Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Monday, 17 July 2017 10:30
LITURGY NOTES FOR THE 16th SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
Sixteenth Sunday of the Year
July 23rd 2017
Suggested formula for recognition of indigenous people and their land.
As we gather today let us acknowledge the local traditional custodians of this land, ...................
for they have performed age-old ceremonies of storytelling, music, dance, celebrations and renewal
and along with all Aboriginal people, hold the memories, the traditions, the culture and hopes of Aboriginal Australia.
Let us also acknowledge this living culture and its unique role in the life of Australia today.
Finally, let us acknowledge with honour and respect our Elders past, present and future and pay our respects to those who have, and still do, guide us with their wisdom.
(based on Acknowledgement of Country NSW Dep of Education Learning and Leadership)
We respectfully remember the first people that live in our own respective areas
and in honouring the memory of the traditional custodians
we acknowledge with sorrow the immeasurable suffering caused to them and to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people by European colonisation.
We recognise with shame that such suffering still endures to the present generation.
We pray today with faith and hope for the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and ourselves
that God’s mercy and justice will walk in our lives, our communities and in the heart of our nation.
(Adapted from an acknowledgement used by the Sisters of Mercy, Parramatta)
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which we stand
We pay our respects to them for their care of the land
May we walk gently and respectfully upon the land.
I acknowledge the living culture of the ……..people,
the traditional custodians of the land we stand on,
and pay tribute to the unique role they play in the life of this region.
We acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land where we are now gathered,
(the ……) and recognise that it continues to be sacred to them.
We hail them: as guardians of the earth and of all things that grow and breed in the soil; as trustees of the waters – [the seas, the streams and rivers, the ponds and the lakes] - and the rich variety of life in those waters.
We thank them for passing this heritage to every people since the Dreamtime.
We acknowledge the wrongs done to them by newcomers to this land and we seek to be partners with them in righting these wrongs and in living together in peace and harmony.
Reading I Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Responsorial Psalm Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Reading II Romans 8:26-27
Gospel Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30
· Jesus, you give us the courage to be change we want to see in the world. R/ Jesus, have mercy.
· Jesus, you give us the patience to accept what cannot yet be changed. R/ Christ, have mercy.
· Jesus, you give us the patience embrace those who are not like us. R/ Jesus, have mercy.
Patient and forbearing God,
you alone know the goodness of what you have made.
Strengthen our spirit and temper our zeal,
so that in your own good time
you may produce in us a rich harvest
from the seed you have sown and tended.
Keep us alive in Christ Jesus so that
the gift of your life continues to grow in us
and be a source of life for others
Prayer over the Gifts
Patient and forbearing God,
Jesus, your Son, invites all to his table:
the weak and the strong,
the rich and the poor,
the proud and the humble.
By encountering him,
may the weak become stronger,
the rich humbler,
and the good more compassionate.
Prayer after Communion
Patient and forbearing God,
you reveal your strength by your patience.
We have received Jesus, your Son,
in this Eucharistic celebration,
and so filled us with the power of his Spirit,
that we may encourage rather than condemn,
be constructive rather than hostile,
accepting rather than rejecting and suspicious,
working together rather than criticising
so that we may become more
your people among whom Jesus lives.
Introduction: The Holy Spirit is within us and expresses our pleas for the good of all and the good of all creation. We pray in response: You are patient and merciful, O God.
1. We pray for all people in positions of leadership: may they witness to God’s all-embracing love by their service of leadership in church and civil society, let us pray: You are patient and merciful, O God.
2. We pray for the people of South Sudan: mindful of its tragic past and ongoing violence, we pray in solidarity with the people who have exhibited much courage, tenacity and hope, let us pray: You are patient and merciful, O God.
3. We continue to pray for peace over the region of Afghanistan and other parts of the Middle East: may the Spirit of Peace move in the hearts and minds of all so that peace and reconciliation may come, let us pray: You are patient and merciful, O God.
4. We prayer for asylum seekers and migrants around the world: may their experiences of oppression and persecution and poverty be heard and acknowledged without judgement; may they find welcome and peace wherever they find themselves; and not be used as pawns in political power plays, let us pray: You are patient and merciful, O God.
