Whole-hearted response

Next Sunday is the celebration of the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time. You can read a complete commentary on the Gospel here.

44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure buried in a field, which a person finds and hides again, and out of joy goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls. 46 When he finds a pearl of great price, he goes and sells all that he has and buys it. 47 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net thrown into the sea, which collects fish of every kind. 48 When it is full they haul it ashore and sit down to put what is good into buckets. What is bad they throw away. 49 Thus it will be at the end of the age. The angels will go out and separate the wicked from the righteous 50 and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. 51 “Do you understand all these things?” They answered, “Yes.” 52 And he replied, “Then every scribe who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.” (Matthew 13:44-52)

These two parables are unique to Matthew, following immediately upon the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast, and, in some cases, a narrative about Jesus’ use of parables.

Since these unique parables follow a private explanation of the Parable of the Weeds without indication of a change of scene or audience, the simplest explanation is that somewhat a change of pattern, Jesus is preaching to the disciples, privately and in parables. Which runs afoul of what Jesus has already said about private explanations. This leads many commentators to suggest that once again, these parables are given in public. Many scholars point to the similarities of the Weeds and the Net and suggest they are doublets meant to drive home Jesus’ point.

Our gospel continues the themes of the kingdom parables which began with the start of Chapter 13. The first two parables (Hidden Treasure and the Pearl) continue the development of the theme of whole-hearted response with which the parable of the sower concluded. The third parable (the Net) is closely related to the parable of the weeds, and emphasizes again the division which the preaching of God’s kingdom brings.

The parables discourse (Chapter 13) ends with a saying that expresses well the ideal to which the evangelist aspired: the ability to see the radically new act of God in Christ in the light of the Old Testament tradition. Such a person understands the relation between the new (Christ) and the old (Jewish tradition).

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