"Breaking Open the Word" :
James Cavanagh is the director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-Area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. His weekly column, "Breaking Open the Word," is syndicated by the Denver Catholic Register, official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Denver. Click here to visit the Office of Evangelization & Catechesis for the Archdiocese of Denver.
July 17: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
• Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
The book of Wisdom (first reading) is traditionally attributed to King Solomon (9:7-8). The book is important not only for the wisdom it contains, but because of its personification of wisdom, which the early Church connected with Christ. The first verse of the book says “Love justice, you who judge the earth,” indicating that justice must be governed by wisdom. In the first reading the author praises God who judges justly, but his justice is tempered by mercy. Knowledge of God’s mercy instills hope because the wrongdoer knows he can change. On the road of life, God allows U-turns.
In the second reading, St. Paul says that the “Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness.” We can be confident of God’s mercy because “he who knows the secrets of the heart” intercedes for us, helping us to appeal to God in prayer.
This week’s Gospel includes three parables about the kingdom of heaven. The first is about the “wheat and the tares,” the second is about the mustard seed and the third is about yeast. The first parable most clearly pertains to the theme of justice and mercy. In that parable the servants want to pull up the weeds right away. But the master counsels patience, telling his servants to be “lenient” toward the weeds and allow them to grow up alongside the wheat until harvest time lest the wheat be destroyed along with the weeds.
Parables such as those in this week’s Gospel allude to the Church, which is “the seed and beginning of the kingdom” (CCC No. 669). As such, the Church is the place where God’s mercy can be found.
Key verse: “You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity” (Ps 86:15).
Catechism of the Catholic Church: “God’s justice triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures; God’s love is stronger than death” (No. 1040).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The fifth petition of the Our Father presupposes a world in which there is trespass—trespass of men in relation to other men; trespass in relation to God. With this petition, the Lord is telling us that guilt can be overcome only by forgiveness, not by retaliation. God is a God who forgives, because he loves his creatures” (“Jesus of Nazareth,” Vol. 1).
Life application: Though our sins make us worthy of condemnation, God hates nothing that he has made. In his love and mercy, God is more than willing to forgive us and restore us to his friendship when we have sinned, so long as are truly sorry and willing to repent. God knows the Church is full of sinners. She is also blessed with countless saints (or at least saints in the making). As Oscar Wilde once said, “Every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Such is the ground of hope.
James Cavanagh is director of Evangelization and Catechesis for Metro-area Parishes of the Denver Archdiocese. Cavanagh’s column is distributed by the Denver Catholic Register.
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