5. We pray for those around the world who are working with people who have been marginalised by society and the church: that they may know God's power as they bring change and hope in culturally appropriate ways, let us pray: You are patient and merciful, O God.
6. We pray for patience, tolerance, forgiveness and reconciliation in our lives: may the Holy Spirit keep us from judging other people harshly, let us pray: You are patient and merciful, O God.
7. We pray for hope: may we be filled with a spirit of confidence in the future through those who non-violently resist unjust systems everywhere, let us pray: You are patient and merciful, O God.
8. We pray for love in all our relationships: that the love of Christ may be made concrete in our relationships, workplaces, families and communities so that all will experience a sense of acceptance and belonging, let us pray: R/ You are patient and merciful, O God.
9. We pray for the church: may its work in the world to proclaim the Gospel, serve those who are forgotten, heal the sick and tend to the wounded, let us pray: R/ You are patient and merciful, O God.
10. We pray for those who are in prison: may they find mercy and compassion from those who work with them so that they may discover a goodness within them that they may share with others, let us pray: R/ You are patient and merciful, O God.
Concluding Prayer: Patient and forbearing God, it is your Spirit that strengthens us in live and unites communities in peace and joy. May we strive for the transformation of the world and the breaking in of your Reign.
Concepts create idols; only wonder comprehends anything. People kill one another over idols. Wonder makes us fall to our knees.
St. Gregory of Nyssa
The shortest definition of religion: interruption.
Johann Baptist Metz, Catholic priest and theologian
[Be] daring enough to be different, humble enough to make mistakes, wild enough to be burnt in the fire of love, real enough to make others see how phony [you] are.
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
Martin Luther King jr.
A riot is the language of the unheard)
Martin Luther King jr.
The ultimate measure of a (man) is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.
Martin Luther King jr.
Life's most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'
Martin Luther King jr.
I submit that an individual who breaks the law that conscience tells him is unjust and willingly accepts the penalty by staying in jail to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the very highest respect for law.
Martin Luther King jr.
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
Martin Luther King jr.
Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
Martin Luther King jr.
Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies - or else? The chain reaction of evil - hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars - must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.
Martin Luther King jr.
The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this (man), what will happen to me?’ But... the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to (him)?’
Martin Luther King jr.
Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but comes through continuous struggle. And so we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A (man) can't ride you unless your back is bent.
Martin Luther King jr.
The most shocking fact about war is that its victims and its instruments are individual human beings, and that these individual beings are condemned by the monstrous conventions of politics to murder or be murdered in quarrels not their own.
Aldous Huxley, English novelist and critic, 1894-1963
[Rebellion's] most profound logic is not the logic of destruction; it is the logic of creation … the logic of the rebel is to want to serve justice so as not to add to the injustice of the human condition.
Albert Camus, The Rebel
Mark's story of Jesus' last days … is an intensely political drama, filled with conspiratorial backroom deals and covert action, judicial manipulation and prisoner exchange, torture and summary execution … And we do well not to forget that this very narrative of arrest, trial, and torture is still lived out by countless political prisoners around the world today.
Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man
The worst sin toward our fellow creatures is not to hate them, but to be indifferent to them: that's the essence of inhumanity.
George Bernard Shaw
Justice is conscience,
not a personal conscience
but the conscience of the whole of humanity.
Those who clearly recognise
the voice of their own conscience
usually recognise also the voice of justice.
We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the hateful words and actions of the bad people but for the appalling silence of the good people.
Martin Luther King Jr.
A true revolution of values will soon cause us
to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies.
A revolution of values will soon look uneasily
on the glaring contrast between poverty and wealth.
With righteous indignation,
it will look across the seas
and see individual capitalists in the West
investing huge sums of money
in Asia, Africa, and South America
only to take profits out with no concern
for the social betterment of the countries,
'This is not just.'
Martin Luther King Jr., The Trumpet of Conscience
To fight evil one must also recognize one's own responsibility.
The values for which we stand must be expressed
in the way we think of, and how we deal with,
our fellow humans.
Beatrix former Queen of the Netherlands
Love, like truth and beauty, is concrete.
