Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary-
Ground for Hope': The Sacraments Seal Us for the Kingdom"
Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Fr. Jonathan L. Reardon
July 17, 2011
Did you ever form a poor opinion of someone and discover later
that you were wrong? Did you ever judge someone badly and
discover later that your judgment was incorrect? Anytime we
judge others we need to be aware that we may not have the full
picture and so we may not be fair in our judgments of others.
In our Gospel reading, St. Matthew shows how Jesus’ new approach
of speaking obscurely to the crowds – only in parables – is part
of God’s “bigger picture.” Using a fulfillment quotation, St.
Matthew cites the opening lines of Psalm 78: “I will open my
mouth in parables, I will announce what was lain hidden from the
foundation of the world.” In doing so, the gospel writer shows
that this way of speaking was part of God’s original plan. By
referring to the psalmist as a prophet, he reveals to his
readers that Jesus is the official spokesman for God, bringing
that original plan of salvation to completion and perfection in
the Son of God.
But what do we find even back in Jesus own time? Even the
disciples still find it hard to understand the meaning behind
Jesus’ words. They fail to see the bigger picture and so He then
has to explain to them the hidden meaning of the parables. That
which is interesting about the parables is that Jesus uses
ordinary things that make up the everyday life of ancient
Israelite to capture the hidden mystery of God. He uses these
illustrations in order to help His people understand that God is
not some distant, abstract being far away, but rather, that He
is close to them, closer than they could ever imagine. Not only
that He is close; but He is there, right in front of their eyes
and yet, the darkness of misunderstanding, of disbelief, of sin
blinds them to the light of the divine.
In our own time, do we find it to be any different? The unique
thing about Christianity – and Catholicism especially – is that
no other religion can claim to have belief in a God who is one
like ourselves. No other religion of the world could make such a
bold statement. We often find in secular society claims that all
religions are the same and no one is different than the other.
Therefore, we find people picking and choosing different aspects
of different religions and making it their own. We call this New
Age – quite frankly, a new form of paganism. What has happened?
Many people, due to the darkness of disbelief, misunderstanding,
and of sin, have clouded their judgment – if we put it in Jesus’
terms, the weeds have grown up with the wheat and their roots
have intermingled. The word used for weeds is translated as
‘darnel’ – a particular type of poisonous plant whose roots
intertwine with the wheat. Thus if one were to pull up the
weeds, he would take the roots along with it.
This surely is what has
happened and is happening in our own day. But there is a remedy.
There is always a remedy – God never leaves us to fend for
ourselves. How can we be protected from the “weeds” of the
world? First by availing ourselves to the riches of our faith –
diving into the meaning of Sacred Scripture, learning the
teachings of the Church and of course, by one’s own personal
prayer – in other words, learning to see the bigger picture in
heart and mind. Particularly, however, by frequenting the
sacraments of penance and the Holy Eucharist. For although there
can be some misunderstanding, though the words spoken in the
sacramental rituals may not be understood so completely, we can
still see – with eyes of faith and reason – that God is here,
that He is close to us and has not abandoned us. Why? Because in
the sacraments, Jesus gave us too, ordinary elements of everyday
life in order to pierce the darkness of our own inner struggle
and manifest the light of Divine Grace.
Think about it, ordinary words and gestures are used to seal and
strengthen a couple’s love in the Sacrament of Marriage and to
convey God’s mercy in the confessional; oil is used to seal and
strengthen one’s faith in the Sacrament of Confirmation, to
consecrate the hands of a newly ordained priest, and to heal
one’s infirmities; water is used to wash away original sin and
above all – bread and wine is transformed into the Body and
Blood of Christ. The grace of the sacraments – especially,
Christ’s abiding presence in the Holy Eucharist, gives us the
necessary remedy to overcome the darkness and confusion of the
secular world. If we do not take advantage of these graces then
we will allow the weeds of the world to intertwine with our own
roots and thus poison our minds and hearts – poison our faith –
and thus lead us further into confusion, disbelief and sin. But
if we turn to God in prayer, in participating in the sacraments,
in opening up our minds to the mystery of the divine – so close
to us – then will we find the “good ground for hope” as the Book
of Wisdom so beautifully writes – the hope that Christ instills
in our hearts that He will gather us up into His kingdom.