Servants of the Pierced Hearts of Jesus and Mary- Homilies

"'Good 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
Year A

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.


Rev. Jonathan L. Reardon is a priest for the diocese of Springfield in Massachusetts.
He serves at St. Thomas the Apostle Parish in West Springfield, MA

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