Love is not fundamentally a sweet feeling;
not, at heart, a matter of sentiment, attachment,
or being ‘drawn toward.’
Love is active, effective, a matter of making reciprocal
and mutually beneficial relation with one’s friends and enemies.
Love creates righteousness, or justice, here on earth.
To make love is to make justice.
As advocates and activists for justice know,
loving involves struggle, resistance, risk.
People working today on behalf
of women, blacks, lesbians and gay men,
the aging, the poor ……
know that making justice is not a warm, fuzzy experience.
I think also that sexual lovers and good friends know
that the most compelling relationships
demand hard work, patience,
and a willingness to endure tensions and anxiety
in creating mutually empowering bonds.
For this reason loving involves commitment.
We are not automatic lovers of self, others, world or God.
Love does not just happen.
We are not love machines,
puppets on the strings of a deity called ‘love’.
Love is a choice –
not simply, nor necessarily, a rational choice,
but rather a willingness to be present
to others without pretense or guile.
Love is a conversion to humanity –
a willingness to participate with others
in the healing of a broken world and broken lives.
Love is the choice to experience life
as a member of the human family,
a partner in the dance of life,
rather than as an alien in the world
or as a deity above the world,
aloof and apart from human flesh.
Carter Heyward, first US Episcopalian Woman Priest, in Passion for Justice.
We should take care, in inculcating patriotism into our boys and girls, that is a patriotism above the narrow sentiment which usually stops at one's country, and thus inspires jealousy and enmity in dealing with others... Our patriotism should be of the wider, nobler kind which recognises justice and reasonableness in the claims of others and which lead our country into comradeship with...the other nations of the world. The first step to this end is to develop peace and goodwill within our borders, by training our youth of both sexes to its practice as their habit of life, so that the jealousies of town against town, class against class and sect against sect no longer exist; and then to extend this good feeling beyond our frontiers towards our neighbours.
Our virtues have become our greatest sin.
They hinder the living God
from doing something new.
Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt
The disclosure of God transforms our narrow faiths, challenging our preconceptions of divine unity, power and goodness. Whereas we ordinarily seek the transcendent to ratify our cherished beliefs, the God of Jesus Christ is opposed to the idols we make of self, nation, race or economic production. We seek an omnipotence that is like the powers of the world, raised to an ultimate degree, but in Jesus Christ God's power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore ‘revelation is the beginning of a revolution in our power thinking and our power politics.’ We seek a good that will protect our own goods, but find in Christ that the true good empties itself for others.
Douglas F. Ottati, God and Ourselves
Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity but an act of justice.
Nelson Mandela, former South African president at the Africa Standing Tall Against Poverty
The sense of futility is one of the greatest evils of the day...
‘What can one person do?
What is the sense of our small effort?’
They cannot see that we can only lay one brick at a time,
take one step at a time;
we can be responsible only
for the one action of the present moment.
My call for a spiritual revolution is thus not a call for a religious revolution. Nor is it a reference to a way of life that is somehow other-worldly, still less to something magical or mysterious. Rather, it is a call for a radical re-orientation away from our habitual preoccupation with self towards concern for the wider community of beings with whom we are connected, and for conduct which recognizes others' interests alongside our own.
The Dalai Lama
No passion so effectually robs the mind of all its powers of acting and reasoning as fear.
If you look carefully you will see that there is one thing and only one thing that causes unhappiness. The name of that thing is attachment. What is an attachment? An emotional state of clinging caused by the belief that without some particular thing or some person you cannot be happy
Anthony de Mello, SJ
God of Us All
You are the God of all of human kind and all of creation,
forgive us for our sins against our brothers and sisters
as well as against your creation.
I ask for your grace to change our hearts
from hatred and selfishness to love and sharing
so that each of us here on earth
will have enough with none having an abundance.
May we all have respect and acceptance
of every other creature.
In your name we pray
and give thanks for all you have given us.
May I say to my Christian friends as powerfully as I can, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is about love not hate, acceptance not rejection. It celebrates the essence of one's humanity. It calls people beyond the prejudices of tribe, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation. It challenges those who have elevated their religious convictions to the realm of infallible or inerrant truth. But even more powerfully it calls those of us who claim to be disciples of this Christ to stand at the side of those our world would victimize, to counter the rhetoric of religious prejudice, to risk our lives for justice, and to do it quite publicly.
