The 4th of July is now past, and now we are in deep summer. The Church reads Matthew 13 over the course of the next three Sundays. It is in Matthew’s grand schema the third great discourse of Jesus, which called by many the Parables of Discernment Discourse. It is not light summer reading or preaching, but a matter very relevant to faithful discipleship. Jesus is probably in Capernaum, where he “went out of the house (read literally: Peter’s house, or read spiritually: The Church — the pre-eminent house, and he sits down in a boat by the sea. This is a very peaceful and serene scene. Obviously the sea = the world and or stands for baptism, and the boat (latin: “nave” = boat, which is the part of the church where most are seated or fidgeting. There are at least seven parables and two interpretations of parables (very rare in the gospels) and two major quotes from the prophets, and finally a number of sayings of Jesus providing the bridgework of linking or holding the chapter together. It’s a lot for three Sundays and on top of that Sundays in summer. The unifying theme is discernment which is essential to contemplative prayer and discipleship. The last saying in vs. 52 of the chapter 13 is arguably the most telling, and too long only interpreted a certain legitimate way after Vatican II; in other words we cannot limit the meaning of the chapter in terms of Vatican II, howsoever apt we find the work of the good scribe to our times of dramatic change in the Church. We have been bringing the old and new out of the storeroom of the treasury of the Church, indeed, but discernment is more than that. Because it has both very practical nature and a very mystical nature, discernment is a learned and practiced thing in the reality of daily life, in as much as Jesus’ parabolic imagery is primarily agricultural and therefore in the daily life of the people he is addressing. Reading all three Sundays together, or just reading all of Matthew 13 at once may help orient listener and homilist to the Word of God and help to find an applicable focus for one’s situation or the parish. Admittedly it is a great thing to have this in the middle of summer. So perhaps keeping a focus and keeping it simple may be best rather than forcing oneself or the congregation to swallow this whole thing at once. In any event this will make preaching and wrestling with the Word of God a lighter burden over the next three Sundays. In my commentary over the next three weeks, I have tried to keep the whole thing before myself in mind. I don’t think I scratched the surface. Whatever I offer, I hope is of some help and provocation. Thanks. My own two stalwarts for this work is Sr. Margaret Mary Funk, OSB, and the old classic Weeds and the Wheat text and of course St. John Cassian of the 4th century and St. Evagrius of Ponticus, Antirhetikos. Sorry but none of these are light summer beach reading. Enjoy.