Sunday, July 23, 2023

Riding the See-Saw of Care

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 85 (86):5-6, 9-10, 15-16; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-30 or 43

Picture: Jessica Wilson on Unsplash

My dear friends, does anyone still remember what it’s like to ride a see-saw? Not the newer modern ones, but the older retro ones, made up of little more than a long plank anchored to the ground in the middle. There’s a certain skill required to play with a see-saw like that, right? We need to know when to lift our feet up, and when to put our foot down. Otherwise there’ll be no seeing and sawing. The plank will just remain stuck in the same position. And where’s the fun in that?

What possible connection does this have with our scriptures today? To see it, we need first to recognise that our readings have a preferred audience. They are likely addressed first to all those who groan. Those who see, suffer, and lament the terrible effects of evil in our world, and can’t help wondering why God doesn’t seem to do anything about it. Does God not care that we are perishing? That our world often looks like it’s going to hell in a hand-basket? Or maybe God isn’t in control, doesn’t have the power to change things, after all.

To those troubled by such questions, the readings offer assurance that God does indeed care, for every thing and every one. God is at once all-powerful and all-merciful. Slow to anger and abounding in love and truth. If God sometimes seems slow to act, it’s not out of ineptitude or indifference, but because removing evil prematurely may do more damage to the good. When you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. God’s apparent slowness is just another expression of God’s care. God is prudent and patient enough to wait till the time is ripe, before dealing with evil in a way that protects and advances the good. In other words, God acts like people playing on a see-saw, knowing when to lift their feet up, and when to put their foot down. Which is a great consolation for us, since evil isn’t just something out there in the world. It’s often also in here, in my own heart.

And if this is what care looks like in God’s kingdom, then our readings have a second preferred audience. It is those entrusted with the responsibility of caring for others in some way. Which is far from easy to do, right? Not least because there can be a very fine line between patience and negligence, between leniency and complicity. For example, what does care look like when I discover that my colleague or boss is accepting bribes, or embezzling funds? Or that my spouse is abusing our helper or our children? Or that a leader or minister in my parish is behaving in ways that endanger others? … However I choose to act, it’s important to prioritise the protection of those more vulnerable. To take a so-called victims-first approach.

Knowing when I need to wait, and when and how I have to act. When to lift my feet up, and when to put my foot down. As recent events in the local news have shown, this is a gift of great importance. Something for which we need to pray persistently in the Spirit, confident that our plea is in accord with the mind of God. Sisters and brothers, what must we do to help one another beg and receive from God this precious gift of the see-saw, not just for fun, but so as to truly further the good of all?

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