Bishop John S. Spong, former bishop of Newark
Injustice is rooted in a spiritual problem, and its solution requires a spiritual conversion of each one's heart and a cultural conversion of our global society so that humankind, with all the powerful means at its disposal, might exercise the will to change the sinful structures afflicting our world.
Hans Peter Kolvenbach, SJ, former superior general of Society of Jesus
Consequently, the promotion of justice is at the heart of a true culture of solidarity. It is not just a question of giving one's surplus to those in need, but of ‘helping entire peoples presently excluded or marginalized to enter into the sphere of economic and human development.
John Paul II, World Day of Peace Message, 2001
The fundamental sin is exploitation, whether it be expressed in the domination of male over female, white over black, rich over poor, strong over weak, armed military over unarmed civilians, human beings over nature. These analogously abusive patterns interlock because they reset on the same base: a structure where an elite insists on its superiority and claims the right to exercise dominative power over all others considered subordinate, for its own benefit. . . What is being looked for is not simply the solution to one problem, but an entire shift of world view away from patterns of dominance toward mutually enhancing relationships.
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is, 27-28
Violence and injustice in the form of massive poverty, sexism, racism, and war destroy the lives of millions of human beings who die before their time. The radical transformation of crushing structures and murderous situations does not happen automatically but only through human effort that, through active nonviolent resistance, struggles for justice and against suffering . . . In addition to cosmic and social renewal, Spirit-Sophia’s deeds take place when the life of every person is renewed. Jaded, discouraged, hurt, exhausted, worried people have need for comfort, healing and new enthusiasm for life that arises every day. Nonviolently, but persistently, the Spirit who dwells at the center of personal existence creates a clean heart, a new spirit, a heart of flesh and compassion, instead of a stony heart (Ez 36:26).
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is
Renewal is an ever-present need . . . Wherever the gift of healing and liberation, in however partial a manner, reaches the winterized or damaged earth or peoples crushed by war and injustice or individual persons weary, harmed, sick or lost on life’s journey, there the new creation in the Spirit is happening . . . Justice and peace throughout the world of nature and the human world are the effects of the Spirit’s renewing power, coming to fruition whenever human beings find community in mutual relations of sympathy and love.
Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, She Who Is
The solidarity which binds all people together as members of a common family makes it impossible for wealthy nations to look with indifference upon the hunger, misery and poverty of other nations whose citizens are unable to enjoy even elementary human rights. The nations of the world are becoming more and more dependent on one another, and it will not be possible to preserve a lasting peace so long as glaring economic and social imbalances persist.
Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, #157
One may sin by greed and the desire for power,
but one may also sin in these matters
through fear, indecision, and cowardice!
John Paul II, On Social Concern, #47
Interfaith Prayer for Peace
O God, you are the source of life and peace.
Praised be your name forever.
We know it is you who turns our minds to thoughts of peace.
Hear our prayer in this time of crisis.
Your power changes hearts.
Muslims, Christians, and Jews remember, and profoundly affirm,
that they are followers of the one God,
Children of Abraham, brothers and sisters;
enemies begin to speak to one another;
those who were estranged join hands in friendship;
nations seek the way of peace together.
Strengthen our resolve to give witness to these
truths by the way we live.
Give to us:
Understanding that puts an end to strife;
Mercy that quenches hatred, and
Forgiveness that overcomes vengeance.
Empower all people to live in your law of love
Pax Christi [UK]
The more faithfully you listen to the voice within you,
the better you will hear what is sounding outside.
My feet step softly onto the beautiful sand.
Their feet are running in all directions, energized by fear.
Gritty moist earth gently rises up through my toes.
The earth is violently rising, sand is blasting hundreds of feet into the air.
I get down on my knees and thank God for this blessed day.
They pray for protection, hoping to survive this terrifying day.
I walk out into the calm shallow water, a quiet sand drift awaits me.
A mother covers her child's ears as deafening explosions fill the air.
I look up into the blue sky and am warmed by the sun's radiant glow.
