July 19, 2020: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Reading: Matthew 13:24-43

In one sense, we do not believe in God.  Well, we can, but what do we believe?  God is more than an ideal or an idea.

When we profess the words of the Nicene Creed, what are we saying that we believe?  Does what we say speak to our heart?  How do we encounter God?  Where do I see or feel God’s presence?

It is only our interior awareness of God that forms our real spirituality and theology.

I don’t believe that the Catholic Church, in general, has done a very good job at helping us understand our own interior awareness of God.

We have been taught ideas about God, rituals about God, devotions to God, the Blessed Virgin and the Saints.

The point of today’s three parables encourages us to open our hearts and our awareness to someone who is there— who wants to reveal the meaning of the mystery and the goals of life.

We live so much on the activity level of lifeour daily schedules, our goals that we have created for ourselves, the work we do, going to school and making money, but is that all there is?

In the middle of Jesus’ life and ministry, he changes the way he is going to talk about how God looks at our lives and what he wants us to get out of life.

In the first part of his several years of public ministry, Jesus moves around Galilee and Judea talking and healing and trying to tell everyone with whom he speaks about His Father.

Very soon, Jesus realizes that the majority of people are not listening to him and are following him for what he can do for them or give to them.

So what we are seeing in the Gospel now is that he turns his attention exclusively to those who really want to know what he knows about God.  This group are called disciples.  They really want to learn.  That is what the word “disciple” means.

He is teaching them by use of parables, which are stories about people and things that they know, but he asks them to think and reflect, to see if they can re-direct their attention to living less on the surface of life and to begin to figure out how God reveals his true self in the experiences of life.

So the first thing that he is trying to teach them about life is that there is a present life and a future life, that we need to be aware of both and the effect of the present on the future.

The second insight that Jesus wants to share is there is a jumble of good seed and bad weeds in life. Life is not beautifully perfect, but has also lots of challenges, where things go wrong, tensions increase, where we make bad choices and can make a mess out of our lives.

Over the centuries, and certainly in my generation of church life, we were trained to try to pull up the weeds of our life, to try to live an unrealistic spiritual life.

So, Jesus says today, that the weeds and wheat of your life grow together.  My Father sowed the good seed, that we are not perfect, and that we will always be imperfect, that we have to get used to the weeds in our lives.

What Jesus wants us to do is to focus on the harvest, on the future.  For us that means, to try to direct our lives to do and to think about what is good and just, what is helpful and generous, and to listen to the inspirations that God gives us and to do as much good for others as we can possibly do.  There are no other rules for life.

The second parable about the mustard seed, Jesus tells us that God’s presence in our lives is like a big mustard seed that just eventually takes over and fills every part of our life.  It takes time.  It takes patience.  It takes a conscious awareness asking God for the grace not to forget God, to take God along with us in our lives.  We can either make plans with God or without God.  If we develop our lives with God as big as life in them; then the birds of the sky will come and dwell in our branches— which is a wonderful way to describe all the blessings for our life and the ultimate witness of Christians through the centuries and how many people’s lives that Jesus has touched.

God is totally extravagant when it comes to his love and inspiration in our lives, just like the woman who put so much yeast, in pounds and pounds of flour.  They would have needed a huge team of people to knead the dough.

We try to order everything, to measure exactly, to present ourselves as perfect.  We are so concerned about looking good, meeting people’s expectations, achieving a status by our actions.

Catholics from my generation were taught to follow all the rules and regulations of the Catholic religion with a particular emphasis on sexual purity— no sexual activity before marriage.  Now it is the other way around.  Our society has disconnected sexuality from love and from commitment.

Many conservative Catholics will not want to hear or to entertain today’s words from the Book of Wisdom, which tells us that God does not order our world with a whip, or beat people into submission.

Its author reflects:

Your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.”  Although God has the power as the creator of all, “you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us.”

This is spiritual wisdom from a hundred years before Jesus was born.  And the awareness of the author continues.  “And you taught your peoplethat those who are just, must be kind,” and thus “You gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.

It is our Pope Francis who expresses these spiritual sentiments when he says: “Who am I to judge?”  And Pope Francis certainly understands St. Paul: “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”  (Romans 8:26) It is alright to groan ourselves, “O Dear Lord, help me.”

I believe that God sows the weeds and the wheat in our lives.  Our work is to understand the difference, not let the weeds choke our lives, but to cultivate the seeds with the help of God’s Holy Spirit.

Hopefully, according to God’s plan with our cooperation, we will develop through spiritual evolution as we pass through the present and become “the righteous who will shine like the sun” in the kingdom of our Father in the future.  (That was the question last week and this week as well.)

What ought we to hear?  Jesus asks.  That Jesus is with us until the end and will walk with us into the new beginning.  That’s the plan.  So let’s walk together, our hearts and lives joined with Jesus and His Father.

2 thoughts on “July 19, 2020: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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