Jul 16, 2011

16th Sunday: "Good wheat, Bad weeds" - Why?

Wisdom 12: 13, 16-19
Romans 8: 26-27
Matthew 13: 24-43

Who among us has not wondered why good things happen to bad people? Likewise, we may ask why bad things happen to good people. Who among us has not gotten angry at God or wondered about justice if our prayers were not answered or not answered when we wanted them answered? Haven’t we at times questioned the statement, “God is love” when we see war, human suffering, the innocent being prayed upon, no relief for the unemployed, the evil seeming to prosper while the good seem to always get the short end of the stick? We’ve all been there at times.

On the other hand, haven’t we also been moved and inspired by individuals who have beat the odds? Any study of the saints of our Church cannot help but to inspire us to face tough times with courage and faith. For all of its evil and horror, the Nazi death camps during the Second World War produced some great holy people such as the Polish Franciscan priest Maximillian Kolbe. If you haven’t seen the movie Of Gods and Men, I would highly recommend it. A true story that you can get on DVD.

Good and evil exist side by side and seem in some strange way to be interconnected. It isn’t just on the stage of world history. It is also in our personal lives. We don’t have to look for suffering. It will eventually find us in some form.

This Sunday we hear a continuation of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of God. The age old question about the existence of good and evil is the centerpiece. The story of the weeds and the wheat growing together, side by side, is used by Jesus to illustrate and it forces us to stop and think.

It’s not a matter of God being fair or not fair. If it’s any consolation, there is such a thing as ultimate divine justice. But to place upon God our limited, narrow view of what is fair or just is to limit God: To create God in the image of man rather than the other way around.

It seems to me that one point of this parable is not to question God so much as it is to take note of where I stand in the Kingdom of God. In other words, does my life sow wheat or weeds? Do I live a life compatible with the Gospel I profess each Sunday or am I speaking out of both sides of my mouth? God seems to tolerate the existence of evil in order to give us time. Time to grow in his grace and goodness so that works of charity, compassion, and a host of virtues can begin to affect the world around us lest evil become the norm rather than goodness.

Have you ever been seriously ill or in a really tough situation or the victim of some tragedy? How were you treated by family, friends, and strangers? I have been inspired time and time again when I see the outpouring of generosity towards those in need. People will bring meals to homes, call on the phone, offer their services, send cards and letters, and raise money for a cause – all when they hear of some friend or loved one who is down and out. The wheat grows beyond what the weeds have produced. Good prevails and softens the negative affect of hard times. Such charity from others produces more charity and it potentially can grow exponentially. Tough times often bring out the best in us and in others. “Pay it forward,” as the saying goes.

The Catholic Catechism puts it well: “Christianity can answer the question: why does evil exist in the world? The root of the answer lies in our free will. As God is free, so he chose to create us with freedom. Our freedom lies in a choice: to walk closer to the Lord, or to walk away from the Lord. The world functions as an arena for our choice. . . If we ask the question ‘why is there evil in the world?’ we must also ask ‘why is there good in the world?’. . . Good inspires hope. Only hope is based upon the choice of love . . .’” (CCC 309 - 314).

While it doesn’t make life easier to embrace what comes to us, it does strengthen our faith if we accept it in the right disposition. We all know that our lives are certainly filled with moments of great joy and peace as well.

Where have I been disappointed in God? In what situation did I have or do I now have an opportunity to embrace a tough condition and turn it over to God? Am I bitter and angry because things aren’t going my way?

Our celebration of the Eucharist is a forever testimony to the ultimate triumph of good over evil. The scandal and confusion of the cross was overcome by the glory of the Resurrection. What it means for us is forgiveness and eternal life with God. In this life, despair and emptiness have no place in the life of a Christian. We are essentially an optimistic people who live in a very real world where we have the power to daily choose virtue over vice.