Sunday, July 19, is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass readings: Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19; Psalm 86: 5-6, 9-10, 15-16; Romans 8: 26-27; Matthew 13: 24-43 or Matthew 13: 24-30.
One of the most persistent doubts raised about faith in an all-powerful and good God is the presence of evil in the world. Even with the best explanations of the necessity of freedom in order for one to love, and therefore the possibility of a rejection of love, many seem dissatisfied with the seeming silence of the divine Being before so much evil and suffering. Today’s readings suggest that we relook at the persistence of evil as a sign not of God’s indifference or impotence, but rather of his mercy.
Even before the coming of Jesus Christ into the world, the Book of Wisdom offers a profound reflection on the great power God possesses, a justice so mighty that it can afford to show great mercy. The author proposes what may seem paradoxical at first: “For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all” (Wisdom 12:16). Isn’t this what experience shows us? Do those who really possess wisdom try to impress others with trivial facts? Do the truly secure seek superficial affirmation? Do those who exercise just authority need to be domineering? No. God is supremely merciful because he is truly just and wise, and so, the Book of Wisdom, addressing God, says: “You gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins” (Wisdom 12:19).
This good ground for hope of repentance is the underlying assurance of the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. Here, we find the biblical explanation for the coexistence of the good and evil, not only in the world, but also within our own hearts. As Jesus explains, the good seed is that which is sown by God, but the evil one sows weeds. If every weed were to be torn up, the risk is real of harming the wheat. What looks like inaction is, we are assured, divine patience. Our faith has always reminded us that there will come a time of ultimate justice. When Christ comes again at the Final Judgment, the truth of all hearts will be revealed.
This divine patience, while it may seem frustrating from the point of view of the injustices that persist, is a cause of hope for each of us. Who among us does not have a good share of weeds among the wheat in our thoughts, desires, intentions, words and actions? So while we may have to endure what seems unjust around us, we also have time to allow God to purify what is unjust within us. Ultimately, this purification is the way to a more just society. When each of us cooperates more and more with the cultivating grace of the Lord, the wheat of goodness can flourish in and through us.
Today’s second reading gives additional insight into how to welcome the cultivating grace of God. How hopeful it is to know that, even amidst our weedy souls, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness” and “intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” (Romans 8:26-27). When we open ourselves to the indwelling Spirit of God, we welcome the divine Sower of the seed, and we can allow ourselves to be surprised by the abundance of the harvest.
Sister Mary Madeline Todd is a Dominican Sister of the
St. Cecilia Congregation in
Nashville. She received her
doctorate in sacred theology from the Angelicum in Rome and
currently teaches religion and philosophy at Mount de Sales Academy in Baltimore.