It is Monday evening and I am beginning to think about my Catholic Sun column. Sometimes ideas and a topic come easily. Sometimes they do not. This evening ideas are not coming easily. Eventually, however, two topics came to mind.
The past two Sundays and again next Sunday the Gospel readings, taken from St. Matthew’s Gospel, talk about the kingdom of heaven. The Old Testament speaks about a future kingdom. By the time Christ came, however, the ideas that prevailed about the nature of the kingdom were in many respects false and misleading. Matthew sets the record straight by giving us a number of the parables that describe the kingdom. For example, the kingdom of heaven is like a field of wheat and weeds, a mustard seed, yeast, a buried treasure, and a net thrown into the sea.
We know God is active in our everyday lives and yet we wait for the final manifestation of the kingdom at the end of time. As we wait for the final coming of Jesus, the Gospel parables provide helpful insights into the nature of the kingdom.
In The Joy of the Gospel, Pope Francis tells us, “The best incentive for sharing the Gospel comes from contemplating it with love, lingering over its pages and reading it with the heart. If we approach it in this way, its beauty will amaze and constantly excite us” (264).
I find the pace of these summer days is an opportunity “to linger” with God’s word. The parables of the kingdom have been a rich source of nourishment. They teach us that humble, small beginnings produce abundant fruit. As we wait for Christ’s final coming we must contend with wheat and weeds — ambiguity and uncertainty. We do not have to sort out the weeds from the wheat. Jesus, the harvest master, will do the sorting. God casts a wide net inviting everyone to salvation. We possess a rich treasure, a pearl of great price, Christ among us as a companion on the journey of life and faith. The seed of God’s word should not lie on rocky ground but sink deep into the fertile soil of our hearts and move us to live and act according to God’s word.
Moving on to the second topic, we consider the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene. When Pope Francis announced last year that the memorial of Mary Magdalene would be elevated to a feast day, he called her “a true and authentic evangelizer.” In early Christian writings, Mary Magdalene is called “the apostle to the apostles.” Following her encounter with the risen Jesus in the garden, Mary went in haste to announce the good news to the apostles who were in hiding, fearing for their lives.
Many of us are familiar with the reputation of Mary Magdalene. She is often considered the bad girl of Christian Scripture. “Our image of her is plagued by our human attempts to express her failings, wrongly casting her at various times throughout Church history as the woman caught in adultery and as the penitent woman who washed Jesus’ feet” (She was There in Give Us This Day, Mary DeTurris Poust, July 2017).
Let us remember Mary Magdalene for her faithfulness. When the supposed gardener spoke to her, Mary recognized Jesus as the risen Lord. She became the bearer of the Easter message and announced this good news to others.
Time spent with God’s word prepares us to share the good news with others. When we nurture a contemplative spirit by pondering God’s word, we “realize ever anew that we have been entrusted with a treasure which makes us more human and helps us to lead a new life. There is nothing more precious which we can give to others” (264).
As we take time to ponder and listen to God’s word with a receptive heart, let us ask St. Mary Magdalene to open our hearts to the divine word and to announce it to others. We have received a rich treasure and we are called to share it with others.
If you have a prayer intention you would like me to consider during the weeks ahead, please mail it to my attention at 240 E. Onondaga St., Syracuse, N.Y. 13202.
For daily messages from Bishop Cunningham, follow him on Twitter @bishoprjc