16th SUNDAY(A) JULY 19, 2020
Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Rom 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-30
By: Jude Siciliano, OP
I am back! Hat in hand. These days have been difficult for so many. I know many of you are under severe financial stress. We here at the priory are doing what most of you are doing – staying in place. And like you, our resources have suffered.
We are expecting five novices to join us in August to begin their Dominican studies and preparation for the priesthood. Would you like to support them and help us prepare for their arrival?
If so, send tax deductible checks to:
Dominican Friars of Irving
3150 Vince Hagan Dr.
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Or: For an online donation go to:https://www.preacherexchange.com/donations.htm
We pray for our benefactors daily and will do that for you.
Sometimes even so-called experts and people who should know better can’t predict how things are going to turn out. An expert evaluating a potential football coach said of him, "He possesses minimal football knowledge. Lacks motivation." He was talking about Vince Lombardi, who, though he "lacked motivation," was the successful football coach quoted for saying, "Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing." Eighteen publishers turned down a story about a seagull written by Richard Bach. "Jonathan Livingston Sea Gull" finally got published in 1970. In five years it sold more than 7 million copies in the U.S. alone. A music teacher told Enrico Caruso’s parents that he had "no voice at all." As they say, "Ya just never know."
A friend’s father has a 1,200 acre farm. Reflecting on today’s parable she said, "I left my family’s farm when I went away to school. On a recent visit, early in the growing season, I looked at my father’s just-sprouting wheat fields and I realized I couldn’t tell the weeds from the wheat. When they are sprouting, they look identical to one another – until they ripen!" That’s what the owner in the parable cautions, "Don’t act too quickly. Don’t jump to conclusions. Ya’ just never know."
Summer is a great baseball time. But this summer, because of the pandemic, the baseball season is starting very late and will probably have only 60 games – greatly reduced from the usual 162-game season. They will play to empty seats – no cheering, or booing fans. Still, when the season begins this weekend, we will be able to watch our favorite team on tv. If we happen to come in after the game has started, the first thing we will probably ask is, "Who’s winning?" We don’t ask, "Who’s losing?"
As much as we love the game, if our team loses, we get over it, life moves on. But we tend to ask the same question about a more crucial issue. "Who’s winning in the world, the good, or the evil people?" We also want to know, in the long run, "Who’s going to win?" These days things don’t look like the are getting better for those on the side of good. Every day the sins of racism, a persistent presence, are being exposed. It’s even bigger than that. The twentieth century was the most brutal in the history of the world. Remember the movie "Schindler’s List?" It tells how Schindler cleverly saved a few thousand Jews during World War II. The movie gave us something to cheer about. But six million Jews and countless others died. And on and on. So, we ask a question that is more probing than about a baseball score: "Who’s winning, good or evil?" Are we on the losing side?
We are talking about weeds here – the weeds the parable describes were sown among the good wheat by an enemy at night, when everyone was asleep. And these weeds aren’t just out there in the big wide world, they are much closer at hand, even within the church we love. Someone said to me recently, "I just can’t stand one more headline about clergy misconduct, or a bishop’s cover-up!"
I think the early church saved this parable, and Matthew recorded it, because they also asked the same questions we and the servants in the parable ask, "Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?" And the question behind their question is ours as well, "Will evil, or good have the last word? Who’s going to win?" The parable doesn’t give an easy answer, it doesn’t explain it all to us: why evil exists... good things get corrupted... kids get messed up... suffering happens to good people, etc. But it does admit to the problem; good and evil coexist, up close to one another, up close to our lives – and they are involved in a struggle for a final victory.
The weeds seem to get into everything, even the landscape of our own spiritual field. Now there are definitely times when we must make decisions about what is right and wrong. We do try to maintain standards, especially for our children. But this parable is addressed to our church and personal lives where, in our fervor, we are quick to judge and act, pull up and cast aside, does suggest all the evidence isn’t in yet. The parable also warns that, in some cases, even though we are pretty sure, we may not be in the position to cast a deciding judgment. The owner, after all, does introduce a note of caution and a plea for patience. In effect he is saying, "You do not really know enough. You do not have grounds to judge. All the evidence isn’t in yet."
Jesus, the teller of the parable, knew this from his own experience. He chose servants to do God’s work who, if you looked at the early signs, didn’t turn out as expected. Judas, who was the keeper of the purse, a mover and shaker, showed early signs of promise. What about Peter’s failures, Thomas the doubter and the other men and women who kept coming up with the wrong answers to Jesus’ questions? They showed little initial promise, yet Jesus gave them a chance to grow and yield a rich harvest. "Ya’ just never know."
Today’s parable is an encouraging one for each of us. It is a story of grace, patience and hope. Aren’t we, who frequently look back on mistakes we have made, glad we had time to change and make amends? Aren’t we grateful for the chance and help God gave us to work things out? What used to be a weed, we were sure, turned out to be wheat. Suppose we had been judged on the spot back then? Today, as we look at our present situation, we can still detect weeds in ourselves and others – we are sure. Rather than being overcome by discouragement, the parable proposes a note of hope. After all, good seed has been planted in us and is growing. The burden of the struggle isn’t ours alone. We trust the owner, who knows what is happening, to help us sort things out. All this is summarized in a familiar, but often under-appreciated word – Grace.
Even as we feel dismayed at how much there is still left to do and how many questions we have ("Who’s winning?"), the parable gives us confidence. God is in charge. God is not indifferent to our doubts. God is not unaware of what still needs doing. God is guiding us in our struggle to bring about good. So, we will play the parable back in our imaginations, especially when things around us dismay and discourage us. We will look out at the field and think we know what needs doing. But we will hear this cautionary parable, and the voice that says, "Not so fast. Ya’ just never know."
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