The sky is on fire, ablaze with hate and fear.
I take these hands and clutch them together,
Saying a prayer for my brothers and sisters in Iraq.
My heart pulses with emotion, eyes filled with tears, I touch Mother Earth.
My strong hands feel Her pain, I send Her my Love.
Slowly rising up from the Earth, form emerges, a head, shoulders, arms,
These are the hands of peace.
These are the sands of peace,
Yearning for a world
MaryBeth Weiss [This poem was written on March 20, 2003, the day after the U.S. invasion of Iraq commenced.]
How can we say Our Father?
...when we allow other Children of God to be placed behind razor wire.
How can we say 'Who Art in Heaven'?
...when we allow asylum seekers to be placed in a living Hell.
How can we say 'Hallowed be Thy Name'?
...when we regard our land as too hallowed to admit the persecuted, the desperate, the tortured.
How can we say 'Thy kingdom come’?
...when our 'kings' are selfishness, blindness, materialism and apathy to refugees.
Dare we say 'Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven'?
...when we defy the divine will by refusing mercy to those seeking asylum, thus driving them to the point of self-mutilation and even suicide.
Dare we say 'Give us this day our daily bread'?
...when we give our refugee brothers and sisters stones while we shut our eyes to our exploitation and warlike response to the poorer countries.
Can we say 'and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us'?
...when we detain all who cross our borders without papers as trespassers regardless of their tragic circumstances.
Who can say 'and lead us not into temptation'?
...when asylum-seekers we have imprisoned are cursed as 'queue-jumpers' or 'illegal immigrants' or 'security risks' or 'potential terrorists' and are tempted to sew their lips together or slash their wrists.
What temerity lets us say 'but deliver us from evil'?
...when we commit such evils against helpless people, driving some to madness?
Dare we say 'Amen'?
...to a disgraceful policy of detention that makes its victims cry to the heavens for mercy and justice.
I think not.
Cliff Baxter, Australian Journalist
The Tale of the Cracked Pot
Nobody's perfect, but our imperfections make us interesting.
A water bearer had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water.
At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full. For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water to his house.
Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments, perfect for which it was made. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.
After two years of what it perceived to be a bitter failure, it spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream.
‘I am ashamed of myself, and I want to apologize to you. I have been able to deliver only half my load because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house. Because of my flaws, you have to do all of this work, and you don't get full value from your efforts,’ the pot said.
The bearer said to the pot, ‘Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your flaw, and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you've watered them.
‘For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.’
So, each of us has our own unique flaws. We're all cracked pots. But it's the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so very interesting and rewarding. You've just got to take each person for what they are, and look for the good in them.
Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape. Remember to appreciate all the different people in your life!
Reflections on the readings
Liu Xiaobo and his wife, Liu Xia in Beijing, China, 2000. Photo: http://liuxiaobo.eu/
Pondering on the theme of the seed in the gospel with its call to trust and call to courage, the death of the famous Chinese pro-democracy advocate, political prisoner, and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Liu Xiaobo came to mind. He planted a seed but what happened. He died of liver cancer and was imprisoned for ‘inciting subversion of state power.’ The long-time leader of the non-violent struggle for human rights, denounced hatred and promoted freedom of expression as ‘the source of humanity, the mother of truth.’ It seems that despite not having achieved his goals, the Chinese government clearly lost because his ideas and dreams will persist, spread, and will, one day, bear fruit. Before being sentenced, he read a statement to ‘tell the regime that deprives me of my freedom …..I have no enemies, and no hatred.’
But did he succeed? Edward Snowden, another courageous dissident and whistle-blower, said ‘Xiaobo died under guard in a world where states still dim our brightest lights…..The law is not justice.’ Twitter quotes from Xiaobo's final statement in court said: ‘I hope therefore to be able to transcend my personal vicissitudes... and defuse hate with love.’ Like the seed that is planted in the ground it does not always seem to achieve its goal. So did Xiaobo fail? We have to remember that he is/was a seed. Not if his courage and dignity was able to inspire courage and dignity in China and globally.
