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Escape from Egypt and the Parables of Jesus

Submitted by on Wednesday, 20 July 2011No Comment

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For this week, the Old Testament selections narrate the escape of the Israelites through the Red Sea, their feeding of manna in the desert and their arrival at Sinai where God makes a covenant with them, a covenant sealed with the blood of bulls. The Gospel readings are for the most part taken from Matthew 13. The series will be broken up on July 22, the memorial of the Magdalene. On this day, we are offered a selection from two readings. The sanctoral is favored by the New American Bible website. The ORDO for the Philippines favors the reading from Matthew 13.

July 18 The Day’s Readings

Pharaoh’s heart has become so hardened that even after he had freed the Israelites, he changed his mind and sets his charioteers to pursue Israel which in his eyes remain his slaves. He thus paves the way for a final showdown with Yahweh, the God who has just bested him with ten rounds of plagues. The showdown will be by the Sea, symbol of the Tohu-Wabohu dispelled by the Creator God in the beginning. It would become a means to life for the Israelites but a watery grave for the Egyptians.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus gives a sign to the Pharisees and scribes who ask him for it. It is the sign of Jonah, a type of the Resurrection. In giving this sign, Jesus also gives a final appeal to these religious leaders. If they still reject the appeal, then Jonah himself and the Queen of Sheba will be condemning them.

July 19 The Day’s Readings

Exodus 14:21-15:1 is the account of the Crossing of the Red Sea. The selection was also used for the Easter Vigil as one of the Old Testament readings that prefigure the sacrament of baptism. The Israelites crossed the Sea that was miraculously divided so that they could pass on dry land. The pursuing chariots sent by the Pharaoh would be swept away by the same Sea when it closes up at a signal from Moses’ staff.

In the Gospel selection from Matthew 12:46-50, we find Jesus pointing to his family: those who do the will of His Father. It would be wrong to take this passage as a proof-text showing that Mary has no importance in the eyes of her Son. In fact, even before there were disciples, Mary was already doing the Father’s will. From the moment of Jesus’ conception until His death on the Cross, Mary was there, accompanying her Son. The Chuch is the family of Jesus. They are those who have become children of God not by the will of man nor the desire of the flesh but by God’s will.

July 20 The Day’s Readings

Exodus 16 is about the feeding in the desert. It is Yahweh’s response to Israel’s need for food in a land where food is hard to find. The people were feed with quail and mannah. Later Jesus will refer to this event in HIs Bread of Life Discourse in John 6. The manna that Israel ate during this time did not give them eternal life, He would say. In fact, the generation that tasted the manna in the desert did not enter the Promised Land. The True Bread from Heaven, Jesus would say, is Himself.

For the gospel selection, we begin the reading of Matthew 13 about the parable of the sower. More about this here.

July 21 The Day’s Reading

Exodus 19 shows the people of Israel at the foot of Sinai. They have been ordered to purify themselves for the covenant with the God who has liberated them from Egypt. On this holy mountain, in the midst of thunder, lightning and the earth’s trembling, the Lord will establish his covenant with Israel and making them a nation for Himself — a nation of kingly priests — separated from all other nations so as to become a means for them to benefit from the wise and benign rule of Yahweh.

Matthew 13:10-17 is Jesus answer to the question: “Why do you speak to them in parables?” Matthew will inform us later that Jesus spoke only in parables as his means for revealing the secrets hidden since the foundation of the world. Jesus uses the parables to make sure that only those who are meant to understand (the disciples) receive his disclosures of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven. When Jesus speaks thus, two groups are created: those to whom he will reveal the Father, and those “who look but don’t see, who hear but would not understand.”

July 22 The Day’s Readings for the Memorial of St. Magdalene

In Exodus 20:1-7, God delivers the Ten Words of the Covenant. This is the Decalogue, what we know as the Ten Commandments. The first three commandments are all for God, the rest — seven of them — are for man. This latter group begins with the commandment, “Honor your father and your mother.” No human society can become human without God. The first three commandments ensure that that other commandments are obeyed.

