17th Week, Monday, Jul 27

Jeremiah 13:1-11 / Matthew 13:31-35
God talks about his people: "I made them cling to me closely."

One approach to prayer is to get in touch with ourselves before trying to get in touch with God. For example, we sit in a chair and relax. We become aware of our clothes gripping our shoulders, legs, arms. We feel the chair gripping our body, shoes gripping our feet. When we are in touch with ourselves, we then try getting in touch with God. For example, we pray to God like this:

"Father, you embrace us as certainly as the clothes we wear, as the chair we sit in. May each sensation we feel deepen our awareness of your loving embrace."
The inspiration for this approach to prayer is today's reading, where God uses the analogy of clothes gripping the body to express his close relationship with people.
How aware are we of God's closeness to us? "We need not cry very loud; he is closer than we think." Brother Lawrence
It would be rather awkward and embarrassing to talk about undergarments in a sacred and holy context of the homily. Even the mention of the word "underwear" will irritate some sensitivities. Yet the 1st reading was so graphic in description about the loincloth and its decay. But the purpose of graphic language is to irritate and cause discomfort to us. Because when we see decay, we get this disgusted feeling.

When God sees our spiritual decay caused by sin, He too gets disgusted. And He will employ all means to wake us up to our decay and destruction, even using an embarrassing and awkward item like a loincloth.
Whenever we see something that is rotting and decaying, we turn away in disgust. Yet it is strange that whenever we sin, we turn away from God and we foolishly swirl in rot and decay. Yet the Lord reaches out to us sinners and binds Himself to us just as man wraps a loincloth closely around his waist.

God wants to wake us up from our foolishness and stupidity so that we will cling to Him as a loincloth clings to the waist of a man. Yet along with the mercy and forgiveness of God, there is also a stern warning. As the Lord says: If you do not stand by Me, you will not stand at all (Isa 7:9)
Monday of 17th Week in Ordinary Time


God’s love made his people as close to God as a loincloth is close to the human body. Jeremiah’s symbolic action tells the people that by embracing the idolatry of Babylonia, they have given up God’s tenderness and become like rotten.
A tiny seed becomes a tree. At the beginning when one hears it and accepts it, the word of God is only a tiny seed, and when it is contested and contradicted, as it was in the early Church and is often again today, it looks insignificant, negligible. What is it, in comparison with the powerful media? But it is meant to grow and to become little by little a kingdom of love and justice that overcomes all contradiction and hatred.

Opening Prayer
Curb our impatience, Lord,
when we try to impose
your truth and justice and peace
on a Church and a world
not yet disposed to welcome them.
In our powerlessness and discouragement
may we learn to accept
that all true growth comes from you.
We can only plant the tiny seed
and it is you who make it bloom into a mighty tree
that can give shelter to all who accept your word.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Remarkable unseen growth is one of the points of today’s liturgy. Paul and Apollos were fellow evangelizers and at one point Paul comments on their accomplishments: “I have planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth” (1 Cor 3:6). All of us like to see the fruit of our labor and are not averse to taking a certain credit. In the realm of the Spirit, human effort is present but it is God who produces the end result.
Today’s parables point in the same direction. The very small and insignificant mustard seed shows an outstanding growth. Likewise it takes a small amount of yeast to leaven a large batch of dough. And none of this is due to human industry. So too in the realm of faith, there is often a very high level of acceptance. But just as the crops grow while the farmer sleeps, so too in the real of the Spirit.
Naturally we are happy when an important project comes to fruition. But the kingdom is the work of Christ, and we are pleased to be his collaborators. Of his first followers Francis of Assisi never said that he gathered them. His only comment was, “God gave me brothers.”

Points to Ponder
Collaborators in God’s kingdom
Recognizing the work of God
Zeal for the kingdom

– That the tiny seed still alive in the hearts of many who abandon the Church may not be extinguished but grow again into a bright light to guide them to God and people, we pray:
– That missionaries may keep sowing the seed of the Lord’s joyful good news in our often indifferent and hostile world, we pray:
– That the seed of sharing and unity may keep growing in our Christian communities, until they become one heart and one mind in the Lord who gathers them at his table, let us pray:

Prayer over the Gifts
Almighty and patient Father,
we bring before you the fruits
grown from tiny seeds of wheat
and the small shoots of the vine.
By the power of your Spirit
they will become Jesus, your Son among us.
Let the seed of his life and message
bear fruit among us, your people
and make us the body of Christ to the world.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.

Prayer after Communion
God, our Father,
with a generous hand you have sown among us
the seed of all that is good and true,
your Son Jesus Christ.
However insignificant and disappointing
our faith and love may seem now,
give us the hope and the courage
that he can unite us in a community
where justice, truth and freedom will prevail
until the crop is ripe for reaping.
Grant us this through Christ our Lord.

All growth is slow, so slow that it is almost invisible. All that grows needs time. That is the way the word of God in which we believe has to grow among us and to become a kingdom where people respond to God’s fidelity and work out God’s plans. May almighty God bless you, the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.