.

Turn toward me, and have pity on me;

give your strength to your servant.

Lord, you are good and forgiving.

READING II

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Rom 8:26-27

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.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 741 “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with sighs too deep for words.”1 The Holy Spirit, the artisan of God’s works, is the master of prayer. (This will be the topic of Part Four.)

CCC 2559 “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God or the requesting of good things from God.”2 But when we pray, do we speak from the height of our pride and will, or “out of the depths” of a humble and contrite heart?3 He who humbles himself will be exalted;4 humility is the foundation of prayer, Only when we humbly acknowledge that “we do not know how to pray as we ought,”5 are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. “Man is a beggar before God.”6

CCC 2630 The New Testament contains scarcely any prayers of lamentation, so frequent in the Old Testament. In the risen Christ the Church’s petition is buoyed by hope, even if we still wait in a state of expectation and must be converted anew every day. Christian petition, what St. Paul calls {“groaning,” arises from another depth, that of creation “in labor pains” and that of ourselves “as we wait for the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”7 In the end, however, “with sighs too deep for words” the Holy Spirit “helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”8

CCC 2634 Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men, especially sinners.9 He is “able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”10 The Holy Spirit “himself intercedes for us. .. and intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”11

CCC 2736 Are we convinced that “we do not know how to pray as we ought”?12 Are we asking God for “what is good for us”? Our Father knows what we need before we ask him,13 but he awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom. We must pray, then, with his Spirit of freedom, to be able truly to know what he wants.14

CCC 2739 For St. Paul, this trust is bold, founded on the prayer of the Spirit in us and on the faithful love of the Father who has given us his only Son.15 Transformation of the praying heart is the first response to our petition.

CCC 2766 But Jesus does not give us a formula to repeat mechanically.16 As in every vocal prayer, it is through the Word of God that the Holy Spirit teaches the children of God to pray to their Father. Jesus not only gives us the words of our filial prayer; at the same time he gives us the Spirit by whom these words become in us “spirit and life.”17 Even more, the proof and possibility of our filial prayer is that the Father “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’”18 Since our prayer sets forth our desires before God, it is again the Father, “he who searches the hearts of men,” who “knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”19 The prayer to Our Father is inserted into the mysterious mission of the Son and of the Spirit.

1 Rom 8:26.

2 St. John Damascene, Defide orth. 3, 24: PG 94,1089C.

3 Ps 130:1.

4 Cf. Lk 18:9-14.

5 Rom 8:26.

6 St. Augustine, Sermo 56, 6, 9: PL 38, 381.

7 Rom 8:22-24.

8 Rom 8:26.

9 Cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; 1 Tim 2:5-8.

10 Heb 7:25.

11 Rom 8:26-27.

12 Rom 8:26.

13 Cf. Mt 6:8.

14 Cf. Rom 8:27.

15 Cf. Rom 10:12-13; 8:26-39.

16 Cf. Mt 6:7; 1 Kings 18:26-29.

17 Jn 6:63.

18 Gal 4:6.

19 Rom 8:27.

APPLICATION

Prayer is an act of adoration of God, of thanksgiving for all past and present favors received, of repentance for past offenses and negligences, and of petition for spiritual and temporal needs, This is an essential activity in our daily lives as Christians. It can be called the very life-blood of a Christian life. But how few, if any, of us can pray as we should. It is a consolation to hear St. Paul say that it was a difficulty for the early Christians who were so fervent, and even for himself who was truly a man of God.

However, his statement that the Holy Spirit is with us, not only in moving us to pray but actually interceding for us personally, is surely a source of encouragement and hope for all of us. We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit. This, in our own poor way, we all try to do, and sometimes succeed, but we know too that, even when we think we have failed, our merciful Father will accept the good will, the good intention.

Our divine Lord tells us we must always pray (Lk. 18: 1). This would seem to be an impossible demand if by prayer he meant recital of words or formulas. This however, is not what he meant. As we saw above, prayer is an act of adoration, thanksgiving, repentance and petition directed toward God. Our whole life and each single day and hour of it, can and should be such an act. When we make our morning offering, we consecrate our whole day, its recreation as well as its work to the honor and glory of God. Such consecrated action is prayer, and this is how we can always pray.

