Homily July 27th, 2023

Thursday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time – Odd Years – Mt 13:10-17

Today’s first reading and Gospel present us with the mystery of God. In the first reading, the Israelites station themselves at the foot of Mount Sinai, and they experience “peals of thunder and lightning, a heavy cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. [Then] Mount Sinai was all wrapped in smoke, which rose from it as though from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. The trumpet blast grew louder and louder, while Moses was speaking and God answering him with thunder.” This is all the people see and hear of God; in fact, a few verses after this, God specifically tells Moses to warn the people not to come up the mountain to try to see Him. There is a divine injunction to prevent the people from seeing God, in order to protect His transcendence. The best the people could do was tremble with fear, which is, nonetheless, a recognition of God’s power and greatness.   

In the Gospel, we come to the fullness of time and the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ. Jesus tells His disciples that He speaks in parables because His listeners don’t understand; they can’t penetrate into the mysterious ways of God’s kingdom. Indeed, while for us a “mystery means simply something dark and difficult and impossible to understand . . . [the Greek word used] in New Testament times, [and here in the Gospel] . . . [is] a technical [term] for something which was unintelligible to the outsider but crystal clear to the man who had been initiated.”[1] The word mystery comes from the Greek phrase to shut the mouth, and makes reference to the secret rites of initiation into certain religious sects or cults. To the ones who have knowledge, everything makes sense; to those without, everything is confusing and meaningless.

In other words, then, Jesus uses parables so that His listeners might be able to understand at least something of the mystery. However, they fall short even in this little knowledge, and the citation from Isaiah explains why: “Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I heal them.” In other words, the problem is one of their wills; literally, they themselves closed up their eyes, have let their ears become heavy, and have fattened their hearts to the point of making this unable to perceive anything.

Herein lies the lesson for us: as followers of Christ who are privileged to have been initiated in baptism and to continue growing in our faith, “knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom” has been given to us, in order to better know, love, and serve our God. However, sometimes we can lose sight of this, especially when things don’t seem to make much sense. We can fall into the same mistake of the Jews in Christ’s time, and close our ears and eyes to the ways that Christ is calling us, and ultimately close our hearts to His calls and His goodness. This is by choice, by an act of our wills. However, if we really surrender ourselves to Christ, then even in the most difficult moments when things make little sense, we can at least stand before His majesty and wonder at His designs, as did the Israelites at the foot of Mount Sinai.

Today, through the intercession of Our Lady of Good Counsel, let us ask for the grace to keep our ears and eyes open to the wonders of God’s workings, and our hearts open to love Him.


[1] Cf. William Barclay’s commentary on this passage.                                                                                

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