Saturday, July 26, 2014

Reform Your Ways

Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds; if each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place, in the land I gave your fathers long ago and forever.  (Jeremiah 7:5-7)

“His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.  Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”  (Matthew 13:28B-30)

Parents of Mary, pray for parents everywhere – especially those in Central American and in our country – that they may be able to provide the same kind of safe, loving home and faithful teaching that you provided your daughter.  Help us to reform our ways so that we, too, may support those in this quest.  Amen.

The notes in the New American Bible shed some light on the meaning of the parable in today’s reading from Matthew:

The refusal of the householder to allow his slaves to separate the wheat from the weeds while they are still growing is a warning to the disciples not to attempt to anticipate the final judgment of God by a definitive exclusion of sinners from the kingdom. In its present stage it is composed of the good and the bad. The judgment of God alone will eliminate the sinful. Until then there must be patience and the preaching of repentance.

If our work is not to pass judgment on others, what then are we to do?  Jeremiah provides a sense of that answer in the first reading.  We are to hold up our end of the covenant while on this planet and God will hold up God’s end. We can start by reforming our ways and deeds.
  • Deal justly with our neighbor;
  • Support the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow;
  • Stop sacrificing in the temple and choose mercy instead; and
  • Follow strange influences to our own harm.

The “alien/stranger/outsider” was a specially protected within Israelite society.  References to these responsibilities abound in the Hebrew Bible. 
  • You shall not oppress or afflict a resident alien, for you were once aliens residing in the land of Egypt. (Exodus 22:20)
  • “If an alien who lives among you would celebrate the LORD’s Passover, it shall be celebrated according to the statutes and regulations for the Passover. You shall have the same law for the resident alien as for the native of the land.”  (Numbers 9:14)
  • The resident aliens among you will rise above you higher and higher, while you sink lower and lower.  (Deuteronomy 28:43)

How do we stack up to these covenant duties today?  Consider the border crisis with the children fleeing Central America. 

A letter to Secretary of State John Kerry from Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, followed the bishops’ recent travels in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.  Bishop Pates wrote:  “The United States cannot separate the humanitarian crisis of many thousands of unaccompanied minors journeying to the U.S. border from root causes in Latin America, many generated by U.S. policies.” 

Pates also is the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.

“The crisis on our borders will not be minimally resolved until drugs and arms flows, harmful trade provisions, and other critical economic policies that contribute to violence are addressed and rectified,” Bishop Pates wrote. He noted that Church leaders and U.S. diplomats in each country agreed that long term resolutions would only come from investment in education and jobs.

You can help by asking your senators and congressmen to support the kinds of actions called for by the bishops.

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