God's Word on Sunday: We’ll get through with patience, faith, hope

  • July 20, 2023

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A) July 23 (Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43)

There is a huge difference between raw power and sovereignty that is linked with strength. Power can be and often is used to subjugate and dominate others and to enhance one’s own glory. Power is often used against those deemed to be adversaries or enemies and sometimes even against family members and fellow Christians. Even a superficial skimming of a history book will confirm that power has often been used as an instrument of oppression, both in the distant past and the modern era.

Wisdom proposes another model — the model that mirrors God. God is absolutely sovereign and possesses infinite strength. But God does not express this strength with brutality, violence or harshness. God’s strength is manifested in mildness, kindness and mercy — and we are expected to do likewise. These qualities are not a sign of weakness but of true strength. The negative images of God that many have are a human creation and should be cleansed from our collective consciousness.

Wisdom then observes that it is through the kindness of God that we learn what it means to be authentically human. Wisdom insists that the righteous must be kind — a timely warning considering the intolerance and hardness of heart shown by many of the (self-) righteous today. God has not given us a free pass to judge anyone or to ever treat others with anything less than respect, kindness and compassion. Wisdom would have nothing to do with our culture wars and polarized name-calling. “The righteous must be kind” is something that should be repeated often as a mantra as we go throughout our day. Righteousness and kindness are inseparable.

Paul would agree because he recognized and was personally acquainted with human weakness. We do not know how to pray as we ought, and often do not know how to act as we ought either. The good news is that we do not have to do this alone — we have God’s sovereign strength in the form of the Spirit to help us. The Spirit gives us hope, strength and the assurance that we are loved. The Spirit speaks God’s language and is able to express our deepest longing and pain in ways that we cannot even imagine. We need never fear that God is unaware of our struggles and failings. God’s Spirit searches our hearts to its very depths with all its light and darkness. All that is in our hearts is touched by the mercy and compassion of God.

Many have wondered why evil exists in the world. Why doesn’t God just do away with it? Why don’t we? But we can also be shocked to find that evil and darkness lurk in every human heart, including our own. And that is what these parables are about. Until the end of time, good and evil as well as light and darkness must coexist. They are the two opposing spiritual and ethical poles, and both play their part in the cosmic struggle. The world is not black and white — there is much gray to contend with. In the greatest saint, we can find darkness and sin, while in one who by all appearances is reprehensible, we may find bits and pieces of light and goodness.

At this point, we cannot destroy one without seriously damaging or destroying the other. Rather than obsessing about the darkness, it is far more helpful to expend our efforts at manifesting more of the light in our own lives. That is why the two shorter parables concerning a mustard seed and yeast both counsel patience. From the tiniest beginnings, when we first awaken to the light, we can grow continually until we reach maturity and wisdom. We can nurture it, but we cannot force it or hurry it along. It is necessary to learn daily, line upon line, precept upon precept, what it means to manifest divinity in our lives. We cannot set unrealistic goals and standards for other people or for ourselves — everyone has to be met where they are, just as God meets us.

Our universe and our world are in a constant state of change and becoming, and so are we. Patience, faith and hope will see us through.