Archive for July, 2014

Mt 13:44-52 Treasures New and Old

 The Parable of the Net has close similiarity with the two earlier parables, the Parable of the Mustard Seed and the Parable of the Weed.

The Parable of the Net is closely similar to the Parable of the Mustard Seed in the sense that it describes the Kingdom of God as universal in scope and in nature. Hence, based on these two parables, the Kingdom of God here on earth is intended to accept men and women of all generations and of all nations and that include both the wicked and the righteous, the saint and the sinner, the good and the bad. In connection with this what is the challenge for us? To adopt an open, non discriminating and non judgmental and freewheeling approach to evangelization. A major problem which we will be encountering with this approach however would be: both the undesirables and desirables will enter and mixed in the Church. Some undesirables will be converted…Some undesirables who seemed promising in the beginning will betray God in the end. God does not make us responsible for this. But let us always be reminded to withold our judgment for judgment belongs, not to the disciples, but to God. This parable, however, is not a call to overlook grievous sin.  A few chapters hence, Jesus will establish procedures for reproving sinners and for excommunicating them if they fail to mend their ways (Mt 18:15-20).

The Parable of the Net is closely similar to the Parable of the Weed in the sense that these parable recognize the fact that the the Kingdom of God here on earth is composed of both sinners and saints. We cannot perfectly separate the two and eliminate the oter while the Kingdom of God is still on earth. Otherwise we will destroy the good together with the bad. We will uproot the weed while uprooting the weed whose roots were already entwined with the wheat. But when the day of the Final Judgment comes, the good and the bad will be totally and perfectly separated like what the fishermen did in the Parable. After having scooped up all sorts fish, both the good and bad the fishermen sorted their catch and discarded the unwanted or the usable fish.

Whether we like it or not the day of the final judgment will come. Matthew never tires in warning his readers of the reality of judgment and hence the importance of genuine discipleship.  It is a warning that both the world and the Church need” (Hagner).When that day comes the good and bad will finally and perfectly be separated. The wicked goes directly to hell to be punished eternally while the righteous will be rewarded in heaven and they “will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father (Mt 13:43).

“Mention of the final judgment reminds the hearers and readers of the parables that discipleship is not a game of ‘let’s pretend’; it is a matter of life and death” (Brueggemann, 424). The reality of the final judgment once again remind us that following Jesus is not a game of “let’s pretend.,” it is a matter of life and death, it is a matter of salvation and damnation, it is a matter of happiness and misery. Choose life and lasting happiness with God and with our loved ones in heaven.

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Mt 13:24-43 The Parables of the Weeds among the Wheat

Parables are comparisons in which spiritual truth is pictured in vivid terms (Blomberg 1990). In the story Jesus used the parable to explain the wise ways of the Kingdom of God concerning the mystery and problem of evil not only in the world but even in the Church which is the seed and the beginning of the Kingdom of God here on earth that will be fully and perfectly established in heaven.

The parable Jesus used is popularly known as the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat.The type of weed referred to here is commonly recognized as the darnel (Greek zizania) which is troublesome poisonous plant in the grainfields, closely resembling the wheat in the first stages of its growth. By the time the grain appears and the difference becomes obvious, the roots of the weeds are entwined with those of the wheat. Thus uprooting the weeds would simultaneously cause uprooting of the wheat.

This parable reflects the wise ways of God’s kingdom (which already starts with the Church) concerning the problem of evil even among the believers. It is unwise to get rid of unworthy members which may have the unhappy consequence of driving out also some of the worthiest. Therefore, weeds and wheat must be allowed to grow together for the time being. The task of separating the evil from the good must be reserved for the last judgment.

The Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat teaches us several lessons:

