July 26, 2014 - SAINTS JOACHIM AND ANNE:

JEREMIAH 7:1-11 ; MATTHEW 13:24-30

Encountering the words of the prophet Jeremiah in the first reading of today's liturgy puts me in mind of a sharp-witted saying the French devised by way of comment on certain latest happenings as reported by contemporaries.  Translated it states: "The more things change, the more it is the same old thing." The moral condition of society in Israel in this prophet's lifetime was deplorable as judged by the two greatest prophets of the chosen people.  The book of Isaiah, the model prophet, opens with a strongly-worded complaint: "I have reared children and brought them up, but they have sinned against me."   He continues his lament at length making severe accusations, such as calling them "A guilty people, heavy with sin . . . their whole heart is sick." Jeremiah has a very different personality from his predecessor, takes up the same critical stance as we have just heard in today's reading from his prophecy.   "Only if you thoroughly reform your ways and your deeds will I remain with you in this place."   Very different personalities but essentially the same message.  Neither prophet gained in popularity by their fidelity to the message the Lord commissioned them to proclaim. But in the long term, it was they who proved to show the way that leads to the fullness of life.  So much did their witness take root in the hearts of their people that when Jesus, whose coming they prepared for a predicted, did come, he was considered by some to be Jeremiah's or one of the prophets returned to life.

In his preaching one way our Lord resembled his prophetic predecessors was his willingness to acknowledge the fact that most of the people to whom he brought God's message failed to respond to his teaching.  In the gospel passage we have just heard our Lord makes that very point.  The words he brings straight from the Father meet with unfavorable conditions, like seeds in sterile or thorny ground.  Only when received with wholehearted faith do they bear fruit and grow within to produce their intended fruit.  His words today are addressed to each of us and are meant to urge us to prepare the inner attitudes of our hearts and minds so as to provide the dispositions he often inculcated of an attentive, alert and humble spirit in which his words and example can flourish.

At our Eucharist this evening, we honor the parents of Jesus' mother.  Joachim and Anne are the names given them by our Christian tradition. They exemplify by their lives the lesson our Lord sets forth in today's Gospel. So humble, so dedicated to God's way as revealed in his word.  We know this from the result as manifest in the person of their daughter, Mary.  It was under their guidance and protection that Mary developed the character that enabled her to correspond with the unique destiny prepared for her in God's eternal plan of salvation for all our human race. We have no direct knowledge of either of this couple, yet we readily appreciate the kind of persons they were through the fruit of their lives together, preparing Mary for her role as Mother of the Savior.  May Joachim and Anne intercede for us on this day dedicated to their honor as the bearers of the holiest of women that we might become worthy of sharing with them the life of our risen savior, Jesus, so of Mary.

Abbot John Eudes Bamberger