The gospel is a continual call to build a culture of active response in the face of injustice to transform our world and doing relationships differently. That happens when the voices of people committed to exposing injustice are shared. Even highlighting the thoughts and actions of people dedicated to confronting injustice can build courage. Small incremental actions matter even when the consequences are not immediate or obvious. Even failure in an immediate objective may result in a change to the whole framework that makes broader change inevitable as the story is changed, future activists encouraged, and persistence is made possible.
We witnessed many seeds of transformation in 2016, at Standing Rock, North Dakota, when Sioux people and activists failed to stop the building of a pipeline but succeeded in delaying it and costing investors a fortune. Thought the pipeline still went ahead, the gathering, the largest of Native North Americans ever seen, formatted a radical new chapter to a history of over 500 years of colonial brutality, loss, dehumanisation and dispossession. Thousands of veterans came in defence of the people against the police. Many veterans apologised and sought forgiveness for the long oppression of Native Americans by the US Army by affirmations of solidarity and interconnection. People with little knowledge of native rights and wrongs were educated and inspired and informed young people of much work yet to be done.
Actions often ripple far beyond their immediate objective, even when results are unlikely to be immediate or obvious. Many of our greatest victories are what does not happen: what is not built or destroyed, deregulated or legitimised, passed into law or tolerated. Even losing can be part of the process of change. Attempts to abolish slavery failed repeatedly but the ideas behind them spread until they were passed. So we see, that repeated small, incremental actions do matter even when the results are not immediate or obvious. The true impact of activism may not be felt for a generation. That alone is reason to struggle, rather than surrender to despair.
The scriptures witness to God’s empowering and faithful presence despite the troubles and traumas that threaten people’s lives and futures. We are reminded that God continues to renew and rebuild us from the ashes of broken trust and ruptured relationships, so that we may take on a new identity as God witnesses in the world. God’s plans cannot ultimately be thwarted by the presence of evil, yet abundant life for many is threatened by systemic evils such as racism, sexism, and prejudices of all kinds. Decency, civility, compassion, kindness, openness to others are often choked by meanness, greed, selfishness and hatred. Thought things will ultimately be sorted out but we should not be surprised at the effectiveness of little actions for justice, kindness and compassion can achieve. We do not have be inactive in the face of negativity.
We may love to design our world as we would like it to be, e.g., a class of students who are respectful, eager to learn and cooperative whilst the the emergence of a bully could be pulled up and discarded like a ‘weed’. Peace could be restored when all these negative people, the ‘other’, the enemy, could be weeded out.
Our challenge is to see in the face of evil that God is still at work to save and not punish; to love and not to condemn. We are called to learn to live with difference without excluding or removing all the differences from our lives, our communities and our world. These could also be people of colour, or a different religion, sexual orientation, culture or economic status. We can judge people and situations by our own criteria. What is different is evil or backward or old-fashioned. Do we have the patience to allow people to move and grow at their pace, in their own time. We need to be patient with ourselves, others and their difference. God is present even where there is ‘evil’.
The writer of Wisdom tells us that God is lenient and patient. Everything God creates is good - and can be better. The responsorial psalm continues this theme: God is always merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundantly kind, good and forgiving. God is always on the look for the slightest change in people. Our spirituality is not about separation, but of welcome and embrace. Wisdom reminds us of the benefits we enjoy because of the patience of a loving God. Leniency, kindness, justice, mercy and clemency are shown to those whom God loves as very dear children (v. 18). Despite our frequent failings and repeated sins, our patient God gives us what is perhaps the greatest gift of all — time, here and now, to repent of our sins. Anne Lamott says, ‘When we manage a flash of mercy for someone we don’t like – including ourselves – we experience a great spiritual moment.’
Jesus called forth this same non-judgmental quality of patience from his disciples…inviting them and us to deal with others as God deals with us. As it has always been, the good and the bad grow side by side, and it is God’s prerogative alone to judge between them.
This has not always been the case - even in the churches when dealing with an unruly humanity. Yet, how will we ever know God’s kindness, compassion and love - if the ‘wheat’ and the ‘weeds’ cannot grow together? How can the churches be the place where all experience union with God and solidarity with one another? It is a church and world where the wheat and the weeds live side by side that attests to God’s compassion.
