of Creighton University's Online Ministries
July 17th, 2011
Larry Gillick, S.J.
Deglman Center for Ignation Spirituality
Click here for a photo of and information on this writer.
Whenever I finish a really good book and I haven’t found a replacement, I find myself wondering if the last good book has been written. I will never enjoy a well-written engaging book again. Woe is me, or I.
In the Book of Lamentations, chapter three, it says that the favors of the Lord are not all in the past. We find letting go of someone or something wonderfully good very difficult, because we feel that the last great gift from God has perhaps, been unwrapped. Our disappointments and fear can keep our fist tightly unavailable for what just might be the next exciting installment of God’s novel of life.
As we prepare to do more than show up at the Eucharistic assembly, we might ponder the gifts we have received by letting go of former gifts and then pray with both sets of God’s loving presents.
We hear of paradoxes and parables today in our readings. From the Book of Wisdom we hear a song of praise to the God of mercy and justice, the God of power and leniency. God’s power is made most manifest by being merciful. Mercy seems to be almighty power at its best and most revealing. Those familiar with God are called to trust the loving power of mercy so that they need not be fearful. All this is summed up by the affirmation that God’s people rely on God’s patience Who waits for their repentance. There is divine expectation of us, but God invites us to expect God‘s powerful clemency.
Is God more just or merciful? The paradoxical God asks to be trusted and yet we do wonder if we are safe or in danger at times of being bundled like weeds for the burning.
Three parables challenge our imaginations while encouraging our faith in today’s Gospel. Jesus again uses simple every-day things to invite a response of faith from His hearers. The first parable is somewhat similar to last week's parable about the sowing of good seed. This first parable Jesus explains clearly, but only to His closest friends. Seeds and weeds are growing together while the Sower planted only good seed: some enemy has done the weeds.
At harvest time, the crop of wheat and the disordering-weeds will be collected: one for the burning and the other for union and life. This does leave us with the possibility that we are weeds.
The two shorter parables which are not explained do help us receive the grace of the first parable. Mustard seeds and yeast begin small, imperceptibly and yet have great influences for change and growth. The question about whether God will deal with us from a stand of justice or from a posture of mercy is huge in the human mind and heart. We would like the “big answer” right now so that we could rest easily.
As with the yeast and mustard seed, our spiritual experience of God as God is, mysterious and infinite, begins with inklings, touches, whispers, and simple human encounters. We are not saved, that is of the “Kingdom of Heaven” by big ideas and concepts. Little is big in the Kingdom of Heaven. For those who can live through their own experiences of their own weediness and wheatiness, the Kingdom begins to make sense. Those who live through the weediness and wheatiness of others grow in the leniency and clemency of God.
The “seed” sown in the field of the earth is not the total package of Jesus’ teachings. The “Seed” is Jesus imbedded in the soil, the “humus” of our humanity. There is a part of our earthliness which wants to be left alone. It desires not to be tilled and cultivated and of course, weeded. The Kingdom of Darkness loves confusion and doubt. The “enemy” has taken part ownership of the field, or at least has taken out a lease. Each of us feels the tension of ownership, to whom do we belong? That very tension allows us to grow patiently into persons of true faith who know mercy is at the center of God’s Kingdom.
The yeast of our small human everyday experiences of forgiving and being forgiven do fertilize the field of our personal lives. The mustard seed will grow, but not if we personally cultivate the weeds of harshness, judgementalness, and severity in our dealings with ourselves and others.
Perhaps the mustard seed experience which began my entering into the Kingdom of Heaven as the attitude to which Jesus calls, was during the first baseball game of some long-ago early spring. Now the field for that game was the twenty-five foot wide yard between our house and the one next door. The yard was long though. The first pitch of the season was hit by me down the third base line right towards, into and through Mrs. Gongrich’s dining room window, about from here to there. It didn’t break the inner window, but the storm window fell quickly to pieces. It seemed to me the season was going to be a short one.
Mrs. Gongrich appeared behind her inner window seemingly uninjured and I thought my life was going to be a short one as well. She opened her window and invited our two three-man teams into her house. “Strength in numbers” I figured and her sons weren’t home; they were big guys. All six of us walked up to her porch and she met us at the door. The other five were ready for a hanging; I wasn’t.
Mrs. Gongrich patted the others on the head and she moved them into her living room, but when I arrived she put both hands on my shoulders and smiled. That’s all she did, she smiled and held me for the longest time, maybe five seconds. The rest of the story is predictable enough. I don’t remember much more than the smile and the silence of soft forgiveness.
That smile and silence were mustard seeds and yeast for the growing awareness of what the Kingdom of Heaven is. We live that Kingdom in the ways we allow the wheat of God’s grace to outgrow the weeds of fear and hard punishings. That window was soon repaired and through it now I see a face of God, softly smiling when I break something anew.
“The Lord keeps in our minds the wonderful things He has done. He is compassionate and love; He always provides for His faithful.” Ps. 111, 4-5
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