God's Word on Sunday: Kindness is sign of strength

  • July 12, 2020

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 19 (Year A) Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43

How should power, strength and sovereignty be expressed? Not in domination, harshness or the imposition of personal will on others. Wisdom describes true power and sovereignty as righteousness, and righteousness as gentleness, patience and mercy.

These are the qualities of God, who cares for all people without exception. God relates to us in this fashion and by so doing seeks to teach us to do the same. “The righteous must be kind” sounds almost trite, but it is something we need to learn and remember.

It might seem obvious, but in an angry and polarized world, kindness is often absent, even among those who consider themselves deeply religious and faithful. Kindness and mercy are signs of strength rather than weakness and of closeness to God rather than distance. When we are kind, we reveal the presence of God to others. When we fail in kindness, we obscure the light and glory of God.

There is far more to prayer than reading words printed on a page. That sort of prayer often leaves one with a sense that there is something far greater that we are missing. Words are not what unites us with God, but the heart and the touch of the Spirit.

The Spirit prays in and for us, in “sighs too deep for words.” That has been the experience of many mystics. As one draws nearer to God, words fail and a loving silence takes over. Rich prayer flows from the heart rather than the head and often consists of sitting silently in the presence of the beloved.

We have never had — and never will have — a neat and tidy world that is free from corruption, injustice and suffering. Many people feel God is absent, for if God’s kingdom were truly here, these things would not plague us.

Jesus confronted the question with one of His many parables about God’s kingdom. Weeds indeed grow among the wheat and will continue to do so. It is not a sign of divine weakness, but of patience and mercy.

Good and evil will co-mingle until the end of time as humans work out their salvation in fear and trembling. Even noble and venerable human institutions have a shadow side, whether it be racism, economic exploitation, corruption or sexual abuse.

Individuals, too, are a mixture of light and darkness. The deeds of darkness of revered figures have caused not a little pain and disillusionment in our own time.

So why does God permit this to exist? Why not simply uproot the evil and darkness? Jesus gives us the answer: To do so would be to damage the good, too.

We tend to divide people into heroes and saints on the one hand and villains and devils on the other. There are very few pure examples of either category — we are a mixture of both.  

We need to be patient, both with ourselves and others. The darkness is not “out there” or “in others.” It is everywhere, even in ourselves. Only by acknowledging this can we avoid hypocrisy and projecting our darkness on to others.

Human life consists of a long and painful process of transforming darkness into light. The work is never finished and we will take unfinished business with us when we leave this life.

God’s reign grows slowly and from small — even minuscule — beginnings. The path to the kingdom starts when we begin to cultivate divine mercy and compassion in our hearts and minds and express this in our words and deeds. It is seldom grand or flashy, but works steadily and quietly, often under the radar. We might not even notice anything different at first, but others will.

Light begets light, and the process will gather momentum. Our life’s work is to make the light within us and others burn ever more brightly and to redeem the darkness by transforming it into the light.

The struggle with light and darkness is not about “them,” it is about us.