Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary time
The Book of Wisdom provides this weekend’s first reading. Wisdom is the name not only of this book of the Old Testament, but of an entire set of writings. Collectively, the purpose is to convey in human language, and for situations in human life, the wisdom that comes only from God.
Always important as backdrop in reading the Wisdom literature, or in reading any Scripture for that matter, is the admission that humans necessarily are limited. We cannot understand everything. We cannot see everything. Even what we see at times, and perhaps more often than not, is distorted and blurred.
We need God. We simply cannot survive without divine wisdom. God offers this wisdom in the revealed Scriptures.
This weekend’s reading salutes God, the almighty, the perfect, and the perfectly just and all-knowing. The reading is highly poetic and lyrical, almost as if it were a hymn.
Marvelous for us, this supreme, perfect God assists us despite our limitations. We have nothing to desire or to fear if we listen to God, the source of all good.
St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans is the source of this very brief reading, the second lesson for this weekend’s Liturgy of the Word.
Stressed here are our weaknesses and our limitations. Even our prayers are weak, handicapped by our sinfulness and selfishness all too frequently. God, however, supplies. As disciples of Jesus, truly born again in the life of Jesus, we speak with the life and strength of the Holy Spirit.
For the last reading, the Church presents a parable from St. Matthew’s Gospel, using agricultural imagery. At the time of Jesus, the planting and growing of crops, and the keeping of herds, were the most popular livelihoods. This familiar story of the sower who planted good seed in his field would have been understood by all who heard the Lord.
Jesus said that the story resembles the kingdom of God. Each component, the landowner, the slave, the enemy and so on, fits into the overall picture.
To recall the story, at night, an enemy came and sowed the seeds of weeds in the landowner’s field, tended by the slaves. In time, both grain and weeds come forth.
One yield is good, the other bad. God will separate the good from the bad. He will decide.
Another parable followed, the story of a mustard seed, a tiny piece of matter. Although only a seed, this insignificant particle has the potential of life and growth. In time, it can become a great tree.
Finally, Jesus gave the Apostles a special and much more detailed lesson. He prepared them to carry the Gospel to the world.
The first step in learning about Christianity is to accept the Church’s doctrine of Original Sin and its effects upon all people. God created everyone, vesting in each what the theologians call “free will”. Some use this will to be loyal to God; others choose disloyalty. The devil tempts us to sin.
So, in God’s creation, people are saints and sinners, blossoming plants or weeds. The devil’s seeds produce weeds.
In the end, God will right all wrongs. Justice will prevail. In the meantime, it is essential that faith is a seed within us, planted by God. We must nourish it and protect it.
We can allow, and assist, the seed within us to grow to maturity, which is personal sanctity and final reward with God in heaven. Or we can reject God and fill our hearts with weeds.
With our free wills, we choose to be faithful to God, or not.
God’s kingdom is filled with life and reward, but it is not foisted upon us. God does not invade our souls. We must choose God, even as we endure life among the weeds.
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