1) Opening prayer
guide and protector of Your people,
grant us an unfailing respect for Your name,
and keep us always in Your love.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son,
who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
2) Gospel Reading - Matthew 7:6,12-14
Jesus said to his disciples: "Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces. "Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets. "Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few."
• Discernment and prudence in offering things of value. In relationships with others Jesus, warns about certain dangerous attitudes. The first one of these is to not judge (7:1-5): it is a true and proper prohibition, “do not judge”. It is an action that influences and drives contempt or condemnation of others. The last judgment is the exclusive competence of God. Our figures of measure and our criteria are relative and they are conditioned by our subjectivity. Any condemnation of others becomes a condemnation of oneself, in so far as it places us under the judgment of God and we exclude ourselves from pardon. If your eye is pure, that is to say, is free from every judgment of the brothers, then you can relate with them in a true way before God. Now we consider the words of Jesus offered to us by the liturgical text: “Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces” (Mt 7:6). At first sight, this “saying” of Jesus sounds strange to the sensibility of today’s reader. It may represent a true enigma. But it is a way of saying in a Semitic language that has to be interpreted. At the time of Jesus, just as in ancient culture, dogs were not greatly appreciated because they were considered somewhat savage and wild. But let us now consider the positive and didactic-wisdom aspect of the words of Jesus: do not profane holy things. In the last instance, it is an invitation to use prudence and discernment. In the Old Testament, the holy things are the meat for the sacrifice (Lv 22:14; Ex 29:33 ff; Nb 18:8-19). The act of throwing pearls to the pigs is incomprehensible. For the Hebrews, the pigs are impure animals, the quintessence of repugnance. On the contrary, the pearls are the most precious things that can exist. The warning of Jesus refers to those who feed the stray dogs with consecrated meat destined to the sacrifice. Such behavior is evil and imprudent because those dogs were usually not fed and therefore, because of their insatiable hunger, they could turn back and attack their “benefactors”.
The pearls at the metaphoric level could indicate the teachings of the wise or the interpretation of the Torah. In Matthew’s Gospel the pearl is the image of the kingdom of God (Mt 13:45ff). The interpretation which the evangelist gives is above all theological. Surely, this is the interpretation which seems to be more in harmony with the text and with the ecclesial reading of the words of Jesus: a warning to the Christian missionaries not to preach the Gospel to just anybody.
• To follow a path. In the final part of the discourse (7:13-27), Matthew includes, among the others, an admonition of Jesus who invites us to make a choice in order to enter the kingdom of Heaven: through the narrow door (7:13-14). The word of Jesus is not only something to be understood and to interpret, but above all, it should become life. Now, to enter into the kingdom of Heaven it is necessary to follow a path and to enter into the fullness of life through a “door”. The theme of the “path, the way” is very dear to the Old Testament (Dt 11:26-28; 30, 15-20; Jr 21:8; Ps 1:6; Ps 118:29-30; Ps 138:4; Ws 5:6-7 etc.). The road represented by two doors leads to different goals. A significance that is consistent with the admonishments of Jesus would be that the wide door is joined to the wide path which leads to perdition or damnation, that is to say, to walk on a wide road is something pleasant, and capable of handling a great many travelers, but this is not said in our text. Rather it seems that Matthew agrees with the Jewish conception of the “road”; on the trail of Dt 30:19 and Jr 21:8 there are two roads that are in counter-position, that of death and that of life. To know how to choose among the many ways of life is decisive for entering into the kingdom of Heaven. Anyone who chooses the narrow road, that of life, should know that it is full of afflictions; narrow means tried by suffering for the sake of faith. Narrow paths, especially with a cart, are tricky and tough to travel. It is also less traveled. Matthew is telling his readers that most may not choose this path, so don’t expect it to be the way of the majority. Christianity was a new way, a new path, and many of the people of that time may not want to travel that path.
4) Personal questions
• Examine your day today. Are there instances where you did not treat a brother or sister as you would want to be treated? Do you make excuses as you ask yourself, saying “oh, it wouldn’t matter to me if he did that” rather than taking responsibility?
• The word of Jesus, or rather, Jesus Himself, is the door who makes us enter into the filial and fraternal life. Do you allow yourself to be guided and attracted by the narrow and demanding path of the Gospel? Or do you follow the wide and easy road that consists in doing what pleases or that leads you to satisfy all your desires, neglecting the needs of others?
5) Concluding Prayer
We reflect on Your faithful love, God,
in Your temple!
Both Your name and Your praise, God,
are over the whole wide world.
Your right hand is full of saving justice. (Ps 48:9-10)