WHAT WILL JESUS DO? GIVE US YOUR PATIENCE LORD!!!
We live in a strange world, don’t we? So many people begin things with good intentions, wonderful visions, and really want to make things better, both in their own lives and in the lives of others. Sometimes things do not always go as planned. The same is true in our own personal lives. People fall in love and get married with nothing but the best of intentions, with high hopes, with hearts filled with love, and with wonderful visions. Then, somewhere along the line, things turn sour.
As followers of Jesus Christ, what do we do with the problem of evil? That’s the question raised in today’s readings. Today’s readings tell us about a very patient and compassionate God Who is hopeful that the so-called “weeds” among us will be converted, and that we should not be in a hurry to eliminate such elements from the Church or society or the family on the basis of unwarranted and hasty judgment. Today’s Gospel reminds us that we should not judge others hastily. There is a lot of good in the worst of us and a lot of evil in the best of us. In other words, the best of us are still "weeds" in God's garden.
The First Reading - Wisdom 12:13, 16-19: The Book of Wisdom, written a century before Christ in Alexandria by a pious Jew, shows us a merciful and patient God. Today’s passage tells us that God exercises leniency and clemency: “But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us.” We too, in our quest to be like Jesus must endeavor to be patient and forgiving with others, especially with those who are weak or those who offend us. We need to exercise a bit more restraint and patience in our families, relationships, workplaces, in the Church and in our nation.
The Second Reading - Romans 8:26-27: Like the previous selections from Romans, Chapter 8 tells us how helpless we are on our own, but shows us how the Spirit of God nevertheless empowers us. The Spirit prays within us and enables us to pray in accordance with the Father’s will. Paul tells us that when things are not going well, when we do not even know how to pray, when our weakness in whatever form is overcoming us, the Spirit moves in and takes over. St. Paul understands well the power and centrality of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian. The real message of this reading is that we should be patient with ourselves, because even at our worst moments the Holy Spirit is there guiding us, acting in us, bringing us along, though we may not recognize His action.
The Gospel - Matthew 13:24-43 - Life is mixture of good and evil. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. There is so much in our nation that is both good and bad. Our governmental officials are both good and bad. There is so much in our Church that is good, and there are some bad things in it too. If we are honest, we see that there is both good and bad in us individually and collectively. Everywhere we look we find this strange mixture of what’s right and what’s wrong.
The world of great literature and the world of great art try to help us deal with this mixture of good and evil. The world’s great writers, novelists and poets give us no ultimate answer to the problem of evil’s origins; the only thing they can do is help us deal with the problem.
The Bible tells us that Lucifer was one of the greatest of all God’s angels. His name, Lucifer, means “Light Bearer.” He was one of highest of God’s creatures; he bore God’s own light. And yet… for some reason he became the Prince of Darkness. The reason? Lucifer put his will before God’s will. He refused to obey God. He opted to go his own way. He defied God.
What do we do when it comes to ridding ourselves and our world of evil? The Scripture passages in today’s first reading and today’s gospel account suggest that we deal with evil as God deals with it, with patience and forbearance. Evil will eventually reveal itself and evil will eventually suffer the consequences it brings down upon itself. Sin brings with it its own suffering and punishment.
There are a couple of interesting points about the parable of Jesus we just heard that we would reflect on closely. First, the weeds in the parable stand for unrepentant sinners, people whose first priority is themselves, who use others for their own advancement or pleasure, instead of serving them. These unrepentant sinners, since they don’t cooperate with God’s grace, end up in hell, "the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth." The wheat stands for the righteous, those who resisted the seductions of evil, repented from their sins, and battled against selfishness in order to follow Jesus Christ.
Also, when He was asked where the weeds came from Jesus replied: “An enemy has done this.” He doesn’t tell us why God has enemies; He simply takes it as a fact. To take a realistic view of life we simply must begin with the facts – evil exists and it comes from people who have chosen to defy God. It may not make any sense to us. We simply must take it as a fact of life. People, of their own free will, choose to defy God and do things on their own quite apart from Him. In the world of human choices, things are not as they ought to be, things are quite apart from what God intended them to be.
Why, we ask, doesn’t God simply pull up all of evil’s weeds? Why doesn’t God, with fire and brimstone, simply blast evil off the face of the earth? Well, that’s a lot easier said than done. Suppose God did, what would happen? What would happen to each one of us? Aren’t we all a mixture of good and evil? Wouldn’t we still get caught up on their firestorm of evil’s destruction?
