16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Sunday Church at Home

during lockdown in the Coronavirus Pandemic

The lay leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:

Leader: ln the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

All reply: Amen

Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

All reply: Blessed be God for ever

 

Leader: A strange feature of our time seems to be our capacity to operate with conflicting mindsets. On the one hand we demand scientific proof for truths before we will adopt them; we want empirical evidence to back up belief. On the other we are willing to entertain theories that appear fanciful and to accept marketing claims that have no basis in fact. Is there a wise way of discerning the truth so that we can live by it?

The parables that Jesus tells are neither scientific nor fanciful. They are stories that bear deep truths for those who engage with them imaginatively and who are prepared to make the choices they call for. Jesus invites us on a journey of discovery when he begins “the kingdom of heaven is like . . .”. No parable offers a logical or comprehensive description of the kingdom, but neither are we led astray into a world of fantasy. Jesus teases and challenges us to see the world in a different way – his way.

LITURGY OF THE WORD

First Reading: Wisdom 12:13.16-19

Introduction to the reading: The Book of Wisdom was written about 50 years before Christ.  In one lengthy section of this book, the author looks back to the wonderful things God did for the Jewish people during the exodus.  In today’s passage from that section, the author speaks directly to God with words of praise.

A reading from the Book of Wisdom

There is no god besides you, whose care is for all people, to whom you should prove that you have not judged unjustly; for your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes thee to spare all. For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power, and rebuke any insolence among those who know it. You are sovereign in strength judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you govern us; for you have power to act whenever you choose. Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous person must be kind, and you have filled your people with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.

The word of the Lord.

 

Responsorial psalm: Psalm 86:5-6.9-10.15-16a

Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm beginning and ending with the response

 

R/: O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

O Lord, you are good and forgiving,
full of mercy to all who call to you.

Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer,

and attend to my voice in supplication.

 

All the nations you have made shall come;

they will bow down before you, O Lord,

and glorify your name.

for you are great and do marvellous deeds,

you who alone are God.

 

But you, O God, are compassionate and gracious,

slow to Anger, O Lord,

abundant in mercy and fidelity;

turn and take pity on me.

 

R/: O Lord, you are good and forgiving.

 

Second reading: Romans 8:26-27

Introduction to the reading: We continue today to read from the eighth chapter of the letter to the Romans, in which Paul discusses the role of God’s Spirit in our life.  Today’s brief reading gives us a remarkable insight into prayer

 

A reading from the letter of Saint Paul to the Romans

Brethren: The 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. And he who searches the hearts of people knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

The Word of the Lord.

 

Alleluia, alleluia.
Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the kingdom.

Alleluia!

 

Gospel: Matthew 13:24-43

A reading from the holy Gospel according to Matthew 

At that time: Jesus puts another parable before the crowds, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a person who sowed good seed in the field; but while they were sleeping, the enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” 

Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a person took and sowed in the field; it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 

He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.” 

All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed, he said nothing to them without a parable. This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” Then he left the crowds and went into the house. 

And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

The Gospel of the Lord.

 

Reflection on the Readings 

The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.

An instructor in a dog training workshop in Fourways noted that a dog’s disposition can be tested by the owner. If the owner will fall down and pretend to be hurt, a dog with a bad temper will tend to bite him. But a good dog will show concern and may lick the fallen owner’s face. Susy attended the class and then decided to test her two dogs. While eating pizza in her living room, she stood up, clutched her heart, screamed and fell to the floor. Her two dogs looked at her, looked at each other, then raced to the coffee table for her pizza. ☺

Sometimes even so-called experts and people who should know better can’t predict how things are going to turn out. 

A first time author received 12 publishing rejections in a row, until the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demands to read the rest of the book. The editor agrees to publish but advises the writer to get a day job since she has little chance of making money in children’s books. Yet Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling spawns a series where the last four novels consecutively set records as the fastest-selling books in history, on both sides of the Atlantic, with combined sales of 450 million. 

As they say, “You just never know.”