Besides, we have certain times set apart which we devote exclusively to “prayer” in the strict sense. The most important and most efficacious of these “times of prayer,” is when we join with our fellow-Christians in giving true homage and thanksgiving to God, as well as asking for pardon for our faults and failings, and requesting temporal and spiritual benefits. This happens when we devoutly attend the Sunday and Holy days liturgy. Here we are not only witnesses but also active participants at Mass, in re-enacting the most perfect homage and atonement that ever went from this earth to God, the sacrifice which the Son offered to the Father. Devout participation in this sublimest of prayers, is for a true Christian not some obligation to be fulfilled but a privilege out and away above anything we could ever think of claiming for ourselves.

In this sacred liturgical act we have not only the Holy Spirit interceding for us and moving our hearts to true acts of love of God, we also have God the Son offering himself to his Father as a truly acceptable sacrifice in our name and for our sakes. If we participate actively with the celebrant and the whole congregation in this supreme act of adoration, thanksgiving, and atonement, we can be sure that our daily petitions for spiritual and temporal needs will not go unanswered. Our week’s work will be sanctified and become a devout prayer. Our daily sufferings will take on a value for eternity, for they will be united to Christ’s sufferings and sacrifice on the cross. We will then be living a life of prayer, and the Holy Spirit will be with us, sanctifying our ordinary daily goings and comings.

GOSPEL

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Mt 13:24-43

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:

“The kingdom of heaven may be likened

to a man who sowed good seed in his field.

While everyone was asleep his enemy came

and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.

When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

The slaves of the householder came to him and said,

‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?

Where have the weeds come from?’

He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’

His slaves said to him,

‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds

you might uproot the wheat along with them.

Let them grow together until harvest;

then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,

“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;

but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

He proposed another parable to them.

“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.

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.

His disciples approached him and said,

“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”

He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,

the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.

The weeds are the children of the evil one,

and the enemy who sows them is the devil.

The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.

Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,

so will it be at the end of the age.

The Son of Man will send his angels,

and they will collect out of his kingdom

all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.

They will throw them into the fiery furnace,

where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.

Then the righteous will shine like the sun

in the kingdom of their Father.

Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072317.cfm

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 333 From the Incarnation to the Ascension, the life of the Word incarnate is surrounded by the adoration and service of angels. When God “brings the firstborn into the world, he says: ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’”1 Their song of praise at the birth of Christ has not ceased resounding in the Church’s praise: “Glory to God in the highest!”2 They protect Jesus in his infancy, serve him in the desert, strengthen him in his agony in the garden, when he could have been saved by them from the hands of his enemies as Israel had been.3 Again, it is the angels who “evangelize” by proclaiming the Good News of Christ’s Incarnation and Resurrection.4 They will be present at Christ’s return, which they will announce, to serve at his judgement.5

CCC 827 “Christ, ‘holy, innocent, and undefiled,’ knew nothing of sin, but came only to expiate the sins of the people. The Church, however, clasping sinners to her bosom, at once holy and always in need of purification, follows constantly the path of penance and renewal.”6 All members of the Church, including her ministers, must acknowledge that they are sinners.7 In everyone, the weeds of sin will still be mixed with the good wheat of the Gospel until the end of time.8 Hence the Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation but still on the way to holiness:

The Church is therefore holy, though having sinners in her midst, because she herself has no other life but the life of grace. If they live her life, her members are sanctified; if they move away from her life, they fall into sins and disorders that prevent the radiation of her sanctity. This is why she suffers and does penance for those offenses, of which she has the power to free her children through the blood of Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit.9

CCC 1034 Jesus often speaks of “Gehenna” of “the unquenchable fire” reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost.10 Jesus solemnly proclaims that he “will send his angels, and they will gather. .. all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,”11 and that he will pronounce the condemnation: “Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!”12

1 Heb 1:6.

2 Lk 2:14.

3 Cf. Mt 1:20; 2:13,19; 4:11; 26:53; Mk 1:13; Lk 22:43; 2 Macc 10:29-30; 11:8.

4 Cf. Lk 2:8-14; Mk 16:5-7.

5 Cf. Acts 1:10-11; Mt 13:41; 24:31; Lk 12:8-9. The angels in the life of the Church

6 LG 8 § 3; Cf. UR 3; 6; Heb 2:17; 726; 2 Cor 5:21.

7 Cf. 1 Jn 1:8-10.

8 Cf. Mt 13:24-30.

9 Paul VI, CPG § 19.

10 Cf. Mt 5:22, 29; 10:28; 13:42, 50; Mk 9:43-48.

11 Mt 13:41-42.

12 Mt 25:41.

APPLICATION

In the longer form of today’s gospel, our Lord added two other short parables which depicted his Church as having a very lowly and very small beginning but, in due course becoming a large and world-wide institution. The Apostles seem to have grasped the lesson of these shorter parables, but they asked him to explain the one about the weeds. According to most present-day commentators, the explanation of the parable is Matthew’s own and was not given by our Lord. But, as Matthew’s explanation has the guarantee of inspiration behind it, the lesson we are to learn from it is still the same.

