Reflection on Today’s Daily Readings by Fr. Bertrand Buby, SM
Scripture: July 27, Lectionary #402. Jeremiah 14:17-22. Psalm 79:
18.104.22.168. 13. Matthew 13:35-43:
Matthew now allegorizes line by line of the parable of the tares (weeds)
and the good seed (the wheat). Every person and action is related to
someone specifically meant by such allegorizing of the parable that
normally had just one main point which was being emphasized by Jesus. This
shows us that besides Jesus, the redactor Matthew enters the full picture
of a Gospel. There are as the Biblical Commission teaches us three stage
to Gospel development: the actual time and sayings of Jesus, the preaching
and proclaiming of the Gospel orally, and finally the inspired gathering
and redacting of the content that was known from stage one and two into a
carefully crafted Gospel by Matthew and the other evangelists. We may be
speaking of the two generations after the death of Jesus in the
allegorizing of the parable that was first presented in its simplicity from
Jesus is identified as the farmer and Son of Man (one of the two basic
Christological titles in Mark and Matthew, namely, Son of Man and Son of
God. The field is the world and its secular perspective and way of living,
the good seed is the wheat representing the citizens of the kingdom of
heaven (the just ones); the tares are the unrepentant sinners and those
who refuse to hear the word of God or receive it in their hearts as seed is
sown in good ground or bad ground. Since we may be speaking of the Church
of Matthew's time, that is around 80-90 A.D. the parable now may mean that
the tares are also apostates or those who have left the community.
Matthew ends the parable with a more lively and colorful description of the
just who are like the shining stars and the unrighteous who are thrown into
the fiery furnace!
Exegetes and scripture scholars state that the final redactor (probably
Matthew) adapted the words of Jesus to the pressing problems of the
Matthean church or community. We realize that his was a community of
converted Jews and of Gentiles trying to live together in harmony. Jesus'
message had to be applied to the second and third generation after his
death. We thus see that allegorizing the text of the parable was one way
of looking at their problems. It made sense to do this for the sake of the
people he is addressing in his time.
Gospels and scriptural writings thus have various levels within them. Not
every thing in them is literally written; John uses more of a symbolic
approach with three layers of meaning at times. By reading only on a
lileral level we are deprived of the full message intended by the inspired
writer and by the Holy Spirit who also is involved in the development of
the scriptures. Not being scholars we do not need to separate ourselves
from those layers that are touched by faith through the Holy Spirit working
within our hearts. We often are rewarded by the free gift of faith and our
meditating on the truths of faith given in the texts of the evangelists.
Matthew does order much of what he has received from the oral tradition and
from St. Mark. We are fortunate that he is so precise and orderly in giving
us the five discourses of Jesus. Our parables are in the third discourse.
His themes gives us his theology and his point of view. As readers and
those dedicated to meditating on the word of God as found in Matthew these
days helps us to appreciate the giftedness of the evangelists who were not
simply parotting what Jesus said and did. By our studying commentaries and
then reflecting and praying the scriptures we arrive at new insights and
new motivations. All of these are worthwhile to do and we will be rewarded
by their stimulating developments within our hearts and minds.
Here is a good example from the scholar who wrote about our parables:
"Weeds left unchecked can choke the wheat (v.7), so they must be kept under
control even if not eliminated entirely. The church needs constant
reformation and positive action including the quest for holiness, yet must
avoid unrealistic purism or angelism. This is the elusive but needed
balance. A single parable cannot say everything. The parable of the
dragnet (vv 47-50) makes the same point, that the kingdom is a mixed body;
patience is necessary, and one must leave the sifting to God." ( Benedict
T. Viviano, O.P. in the New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p.656, 657). Amen.
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