Winter can be a miserable time – unless there is lots of sport. But this winter, because of the pandemic, the soccer, rugby and crickets leagues were unfinished and postponed. And when they resume, they will play to empty seats – no cheering, or booing fans. Still, we will be able to watch our favourite team on tv. If we happen to come in after the game has started, the first thing we will probably ask is, “Who’s winning?” 

We don’t ask, “Who’s losing?” 

As much as we love the game, if our team loses, we get over it, life moves on. But we tend to ask the same question about a more crucial issue. “Who’s winning in the world, the good, or the evil people?” We also want to know, in the long run, “Who’s going to win?” These days things don’t look like the are getting better for those on the side of good. Every day the sins of racism, a persistent presence, are being exposed. It’s even bigger than that. The twentieth century was the most brutal in the history of the world. 2 World Wars, massacres, genocides, political purges, Famines caused by humans meant millions of people dying. And on and on. 

So, we ask a question that is more probing than about a soccer score: “Who’s winning, good or evil?” Are we on the losing side? 

We are talking about weeds here – the weeds the parable describes were sown among the good wheat by an enemy at night, when everyone was asleep. And these weeds aren’t just out there in the big wide world, they are much closer at hand, even within the church we love. Someone said to me recently, “I just can’t stand one more headline about clergy misconduct, or a bishop’s cover-up!” 

I think this parable was especially meaningful for the early church, and Matthew recorded it, because they also asked the same questions we and the servants in the parable ask, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?” And the question behind their question is ours as well, “Will evil, or good have the last word? Who’s going to win?” 

The parable doesn’t give an easy answer, it doesn’t explain it all to us: why evil exists… good things get corrupted… kids get messed up… suffering happens to good people, etc. But it does admit to the problem; good and evil coexist, up close to one another, up close to our lives – and they are involved in a struggle for a final victory.

The weeds seem to get into everything, even the landscape of our own spiritual field. Now there are definitely times when we must make decisions about what is right and wrong. We do try to maintain standards, especially for our children. But this parable is addressed to our church and our personal lives when we are quick to judge and act. We need to think about this parable because we pull up and cast aside when all the evidence isn’t in yet. 

A teenage daughter asks her father, “Why don’t you go to Mass on a Sunday?” He replies, “Because the Church is full of hypocrites.” “What do you mean by a hypocrite?” she asks. He thinks for a moment and answers, “A hypocrite says one thing and does something else.” “That sounds like you, Daddy!” she replies. “I’m no hypocrite!” he responds. “Yes, you are,” she says. “You tell me that going to Church is important. You say that I have to go to Church, but then you don’t go. You say one thing and do another. Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite? I wish you could go with me because there is room in the Church for one more hypocrite.” 

The parable also warns that, in some cases, even though we are pretty sure, we may not be in the position to cast a deciding judgment. The owner, after all, does introduce a note of caution and a plea for patience. In effect he is saying, “You do not really know enough. You do not have grounds to judge. All the evidence isn’t in yet.”

Jesus, the teller of the parable, knew this from his own experience. He chose servants to do God’s work who, if you looked at the early signs, didn’t turn out as expected. Judas, who was the keeper of the purse, a mover and shaker, showed early signs of promise. What about Peter’s failures, Thomas the doubter and the other men and women who kept coming up with the wrong answers to Jesus’ questions? They showed little initial promise, yet Jesus gave them a chance to grow and yield a rich harvest. 

You just never know.” 

Today’s parable is an encouraging one for each of us. It is a story of grace, patience and hope. Aren’t we, who frequently look back on mistakes we have made, glad we had time to change and make amends? Aren’t we grateful for the chance and help God gave us to work things out? What used to be a weed, we were sure, turned out to be wheat. Suppose we had been judged on the spot back then? 

Today, as we look at our present situation, we can still detect weeds in ourselves and others – we are sure. Rather than being overcome by discouragement, the parable proposes a note of hope. After all, good seed has been planted in us and is growing. The burden of the struggle isn’t ours alone. We trust the owner, who knows what is happening, to help us sort things out. All this is summarized in a familiar, but often under-appreciated word – Grace.