The lesson is that in the kingdom of Christ on earth, his Church, there will always be sinners and scandal-givers who will make the Christian life more difficult for Christ’s sincere followers. The weeds were among the wheat from the very beginning; one of the twelve, Judas, was a traitor and betrayed our Lord for thirty pieces of silver. The Judaizers, half-converted Jews, caused severe disturbances among St. Paul’s Gentile Christians. Heresies troubled the first four centuries of the Church and schisms and divisions later on became a great scandal to those inside and outside the Church.

This state of affairs was foreseen by Christ and is tolerated by God for his own wise purposes. Today’s parable is Christ’s answer to the question so frequently asked: “Why does God permit evil to triumph so often in this world, why are the wicked allowed to prosper?” The triumph of the wicked is short-lived, the reward of the Christian who suffers from their wickedness is everlasting. The very wickedness and injustices of evil-doers are one of the ways that God uses to perfect his elect. It is only on a battlefield that a true soldier can be proved.

In the parable, the weed does not destroy the wheat. It only makes it more difficult for the wheat to grow to maturity. So it is with the Christian. No one can take his faith from him, but living up to it is made more difficult by the evil influence and bad example of sinners. If some succumb to this evil influence and give up the practice of their faith, the fault is theirs. God can force no man to serve him.

The patience of the farmer in letting the weed grow on until harvest time, exemplifies the infinite mercy of God toward sinners. The weed could not change its nature, but the sinner can change his ways and God gives him every chance and every help to do this, up to his last moment of life. No sinner will be excluded from heaven because of the sins he committed but because he did not repent of these sins while he had the opportunity.

We must learn a double lesson of patience, from this parable. First, to be patient with those who make our spiritual progress more difficult for us–they are actually helping us to be better Christians if we bear with patience the injuries they inflict on us. Second, we must try to imitate the patience God shows in his dealings with sinners. While we must not approve of their evil deeds, or their sins, we must still look on them as our brothers and do all in our power to put them back on the right road to heaven. We can do this by good example, and by fervent prayer for their conversion. This is not easy for human nature, but we can be certain that God will give us the necessary grace and strength to subdue our natural weakness and aversion, if we try to act with charity and true brotherly interest toward our erring fellowman.

By acting thus, we will not only be helping a weak brother on the rugged road to heaven, we will also be making doubly sure of our own arrival there, for God will never be outdone in generosity.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission from Franciscan Press.

BENEDICTUS

The Parables

Jesus taught consistently in the form of parables… Jesus states explicitly that the parable is the way in which knowledge of the faith is to be realized in this world (Jn 16: 25)… The parables have two principal functions. On the one hand, they transcend the realm of creation in order, by this transcendence, to draw it above itself to the Creator. On the other hand, they accept the past historical experience of faith, that is, they prolong the parables that have grown up with the history of Israel. We should add here a third point: they also interpret a transcendence to what is more than just human stereotype occurs in it. On the one hand, the content of faith reveals itself only in parables, but, on the other hand, the parable makes clear the core of reality itself. This is possible because reality itself is a parable. Hence, it is only by way of parable that the nature of the world and of man himself is made known to us… The parable does not approach our experience of the world from without; on the contrary, it is the parable that gives this experience its proper depth and reveals what is hidden in thighs themselves. Reality is self-transcendence, and when man is led to transcend it, he not only comprehends God but, for the first time, also understands reality and enables himself and creation to be what they were meant to be. Only because creation is parable can it become the word of parable.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

Merciful Jesus, I offer you my little hourly prayers and sufferings, united with your great prayers and sufferings on the Cross, for the conversion of sinners. In your great Mercy and Love for all, grant that we may sincerely and thoroughly repent from every sin, and humbly receive your forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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