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Monthly Archives: July 2017

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-10  There is a verse in our first reading from the Book of Wisdom that calls to mind the parable of the wheat and the weeds in today’s Gospel. The verse reads: “your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all.” This is the way Jesus presents God in the parable he tells in the gospel. Jesus’ God is a God of leniency, a God of patience, a gardener God who is confident of the development of a tiny seed. Jesus shows us a God who, in the words of the first reading, gives ” your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance.” As Pope Francis says God never tires of forgiving us — it’s just we who tire of asking.

So, what about the parable of weeds among the wheat? Jesus lived in an agrarian society, so it isn’t surprising that he used farming metaphors as concrete images to explain the mysterious nature of the kingdom of God. The kingdom of heaven is like someone who has sowed good seed, yet an enemy has come and sowed weeds among the wheat. Jesus is quite specific about explaining what is happening in the story, but what are the implicit values transmitted to those who have ears to listen?

The kingdom of heaven is messy and complicated and will encounter opposition. In fact, evil exists in the world, and may not be easily rooted out. As the householder wisely advises his slaves, it is not a good idea to pull out the weeds, for their roots are entangled with the wheat and pulling them out will damage the crop. Jesus explains that at the end of the age, the angelic reapers will collect the weeds and throw them into the fire, while the wheat will be gathered into God’s kingdom.

We wonder, along with the servants in the story, where these weeds came from. ‘Let’s root up all those weeds! In another passage of Scripture Luke 9:54 the disciples of Jesus say: “Let’s burn up those cities which won’t welcome you! Let’s put them right and show them who’s boss! Let’s have the kingdom now!’ But Jesus says to them in effect: ‘Wait! Let God be God! Let the wheat and the weeds exist for now side by side! Wait till God is ready to start the harvest and sort things out!’ Be like God, be patient, and wait!’ We ask too why does God allow evil to grow in God’s kingdom? What can we do about it?

Scholars tell us that the weeds in the parable are likely darnel, a weedy grass that looks like wheat until it matures. While the plants in the field are young, the good wheat and the invasive weeds are indistinguishable and intertwined. Then the heads of the wheat droop over, while the heads of the weeds stand up straight. The image is of humility and pride. Is it up to the humble, true followers of Jesus to identify and destroy their proud, hypocritical neighbours? Is the destiny of wheat and weed fixed, or is there a possibility of redemption? There is a difference between weeds and people. We might argue that weeds are weeds forever, while people, if not torn out by the roots, might be redeemed by God’s grace. We cannot be certain who is good and who is evil.

In the parable, the householder says, “In gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest.” He counsels patience and faith in God’s justice. It is important not to damage the roots of the wheat. A good steward must do what is best for all, even if the weeds will survive in the short term.

What does this narrative tell us about the values and culture of the storytellers?

• We acknowledge the presence of evil in the world,
• While evil may be redeemed, that redemption may not happen in this world,
• It is not our job to judge, and
• We believe in God’s judgment at the last day.

Does Jesus’ parable encourage passivity? Or is Jesus offering guidance on how to live in a complicated world? While we wait for God to judge at the last day, how are we to live? Knowing that evil seed grows, that evil roots are allowed to flourish, how are we to live?

Through the parable of the weeds among the wheat, Jesus reminds us that we live in a hostile world, that good and bad are intermingled, that we must live cooperatively for the good of all, and that we ought to leave judgment to God. We are to concentrate on growth in our relationship with God and God’s creation – all of God’s creation including what is evil. By the work of our hands, motivated by the love of God resident in our hearts, bit by bit we reveal God’s love to those who do evil which they believe is good for them. To live in the presence of a just God who meets us where we are, who is with us and will keep us, wherever we go. We become standard bearers who are not overbearing. We are welcoming and inclusive!

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

FIFTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-14Over the next few weeks, the Gospel readings will consist of the entire 13th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel. Throughout this teaching, Jesus will offer several parables to illustrate for his listeners what he means by the kingdom of heaven. In this parable, he’s not only addressing his first disciples but, as with all scripture, he’s addressing us too. This parable is an invitation to ask, how can we make the soil of our hearts more fertile to receive the seed that is the word of the kingdom? How can we be the good soil so we can produce grain a hundredfold, and be part of a great effect that makes more and more seed, that can be sown near and far and take root in places we may never dream of.

Gardeners and farmers tell us that soil that is good for planting has particular characteristics: good soil has a lot of humus—decayed material like grass roots and leaves—that encourages good nutrients, good drainage and good aeration. Good soil has room for water and air to move through it and get to seed and plant roots. And although it seems like it’s just an inert substance, good soil is full of life. In some places, good soil for planting exists because fire has burned off all the useless weeds and saplings, preventing forests from growing. So, good soil seems to be the result of letting some stuff go, die even, perhaps getting burned away.

The same may be said of our hearts. To be receptive to the word of the kingdom, we may need to let some old, false ideas go, die even. To let idols, go or have them taken from us may feel as painful as having them burned away, but letting them may be the first step in making healthier soil. Letting in life-promoting, wholeness-producing understandings of Jesus and the true nature of God’s reign can turn worthless clay into soil good for planting. We can be the good soil in which seeds take root and grow into healthy, seed-bearing grain. The sower is often taken to be God or Jesus, and that’s a good analogy. God in Jesus flung the seed of the word of the kingdom wherever he went, and it found good soil in some places where others thought nothing good or holy could grow. God in Jesus never said a word about some people deserving to hear good news and others not. Jesus sowed the word of the kingdom, wherever he went.