  • First, there will always hostile power in the world (Satan, the world, concupiscence or evil inclination) seeking and waiting to destroy the good seeds that represent the children of the Kingdom who received with joy the word of God that will eventually bear fruits of good works, holiness and evangelization in their lives. Hence, this is an admonition to all the Children of God to be forever on their guard. This vigilance should be continuous and unflagging, because the devil is forever after us, prowling around “like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). “Watch with the heart, watch with faith, watch with love, watch with charity, and watch with good works” (cf. Augustine, “Sermon”, 93).
  • Second, the world including the Church is composed of both saints and sinners, good and evil. The world is a mixture of the children of God and the children of Satan. And how hard it is to distinguish between the good and evil, the saints and the sinners. Someone may appear to be good and may in fact bad; and someone may appear to bad and may in fact be good. Some call good evil and evil good. Sometimes people change too according to opportunities and graces. Hence, let us not too quick to condemn, to classify people and label them good or bad without knowing all the facts. Remember our human judgment is as good as our information, Limited information make us prone to error and mistakes in making judgment.
  • Third, in the end there comes the judgment of a just and all-knowing God. A God who will never deceive us nor can be deceived by us. He alone has the right to judge. He alone can discern the good and the bad. He alone can rightly administer the ultimate justice for humankind which seems to be impossible in the world governs by the law, judgment and wisdom of man. This is a warning to the evil doers who seem to be rewarded in life in this world and a consolation to the righteous who seem to be punished in life in this world.

In summary, Jesus calls us to patience and faith — patience with those who fail to meet the standard (this is the concern of the parable itself — vv. 24-30) and faith that God will deal with them at the right time (this is the concern of the interpretation — vv. 36-43).  Jesus calls us to withhold action lest we create more problems than we solve — lest we destroy the good with the bad — lest we “uproot the wheat along with (the weeds).”

Think about this! “First, do not fret over evildoers, for neither their present nor their future is your responsibility; and second, God will bring history to a close with justice, and the saints finally will be freed from abuse and oppression.  The parable…is therefore not a threatening but a comforting word” (Craddock, 372).

 

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Mt 11:25-30 The Praise of the Father

These are among the most beloved and quoted verses in the Bible, because all of us feel burdened and in need of rest.

Jesus is addressing the crowds who are following Him, “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36): “Come to Me”. The Pharisees weighed them down with an endless series of petty regulations (cf. Acts 15:10), yet they brought no peace to their souls.

In their original context, these verses spoke specifically to those burdened by the Jewish law.  Rabbis often spoke of the yoke of the law (Aboth 3:5) or of the commandments (Berakoth 2:2), but always in praise.  To accept this yoke, they said, is to put off the yoke of earthly monarchies and worldly care” (Johnson, 390).  They have a point.  We cannot choose to serve no master at all, but can choose only which master we will serve.  The yoke of the law is better than the yoke of the world, because the yoke of the law is God-inspired.  In the hands of the scribes and Pharisees, however, the yoke of the law became almost as burdensome as the yoke of the world.

Jesus does not propose that we go yoke-less, but that we accept his yoke, which is chrestos — “manageable, i.e., mild, pleasant (as opposed to harsh, hard, sharp)” (Thayer, 671).  A well-made yoke distributes the load evenly, making the task easier.  A well-fitted yoke follows the contours of the oxen’s neck so that it does not rub or chaff.   “At certain points (Jesus’) interpretation [of the law] will be more lenient (Sabbath observance), at others more stringent (divorce) than that of the Pharisees, but law observance as a whole will be simplified by his emphasis on ‘the weightier matters of the law:  justice and mercy and faithfulness’ (23:23) and on the double commandment of love (22:37-40) (Hare, 128-129).

While the original context referred to the burden of the Jewish law, there is nothing in these words to suggest that they should not also extend to our weariness and burdens today.  We are weary today, even though we do not observe the Jewish law.  We are burdened by many things:

  • busyness
  • traffic
  • concerns about jobs — marriage — money — health — children — security — old age
  • tough choices
  • criticism or opposition
  • loneliness and emptiness
  • and a thousand other things
  • If you feel life is burdensome and tiresome “Jesus says now and always, `Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ His attitude towards us is one of invitation, knowledge and compassion; indeed, it is one of offering, promise, friendship, goodness, remedy of our ailments; He is our comforter; indeed, our nourishment, our bread, giving us energy and life” (Pope Paul VI, “Homily on Corpus Christi”, 13 June 1974).  Therefore, “All you who go about tormented, afflicted and burdened with the burden of your cares and desires, go forth from them, come to Me and I will refresh you and you shall find for your souls the rest which your desires take from you” (St. John of the Cross, “Ascent of Mount Carmel”, Book 1, Chapter 7, 4).

Jesus’ concern for our burdens is as real as his concern for law-burdened Jews of his day.  His promise is also as real. “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest”  (Mt 11:28) Jesus still does that!  Jesus still gives us rest

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