This week’s liturgy

Traditional Liturgies, 5th Sunday After Pentecost:
Byzantine: Matthew 8:28-9:1: Gadarene Demonaics
Latin: Matthew 5:20-24: Exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees; don’t be angry; forgive
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A: Matthew 9:36-10:8: “The Harvest is Plenty”
Cycle B: Mark 4:26-34 Some Parables Concerning Seeds
Cycle C: Luke 7:36-8:3 The anointing of Jesus at the home of Simon the Pharisee; the Holy Women

This week’s reading for Cycle A was the “Harvest is Plenty” and the Commissioning of the Apostles. St. Francis Xavier, in the reading for the Office of Readings on his feast, condemns the many priests who sit in cushy university jobs, battling over theological minutiae, when they could be out in the missions, reaping the Lord’s harvest.

Similarly, the Cycle B reading from Mark features two of Jesus’ many agricultural parables. In the first, the sower plants the seeds, lets them grow on their own, then reaps them. Like many of the Kingdom of God may be likened to”, this can be read in two ways: God is the sower, who creates and sanctifies, lets us grow, and then comes back to see what He gets; or we plant the seeds and let God do the rest. The second concerns the mustard seed being small but growing into a huge tree: just as the Church would grow from being small to being great, just as God alwas chooses the weak things of this world that no flesh may glory in His sight.

Cycle C would be the anointing of Jesus by the woman with a bad reputation. Now, three figures get conflated in the popular mind, and the pairing of this reading with Luke 8:1-3 makes it more ambiguous. All the Scripture says of St. Mary Magdalene (Mary of Magdala) is that Jesus exorcized seven demons from her (though commentators argue that the “seven demons” are the seven deadly sins, meaning she’d “done it all,” to quote Mother Angelica). Mary of Bethany was the sister of Lazarus and Martha. Mary, Martha and Lazarus of Bethany (as opposed to Magdala) are Jesus’ friends, mentioned once in Luke and twice in John. John tells us of how Mary–at her own home, that of her brother Lazarus–anointed Jesus and was scolded by Judas. Luke tells us the famous vita contempliva versus vita activa story of Mary and Martha. Luke also tells us this story of an unnamed woman bursting in, while Jesus dines at the home of a Pharisee named Simon, and does something similar to Mary of Bethany. Therefore, people conflate these two incidents, to say that Mary of Bethany was an adulteress, and then confuse Mary of Bethany with Mary of Magdala.

Jesus uses the incident to make the point that the one who is forgiven much cares more about the forgiveness. She represents the seeds referred to in Mark and the Harvest referred to in Matthew, if we are to continue my theory that, in addition to merely giving the sequences of the Gospels, there is a parallel unity in the different liturgies.

Now, let’s go to the traditional calendars. The Traditional Latin Mass reading is from the sermon on the Mount and gives Jesus’ explication of the Commandment “Thou shalt not kill”: “do not be angry,” with the admonition to forgive. The command to exceed the righteousness of the Pharisees, of course, presumes that they are righteous. Today, we tend to think of Pharisees as “bad guys,” so this sounds like a “lowest common denominator” thing, but Jesus is setting the bar *really* high.

The Byzantine reading is the one where Jesus drives the demons into the pigs, and they run into the sea.

Other than the stretch that the Apostles are commissioned to drive out demons and that Jesus exorcised Mary Magdalene, I don’t see a connection there.

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