That brings us to the next point, namely the fact that so very often what is evil appears to be good, and what is good appears to be evil. We can’t make the sorting; only God can. In today’s parable Jesus speaks of the weeds as darnel. Now at the beginning of the growing process darnel looks just like wheat. It is only when harvest time approaches that the difference between the two becomes apparent. Sometimes in our relationships, marriages, institutions and enterprises, we see that it is only after a while we find out what is good and evil in them. Somehow almost everything that is has something wrong within it. We certainly know that’s true in our own Church, in our nation, in our world, and in our own personal lives. Interestingly there are no quick fix solutions to this reality.
Patience and forbearance are necessary, and to have patience and forbearance one must have faith. This is what Jesus is calling us to have – faith in His heavenly Father’s plan, faith in His heavenly Father’s ultimate ways of dealing with us and with our world. We have to believe in God’s goodness and believe in His love for all that is good in our world. Reliance on God and acceptance of His ways is the only way we can overcome evil both in our world and in our lives.
Just as nature teaches us patience, so God's patience also teaches us to guard the seed of his word which he has planted in our hearts and to beware of the destructive force of sin and evil that can destroy it. God's word brings life, but Satan seeks to destroy the good seed which has been planted in the hearts of those who have heard God's word. God's judgment is not hasty, but it does come. And in the end, God will reward each according to what they have sown and reaped in this life. In that day God will separate the evil from the good. Do you allow God's word to take deep root in your heart?
We should not be discouraged because of the weeds in the Church. We would normally ask why God permits evil to triumph so often in the world. Why are the wicked prospering? Jesus answers these questions in the parable. The triumph and prosperity of the wicked are short-lived, whereas the reward of the Christian who suffers from their wickedness is everlasting. God uses the very wickedness and injustices of evildoers to perfect his elect.
We need to pray for the conversion of weeds to wheat: We are called to recognize evil, name it and then to give it to God in prayer so He can take care of it, the way the farmer in the parable told his servants that he would take care of the weeds. God wants us to do good instead of evil, to bless instead of curse, to praise instead of criticize, to help instead of stand aside, to love instead of hate, to forgive instead of resent and to tell the truth instead of lies. The disciples to whom Jesus addresses this parable include Judas who will betray Jesus, Peter, who will deny him, Thomas, who will doubt him and James and John, who cherish personal ambitions. In the end, only Judas is (apparently) lost, showing us that many weeds can become high yielding wheat.
We must be charitable enough to recognize that in each one of us there is a combination of wheat and weeds. In each of us there are elements of the Kingdom of God and elements that are deeply opposed to it. Even Paul recognized that struggle within himself (cf. Romans 7:21-25). God told Paul that it was precisely through his weaknesses that He could reveal His glory. "My power is made perfect in [your] weakness" (2 Corinthians 12:9). Relying on the power of God, we, too, must learn to be patient with the evil ones. Now is the time to expect conversion because with the help of God’s grace, sinners can change.
There will be a separation of weeds from wheat, good from bad fish (13:47-50), and sheep from goats (25:31-46). But this "harvest" will take place on God's time-table not ours. Hence, instead of asking why God allows evil to exist (terrorists, criminals, diseases, hurricanes, etc.), let us ask what God expects from us. God wants us to take a good look into the field of our own lives to see what is growing there. Let us work with Him to pull out the “weeds" in our own personalities.
Karl Rahner’s piece of advice to enthusiastic weed-gatherers goes thus: "The number-one cause of atheism is Christians themselves. What an unbelieving world finds simply unbelievable is the presence of those who proclaim God with their mouths and deny Him with their lifestyles. Perhaps, the best defense of God would be to just keep our mouths shut and to live as He told us to. The Gospel would then have such a power and attraction that we wouldn't have to worry about defending it.”
Charles Read said: "Sow an act and you reap a habit. Sow a habit and you reap a character. Sow a character and you reap a destiny." In the Day of Judgement each will reap what he or she has sown in this life. Those who sow good will shine in the kingdom of their Father. They will radiate with the beauty, joy, and fullness of God's love. Do you allow the love of Christ to rule in your heart and in your actions?
Prayer - Lord Jesus, let your word take root in my heart and may your all-consuming love transform my life that I may sow what is good, worthy, and pleasing to you. Amen!