The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 23rd July 2023
Lectionary Readings: Wis. 12: 13.16-19; Ps. 85: 5-6. 9-10. 15-16; Rom. 8: 26-27; Matt. 13: 24–43
Theme: be like a mustard seed who stubbornly persevere in faith.
The first highlight to notice is that the mustard seed allows one to describe something small, something irrelevant but paradoxically important. It might describe the Christian Church at its infancy stage that seemed insignificant, like the tiny mustard seed; however, it was destined to grow until it became the domineering plant in the field. The mustard tree is known in the Mediterranean region as a type of shrub that spreads rapidly in a limited amount of time. And it can quickly overtake an entire area. Likewise, the Lord foresaw a day when the tiny movement he started would spread throughout the world. He probably borrowed the idea from the book of Daniel 4:17-19 that describes a vast political empire containing many nations: “The tree that you saw, large and strong, its top touching the heavens, that could be seen by the whole earth, its leaves beautiful, its fruit abundant, providing food for all, under which the wild beasts lived, and in whose branches the birds of the air dwelt-you are that tree, O king, large and strong! Your majesty has become so great as to touch the heavens, and your rule reaches to the ends of the earth.”
While the second proposition to be noted is that it must have been understood that the presence of mustard is forbidden. It should not be there in the first place for it is a kind of weed. But the mustard seed stubbornly chose to have squeezed itself to grow in the middle of the arid field among the original plants which have been planted by the master himself. Here one can observe a paradox. The Lord might be suggesting that one might mimic the stubborn character of the mustard seed who finds its way to dominate its neighbors; thus speaking of the faith of the believer: it must be like a mustard seed that, despite its size, it was able to overcome its doubts and was able to stand out among the others emanating the wisdom and love of God who is holy,which we are obliged to do for it was commanded since time immemorial.
On the other hand, one can notice that this is followed by another parable, the parable of the yeast. Of which it might have been a Midrash of 1 king 17:15-16 of which the widow of Zarephath made bread for Elijah and for her own household. One can recall upon reading the text how she trusted the word of Elijah knowing that the prophet is from God who is merciful and just and she just did what she was told holding onto the word of the prophet even though she knew that her jar of oil and his sack of flour were empty. In the same way one must be able to distinguish the origin of one’s prayer or desire that will enable one to sort out one’s faith, trusting in the Spirit that is God and the one who was sent by the Lord.
To sum up, history has provided us with a mammoth of encounters with the Lord in which He showed us generosity, mercy, love and justice etc. That even in our extreme stubbornness or littleness the Lord did not hesitate to express his divine love for us. But one might experience such, only if one offers a small amount faith and trust like the mustard seed and like the widow ofZarephath.
For Reflection and Discussion: Do I have the positive stubbornness to express my faith in the word and deeds of the Lord? Have I possessed the character of the widow of Zarephath who was able to produce bread (good) out of small amount of flour (faith) and was able to discern from whence the power (grace) came?
Bibliography: The Catholic Study Bible 3rd ed. New American Bible Revised Edition (2016) Oxford University Press.
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Jefferson Philip Jacob Reyes, France, Bat Kol Alumnus: 2018