To the first disciples, to the early Church, to us, Jesus says, there is nothing wrong with the seed. The sower is dependable. But here’s what happens when the seed falls on different kinds of ground. Trust the sower. Trust the seed. Be good soil. Be good soil, but take a clue from the sower too.

So far so good, however What if Jesus’ word for us has as much to do with the sower as the soil?

Perhaps Jesus has another good word for us in this parable: an explanation and reassurance that has to do with the sower rather than the soil. Perhaps Jesus has an invitation for us to be sowers and not just soil.

The sower’s approach to sowing is carefree, to say the least. The sower flings seed as he goes, with seeming disregard for where the seed will end up. Shouldn’t the precious seed be saved for careful deposit in some meticulously prepared narrow furrow where it has a better chance of germination and survival? Not with this sower. To this sower, it’s as if the seed is so precious, he can’t hold on to it—it must be shared. To hold onto the seed would be to squander it. This sower’s method seems to be to fling the seed as he goes, letting it land where it will, and keep going. This sower covers a lot of ground, not sticking to one pathway or field or territory. The point, for this sower, is to sow, and he does.

Jesus doesn’t say, “I am the sower.” He just says that the sower sows the word, wherever the sower is, wherever the sower goes, and sometimes the word gets snatched away by the devil, and sometimes people fall away because the following is costly and risky, and sometimes the cares of the world choke the word, and sometimes, sometimes, the word bears an abundant harvest.

So, Jesus is not only saying to be good soil, to be open and receptive. Jesus is also saying, “Sow!”

Don’t worry about whether you think the soil you’re walking over is good or bad, receptive or not. Don’t be saving up seed for the places you think will be the most fertile. This seed is so precious, it must be shared, and there’s plenty more seed where that came from. Not every bit of fruitful sowing is going to happen in the tidy rows of our pews, although by God’s grace it can happen even there, for the Word of God brings the hope of a strong, enduring relationship with God and, through God, with all creation. God plants the seed of his Word because God is interested and cares for creation. We must be aware of the “signs of the times” and reflect on how God’s Word leads to hope and unity. We have God’s promise: The Word is fruitful and establishes the Kingdom of God.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

FOURTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME

1-13Today’s reading from Matthew’s Gospel comes after a discourse in which Jesus reproaches people who have witnessed his mighty deeds yet still lack belief. In this context, today’s Gospel explains the reason for this unbelief and reveals what is necessary for faith, and also continues to enhance our understanding of discipleship as last week’s Gospel did. Jesus prays aloud to God, in thanks for having hidden the purposes of what God is up to in Jesus from the wise and wonderful of his age. He then says something that has become so famous that you could be forgiven for not truly listening to what he says: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

We are all weary and heavy-laden. Each of us is dealing with something, or a whole litany of somethings. But Jesus is inviting us into something completely different. Jesus first names our spiritual state. This is an amazingly compassionate thing to do, to notice and name, to tell the truth of a situation. Sometimes it is enough simply to have someone notice our weariness and burdens. This noticing, without judgment or fixing, is a lesson in empathy for all of us. That might be the distinction between empathy and pity, by the way.

Then Jesus invites us to take his yoke upon ourselves. This is an interesting image that most of us might not understand. A yoke is for a donkey or other beast of burden. It is a collar that harnesses the animal for whatever work that the master wants the animal to do, like pulling a cart or ploughing a field. The yoke is a symbol of servitude and labour. But the yoke that Jesus is offering is easy and light.

What does this mean, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”? In our world and society, clever and never-ending marketing would have us believe that each and all of us are deficient in some way. Jesus and, God, accepts us precisely where and what we are with no exceptions. The world has become exceedingly sophisticated in laying heavy burdens upon us. The largest companies in the world deploy deeply effective psychological understandings on us to encourage us to feel that we must buy into some lifestyle to be the happiest or most authentic self we can. This has been captured most recently by the acronym “FOMO,” or “fear of missing out.”

Now the world is not some separate creation or arena of evil. The world, as the church has usually described it, is that which does not proclaim Christ as Lord, so it does not live by the light burdens of Jesus and instead heaps up heavier and heavier burdens.

Jesus does not expect or desire for us to take on more and more, his burdens are an unburdening. His work is a rest. What this looks like in a daily practice is a constant reminder that we are enough, we are sufficient. This is not some mere positive thinking, feel-good humanism. Our sufficiency with God is not about our own inherent goodness, though there may well be some inherent goodness in us, it is about God’s goodness and love and acceptance of us. So, we remind ourselves every day of God’s goodness and love.

And then, we can extend God’s love to those whom God presents us with each day. The yoke of Christ does not prevent all pain, or take away our sorrow and burdens. Rather, the yoke teaches us that these burdens can be shared, transformed, taken up into the heart of God, and returned to us as life. That’s the kind of yoke, too, that Jesus offers one that fits, one that promises strength and rest.

Jesus invites us today to wear that yoke the one he offers. It’s a yoke that promises strength. It’s a yoke that promises rest. It’s a yoke that promises life. Jesus offers us a yoke that fits. And, when we wear it, he promises to walk beside us every step of the way.

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2017 in Uncategorized