Even as we feel dismayed at how much there is still left to do and how many questions we have (“Who’s winning?”), the parable gives us confidence. God is with us. God is not indifferent to our doubts. God is not unaware of what still needs doing. God is guiding us in our struggle to bring about good. So, we will play the parable back in our imaginations, especially when things around us dismay and discourage us. We will look out at the field and think we know what needs doing. But we will hear this cautionary parable, and the voice that says, “Not so fast. You just never know.” 

“Let them both grow together until harvest; at harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burnt; but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Reflection:

If we look at our present lives, we can still see what looks like weeds. Rather than being overcome by discouragement, we hear this parable of hope. Time is being given us to work things out, to let the good seed planted in us bear its fruit. We can trust the Owner knows what to do, and we can have trust in the outcome. 

So we ask ourselves: 

  • Where in my life do I want to do better? What needs changing?
  • Can I trust that I am not alone in my efforts, but that God is working with me for my well being?

 

Prayer of the Faithful 

Leader: Having listened to the Word, and professed our faith in the one God, we present not only our own needs but the needs of all who hunger and are weary.

 

Reader:

We pray for the church: (pause) that we may allow the good seed of the Gospel to take root within us and bring forth a harvest of virtue and manifestations of the reign of God LORD HEAR US

We pray for the 3 million South Africans who have lost income and jobs during the pandemic: (pause) that God will give them courage as they search, openness to new possibilities, and that all who can, may help them. LORD HEAR US

We pray for Wisdom: (pause) that we may recognize the small ways God is at work in our lives so that we may cooperate with God who accomplishes great things. LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who are bound by hatred and resentment: (pause) that the Spirit will cultivate forgiveness and compassion within hearts and wither the seeds of the Evil One that yield revenge, violence, and destruction. LORD HEAR US

We pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic: (pause) that God’s healing love will drive the virus away from the human family and inspire all who are working on treatments and vaccines to successful conclusions LORD HEAR US

We pray for all who need healing, particularly those with Covid-19: (pause) that God’s healing Spirit will ease their suffering, restore them to health, and guide all who are caring for them.

Lord, hear us.

We pray for members of our families and friends who have died and those whose anniversaries occur about this time.

Lord hear us.

We pray for Giorgio Bastiotto who passed away on Thursday. We pray for all those with the Covid-19 virus who died during the week.  Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord.

All: And let perpetual light shine on them. 

May they rest in peace. Amen.

 

Leader: Let us pray a prayer for healing:

Loving and healing God,
we turn to you in prayer,
confident that you are with us and with all people in every moment.
We stand before you as people of hope,
trusting in your care and protection.
May your faithful love support us
and soothe the anxiety of our hearts.

Generous God,
fill us with compassion and concern for others, young and old,
that we may look after one another in these challenging days.
Bring healing to those who are sick with the virus
and be with their families.
May those who have died rest in your eternal embrace.
Comfort their family and friends.

Strengthen and protect all medical professionals caring for the sick
and all who work in our medical facilities.
Give wisdom to leaders in healthcare and governance
that they may make the right decisions for the well-being of people.
We pray in gratitude for all those in our country who will continue to work in the days ahead in so many fields of life for the sake of us all.
Bless them and keep them safe.

We make our prayer through Christ, our Lord.  

Amen.   

 

Spiritual Communion

We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.

By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us. 

 

My Jesus,
I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment,
feed my soul at least spiritually.
I unite myself to you now as I do when I actually receive you.
Amen.

 

CONCLUDING RITE

Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us: 

All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Amen.

Leader: Lord,
remain close to the people
you have enriched with these heavenly mysteries,
and grant that we may pass from our former ways
to new life in the risen Christ.
We make our prayer in the name of Jesus, the Lord.

 

Blessing

A leader who is a layperson, using no gesture, says:

Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.

All: Amen.