Saturday, July 23, 2016

Reform Your Ways

Put not your trust in the deceitful words: “This is the temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD! The temple of the LORD!” 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 7:4-7

Let them grow together until the 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 13:30

Turn back, O man
Forswear thy foolish ways
Old now is earth
And none may count her days
Yet thou, her child
Whose head is crowned with flames
Still will not hear
Thine inner God proclaims

Cursillo was not first to connect piety, study, and action.  It extends back before Jeremiah.

The “harvest” is a common biblical metaphor for the time of God’s judgment.  Originally, the Biblical writers appropriated the image of harvesting from its farming reference point -- the process of gathering a ripe crop from the fields. 

No matter how much we might want to try to purge the weeds from our life, Jesus warns his followers to let the weeds grow until the Lord God can do the winnowing at the last judgement.

Matthew extends this metaphor later in chapter 25 as he talks about harvesting souls at the end time. 

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’”  (Matthew 25:31-36)

The connection of our Bible Study with social action that is explicit here in Matthew 25 harkens us back to Jeremiah where he wants us to assure that our deeds to serve the most vulnerable follow our words.  Such a life of action assures that the Lord will remain with us in our holy place. 

Of note is that the Temple Sermon in our first reading takes place…at the temple.  You would think Jeremiah was preaching to the choir.  However, even at the threshold to the holiest of holy places, Jeremiah encountered people who were not authentic – whose actions did not speak louder than their words. Attendance at the Temple of the Lord did not guarantee safety against enemy invasion or any other misfortune where someone would plant weeds among your crops.

Specifically, he warns to protect the most vulnerable – the alien, the widow, and the orphan. In Biblical times, rulers had a special responsibility to protect the most vulnerable of their citizens.  Preferential caring for these same groups and others who are poor remain at the heart of Catholic social teaching to this very day.

What actions and habits (weeds) can we banish to the fire to leave more time in our lives for helping the vulnerable? 

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