Sunday, July 19, 2020

Meaning in the Mess

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Picture: cc Jason Wun

My dear friends, imagine for a moment that you’re visiting someone’s house for the first time, and you find that the whole place is in a big mess. How do you feel? What do you think? Speaking for myself, I think even though I may try very hard not to judge, it’s quite likely that I’ll find it difficult to resist drawing certain not so charitable conclusions about those who live in that house, or about its owner. Maybe these people are untidy, or careless, or just plain lazy…

But what if it’s not just any single family’s house that is messy, but the whole wide world? How do I feel, for example, over these days and months, as people everywhere continue to suffer the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic? The poor much more than the well-off. What crosses my mind when I hear about some global leaders squabbling for political gain, instead of working together for the common good? What conclusions do I draw, not just about my world, but also about the One whom we Christians believe created it? Is our common earthly home hopelessly lost? Is God simply too callous or cruel, too vindictive or incompetent, to do anything?

My dear friends, if you’ve ever struggled to find meaning amid the madness of our world, if the messiness of life ever upsets your peace of mind, then perhaps you’ll be happy to know that today’s Mass readings offer us some guidance. For what do we find in the parable of the weeds and the wheat if not a very messy situation? And notice how this situation is intended to be a description not just of any untidy home, not even of the secular world. The distasteful sight of a wheat field overgrown with weeds is meant to signify nothing less than the current condition of the Kingdom of heaven itself.

In presenting us with this surprising image, what the Lord is perhaps teaching us is how to look at the often heartbreaking condition of our world, and to recognise there the workings of God. The subtle activity of the same powerful yet gentle and merciful God described in the first reading. A God who cares for every thing, who governs us with great lenience, teaching us how we too must be kindly to others.

Nor is the extent of God’s power limited to simply tolerating the weeds of sinfulness, in order to allow time for the seeds of virtue to sprout and to grow. For, as the gospel of John reminds us (12:24), in the person of Jesus, God actually enters into the field of our world, actually becomes a grain of wheat, which falls into the earth and dies, so as to bear the precious fruit of our salvation.

Even more, the second reading tells us that, in the person of the Spirit, God enters also into the chaotic and contradictory desires of our own often divided hearts, helping us to pray honestly and effectively, in a way that truly expresses the very mind of God.

Sisters and brothers, when you gaze at the messy sight of our troubled world, what do you see, how do you feel, what will you do today?

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