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Our Patient God

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

I know a lot of stories of bad neighbors, but could you imagine being in your garden, being on your knees pulling out weeds, and suddenly realizing it was that passive-aggressive jerk next door who tossed some seeds over the fence? That’s just plain evil.

But seriously I don’t think that happens much anymore, but in the ancient world it was something people actually did to their personal enemies. It was so common there was a Roman law forbidding the sabotage of agricultural fields by planting darnel. I have no idea what darnel is or what it looks like, but the important thing is that it’s poisonous. These weeds among the wheat weren’t just an inconvenience or a plant taking some nutrition away from the soil… they were poison, they were meant to ruin the entire crop. So you can understand why there is such utter destruction of the weeds, not just being separated from the wheat but being tossed into the furnace and used for fuel.

But for as powerful as that image becomes in the parable’s explanation with the children of the evil one being tossed into the fiery furnace with wailing and gnashing of teeth, the scriptures today are actually more about a very important quality of God as the merciful judge of our souls: patience. The Lord of the household tells his slaves to be patient, to let the weeds grow with the wheat because otherwise they might pull out some of the young wheat mistaking it for a weed. The mustard seed needs patience to change from a tiny seed into a large plant. The woman must have patience as the yeast leavens her flour. The result of that patience is abundance. The farmer has a larger yield of wheat because none of it was uprooted by accident. The mustard plant becomes so large that birds nest in its branches. Three measures of flour when leavened is enough bread for a large feast.

And not just the gospel but all the readings today give us this same message: yes there is sin, yes there is judgment, but our God seeks not to condemn but to make us His own. In the first reading Wisdom said that “though you, Lord, are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us.” The responsorial psalm of the day says, “You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.” The second reading said that the Spirit will aid our weakness and groan for us and the one who searches hearts will hear that intercession. There is right and wrong in this world. There is such a thing as sin and judgment. And our God is the one who would take our hand, who would sit patiently with us as we struggle to live his commandments.

The judgment of God is tempered by patience, by his desire to see us overcome our sins and bring forth and abundance of goodness in our lives. Rather than define us by a single moment, He sees his creation by the span of every moment. He is willing to be patient to see what we develop into in the end, to see if we will give into sin and become weeds, children of the evil one, or if we will reject sin and become wheat, children of the kingdom.

So tend to the field of your own soul. In your life there are life giving, nourishing wheat, which we call virtue. With every act of kindness, with every restraint of anger and jealousy, with every loving action you have done for another person you have fostered that life of virtue and helped the wheat take root. But at the same time the poison of sin, the weeds that would ruin our harvest, creep into our lives as well. Little actions, selfishness, lies, gossip, these things are what plant those weeds. Have a patience with yourself, but don’t let those weeds remain once you know what they are. Always watch over your field and question: is this wheat or is this weed, is this virtue or is this vice, is this life or is this death?

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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.

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