- The Abbey of the Genesee - http://www.geneseeabbey.org -

July 23, 2017

Fr. Jerome Machar, OCSO [1]

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Romans 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-43

“While you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest” (Mat. 13: 29-30). In a society that demands justice and punishes every wrong done, it is hard to wrap our brains around a God Who manifests His power by showing mercy. God shows His mercy in His self-sacrificing love, dying so that sinners might live. He chose to bear our iniquities so that by His stripes we might be healed. He who was rich became poor so that we who are poor sinners might become rich in His life-giving grace. He emptied Himself of all the grandeur that was His as God so that we might be filled with His grace. He entered into our darkness so that we might live in the Light of His glory. God, in His love and mercy offers us every opportunity to repent of our sins and be remade in His image and likeness. Through the victory of the cross God manifests His long-suffering love and mercy. God does not ignore our sins. Rather, He forgives them. Similarly, we must not ignore our sins, rather, we must repent of them.

Please listen carefully these words of Jesus, recorded in the gospel according to Saint John: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only and unique Son, so that everyone who trusts in him may have eternal life, instead of being utterly destroyed” (Jn. 3:16). Because we have encountered the Light of the World, we can deal with our guilt and find forgiveness for all our sins. There is a significant difference between how society views us and how God deals with us. The judgment of society is exacting and unyielding – seeking to punish and even to destroy on-conformists. On the other hand, the judgment of God is tempered by mercy – seeking to recreate and to save the individual in his/her lost image. God, in Christ, is the only One who can deliver us from our sins and bring us to the fullness of life in the Kingdom. The history of salvation is the unfolding of God’s desire to bring healing to a world that is broken and fragmented by sin. God is the One who restores and heals our world, granting super-abundant blessings to every member of the human race.

Our faith tells us that God repeatedly spoke through the prophets in order to give the fallen world hope. In the fullness of time, the Eternal Word took flesh of the ever-virgin Mary, making the mercy of God tangible. The glory of God that shines upon the face of Christ is His merciful love. God our Father delights in extending His mercy to everyone He had created in His image and likeness. In this light, it might be good to ponder the words of the Father: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased” (CF. Mat 17:5). God delights in His Son because through Him He can extend mercy to the fallen world. His chief delight, His principle object, His joy, His purpose, is to extend mercy. It is mercy that directs God’s power toward us. It is His mercy that makes justice rightly a part of our lives. It is God’s mercy towards us that tempers His justice and makes live truly livable.

Because mercy is the gracious gift of God, it is not something that we can merit. It is freely offered and, therefore, it must be freely received. Every step on the road that leads to eternal life is guided and directed by God’s merciful love, which is everlasting. God’s mercy is an ever-flowing stream. God’s mercy is so great that He takes delight in sinners who accept His mercy. He calls us into His presence and asks that we be honest with Him, and with ourselves. God freely extends His mercy to any who are willing to own up to their sins, turn towards Him and then, having repented, choose to live in the radiance of divine light. It is He who comes looking for us whenever we are lost. All we have to do is allow Him to pick us up and carry us close to His heart. God will never abandon us nor will He stop loving us. All this being said, it is sad to say that there are some people who refuse to accept God’s offer of forgiveness.

A take away from the Gospel according to Saint Matthew is that God is much more patient with people who just don’t get it than we are. The parable of the wheat and the weeds tells us that God’s power is kind and merciful while the wisdom of the world is vindictive and quick to destroy. God chooses to draw all people into His Church, be they saints or sinners. Not being constrained by time or personal agenda, God patiently waits for His gracious mercy to bring about repentance in the heart of the sinner. Because we are short-sighted, we cannot predict how and when things will turn out. We have to be careful not to jump to conclusions, by pulling out the weeds. Today’s parable does not answer the question: why is there evil in the world? It simply acknowledges the fact that good and evil co-exist in our lives. Weeds seem to find their way into everything. We do well to listen to the advice of the owner, who introduces a note of caution and a plea for patience. In effect, he is advising, “You do not really know enough to judge.  All the evidence isn’t in yet.” We must trust the Lord of the Harvest, Who has full knowledge of what is happening, to come to help us sort things out.

Granted, the power that comes from the weeds can lead us into sin. No doubt, sin damages our relationship with the world, with ourselves and with God. However, the Good News of salvation is that God always offers grace and allows us time to repent. At its heart, this is a parable of confidence. God is in charge. God is not indifferent to our struggle. God is not unaware of what still needs doing. God is guiding us and the church in the process of bringing about a good harvest. We have reason to be hopeful that when the Beloved Son returns again in glory, He will bring us all together into eternal life.