For the gospel reading, we are given the choice of either continuing Matthew 13 or reading from the sanctoral. In this latter, the selection is from John 20:1-2.11-18 where the Magdalene is featured in finding of the empty tomb. The first two verses narrate how she finds the empty tomb and reports the matter to Peter and the Beloved Disciple. The verses from 11 to 18 show Mary crying in front of the tomb and being found by the Risen Lord. Mary recognized him only after she has “turned” twice; she turned a second time when she heard her name called by a familiar voice.

July 23 The Day’s Readings

The reading from Exodus 24:3-8 shows Moses validating the covenant made with the people of Israel with the blood of bulls. “All that the Lord has said, we will head and do” acclaimed the people. After reading the tablets of the covenant, Moses then sprinkled the people saying “This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words of his. ” Many years after this, Jesus will be nailed on the cross and his blood shed — the blood of the new covenant proclaimed by the prophets. The people who will be at the crucifixion will be saying, “His blood be on our heads and on our children.” In an ironic way, the Crucified whom the crowds insult becomes for them the door to a new relationship with God.

The gospel selection continues the reading of Matthew 13. The parable of the wheat and the tares is a classic on the problem of evil. The question is posed by the servants of the owner of the field: “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from? ” The field is the world into which the Lord has planted his seeds. But the Enemy came while everyone was asleep and sowed his own seed, the “bearded darnel”, or in Greek, the “zizzania” which looks like the common wheat when still growing. The Master tells his servants not to pluck them out yet but wait until the harvest comes. By then, the differences between the wheat and the zizzania will be obvious to all. The wheat will be golden and will be laden with grain; the zizzania will remain what it is — grass. On the Day of Judgment, the wheat and the zizzania within the Church, good Christians and bad will be separated. The bad will be thrown out into the fires where there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Matthew 12:46-50
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
46As he was yet speaking to the multitudes, behold his mother and his brethren stood without, seeking to speak to him.
47And one said unto him: Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without, seeking thee.
48But he answering him that told him, said: Who is my mother, and who are my brethren?
49And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said: Behold my mother and my brethren.
50For whosoever shall do the will of my Father, that is in heaven, he is my brother, and sister, and mother.
Matthew 13:10-17
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
10And his disciples came and said to him: Why speakest thou to them in parables?
11Who answered and said to them: Because to you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven: but to them it is not given.
12For he that hath, to him shall be given, and he shall abound: but he that hath not, from him shall be taken away that also which he hath.
13Therefore do I speak to them in parables: because seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
14And the prophecy of Isaias is fulfilled in them, who saith: By hearing you shall hear, and shall not understand: and seeing you shall see, and shall not perceive.
15For the heart of this people is grown gross, and with their ears they have been dull of hearing, and their eyes they have shut: lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.
16But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.
17For, amen, I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them.
Exodus 20:1-7
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
1And the Lord spoke all these words:
2I am the Lord thy God, who brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
3Thou shalt not have strange gods before me.
4Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth.
5Thou shalt not adore them, nor serve them: I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me:
6And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.
7Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain: for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that shall take the name of the Lord his God in vain.
John 20:1-2
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg Greek
1And on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalen cometh early, when it was yet dark, unto the sepulchre; and she saw the stone taken away from the sepulchre.
2She ran, therefore, and cometh to Simon Peter, and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and saith to them: They have taken away the Lord out of the sepulchre, and we know not where they have laid him.
Exodus 24:3-8
View in: NAB NIV KJV NJB Vulg LXX Hebrew
3So Moses came and told the people all the words of the Lord, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice: We will do all the words of the Lord, which he hath spoken.
4And Moses wrote all the words of the Lord: and rising in the morning he built an altar at the foot of the mount, and twelve titles according to the twelve tribes of Israel.
5And he sent young men of the children of Israel, and they offered holocausts, and sacrificed pacific victims of calves to the Lord.
6Then Moses took half of the blood, and put it into bowls: and the rest he poured upon the altar.
7And taking the book of the covenant, he read it in the hearing of the people: and they said: All things that the Lord hath spoken we will do, we will be obedient.
8And he took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people, and he said: This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord hath made with you concerning all these words.

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