Summary: The Spirit of God will help each of us, if we ask, to pray that the Will of God is always done on earth as it is in heaven, and to work together so that is accomplished in our day.
Sixteenth Sunday in Course 2020
The Plague Year Homilies
I suppose if you walked into our chapel to pray one day, and found somebody kneeling or bowing down and giving off profound and continuous moans, you’d either call the rectory or EMS. But let me just throw a few realities at you: the entire world is in full or partial lockdown, and masked everywhere because somebody in China neglected to tell the rest of the world that an incurable and easily transmitted illness was making thousands sick. When many governments announced required shelter in place orders, they declared churches to be dangerous places to assemble, but allowed liquor stores and abortion clinics to remain open. And when a handful of policemen were videoed to be complicit in the abuse and death of a young man, millions marched and thousands rioted, demanding a widespread reduction in police protection for the rest of us. Don’t you think the fellow on his knees moaning before the Blessed Sacrament is the one who gets it better than everybody else?
But before looking at St. Paul’s advice to the Romans, and us, today, let’s consider the three marvelous parables from the life and teaching of Jesus Christ. I think we can all agree, since we are sitting here at prayer, listening to God’s Word, that the Gospel of Christ is something all the world needs to hear. And most of us have felt the Gospel’s power in our lives. So what’s this business about the Kingdom being like the story of the woman who takes a little yeast and kneading it into flour? In fact, the Greek tells us that the yeast is hidden, KRYPTO in the flour. And this incredible, fabulous Gospel is treated as the tiniest of seeds, too. What’s all that about? Aren’t we supposed to shout the Good News from the rooftop.
Well, maybe not. Yeast and seeds take time to produce the desired effect. I remember when our family was young, I’d make Sunday cinnamon raisin rolls from scratch on many occasions. And the best way to do that, I found, was to start the process on Saturday with warm water and dry yeast, mixing it carefully with the flour and salt and other ingredients, kneading it for quite a while and then letting it rise for a couple of hours. Not quite ready to bake. You then hit the dough and let it rise in a warm place some more before you spread it out, add the sweet stuff, roll it up and cut it. Then only is it ready to bake for just the right number of minutes at just the right temperature, before you have what the family wants. It takes time and the yeast must be allowed to work slowly, or the result is not worth the effort. That’s the same thing with growing plants from seed. Some seeds take over a week just to sprout, and then they have to be nurtured in just the right environment for them to grow to a state in which they can be planted. And then it takes weeks or months before you can harvest a crop, and you’d better not let things go, especially in this hot climate, without feeding and watering and pruning and all the other things that make most people give up before harvest.
But then, as the Gospel points out, you see the weeds sprout up in between the good plants. Now I have to admit, as soon as they sprout, I take the weeds out to the compost bin. But what if the sprouted weeds look exactly like the sprouted wheat, as they did in the Holy Land in the time of Jesus? The master in the parable was right–you can’t pull weeds until it’s harvest time and you can easily distinguish the wheat from the weeds. That’s the case if you want to have the maximum amount of wheat.
It’s also the case if the wheat stands for good people and the weeds stand for the ones who are ethically challenged, who bear bad fruit and hurt others. That has to wait until the last judgement, when everyone is raised from the dead and the just are taken, body and soul and spirit, to be with the Trinity forever. Now you know what happens to the weeds, otherwise called the goats in another parable. They miss out on the good and are subjected to eternal misery.
You see, the first reading from the book of Wisdom tells us why. We learn that the righteous person has to be kind because the most righteous of all, Almighty God, is super kind. He is forbearing toward the wicked and unjust person–always giving another chance to repent. God wants His power to be used to turn goats into sheep, weeks into wheat. Those of us who have repented of sin–in my case not just once but many times–realize that God loves us so much that He has infinite patience. If there is a problem with that, it’s that we don’t have infinite time to make up our minds about God’s law, and the best way to live. If we get in the habit of thinking only about how we feel, how much pleasure we get, or how much power and honor, that habit may keep us from turning away from sin and letting God’s Son, from His throne upon the cross, pour out his precious blood to take away our sins and bring us back into union with Him and His Church. That means we need to get out of ourselves and into the flood of God’s grace today, because we might not have tomorrow.