Unfortunately, humans have an almost irresistible tendency to clarify, to categorize, to separate, and to judge the worthiness of one another. We have a tendency to label people as good or bad, pretty or ugly, important or unimportant, smart or slow, stylish or old-fashioned. These labels can often stick permanently. They do not allow for the possibility of change, of growth and transformation. Jesus encouraged his disciples to forego the desire to label themselves or others (wheat or weeds; Jew or gentile; servant or free; woman or man) and to work faithfully and fervently to welcome the good seed of God’s word. We divide people according to gender, sexual orientation, skin pigmentation, ethnicity, age, economic status, religious affiliation, language, and so on. In our prayer, we may ask God’s blessing on ourselves and our own, but have no prayer, no patience, no blessing for those whom regarded as enemies, opponents or different. Jesus confronts this attitude with the challenge, ‘Let them grow together.’ The key word here is ‘grow’ — and grow we must in order to be true images of our ever patient God.
The parable of the wheat and the weeds acknowledges that we live in an imperfect world - a world in which good and bad exist side by side and where good and bad will struggle with one another until the God’s Reign becomes a reality. Reflection brings us to realise that there are weeds and wheat within all of us, that every one of us possesses within ourselves a capacity for both good and evil. We all have the inclination to reach out in compassion to others in need and to do good things out of love. We also know how we can behave selfishly, ignore others in need and allow fear to control our thoughts and actions…as we see in the inhumane and cruel treatment of asylum seekers by professing Christians. We’re all capable of taking the moral high ground whenever we think a situation demands it, but, equally, we can find all kinds of excuses to justify our actions when we really know that they are motivated by self-interest. This kind of struggle goes on within each of us and the challenge is for us to be more and more ‘wheat’ for a world that often seems to be being choked by ‘weeds’.
‘Weeding out’ people is alive and well. It occurred in Nazi Germany, in Uganda under Idi Amin in 1960's, in Bosnia's ethnic cleansing, and the Rwandan genocide. It still occurs almost on a daily basis in Pakistan, Iraq,Syria, Afghanistan and now in Gaza where so called ‘insurgents’ are weeded out randomly, along with many innocent people, by pilotless drones and other weapons. In some towns and cities we like to keep Indigenous people and poor people out of sight especially in cities visiting by foreign dignitaries. The Church has always wanted gays and lesbians to be invisible though the weeding out is occurring in a number of African countries, Russia and Chechnya. The ringing truth is: God cares for all… people and creation. It is to be shared with all: good people and otherwise. Knowing this makes for peace and peaceful living.
We are called to approach others with love, patience and tolerance, even when we passionately disagree on issues and matters of faith and its practice. Let us not be so quick to judge whether in our personal lives or as a nation. Let’s not be so quick to decide who is good and who is bad. Only God knows: and God’s ways are not the ways of violence and killing. God’s thoughts are not of hatred and destruction but of peace, forgiveness and love. Let’s not limit God’s care and compassion. Jesus never named anyone an enemy. Leave judgments up to God. Let us work at being more open to other people rather than identifying people according to the ethic group, or racial make up, or sexual orientation.
This parable has often been used as a ‘text of terror,’ as a weapon to threaten people with condemnation or declare God’s inevitable judgment on those whom they oppose for whatever reason. Such understandings usurp God’s role and ignore the fact that the ‘good seed’ produces wheat in abundance. Goodness, love, compassion, truth, kindness, service of others can never be confused with what others call ‘weeds’. One never knows what those considered ‘weeds’ might actually achieve or bring about. Which side do you think Jesus would be on? Didn’t he always go with the poor? The Outsider? The stranger? The lonely child? He welcomed the poor to his table. He went and was with them. Where would Jesus be now? How would he be trying to transform this world in which we live in order that everyone could have a full human life? This is a parable of confidence. God is not indifferent to our struggle. God is guiding us and the church in the process of bringing about a transformation.
I conclude with a letter in The Age: Prejudice against good citizens
I keep hearing that the latest North African refugees are all troublemakers. Well, I can remember, when I was young, waves of refugees and migrants arriving in Australia. The first major wave were migrants from Italy. They were said to carry stilettos and form gangs. They were soon given derogatory names. Then came the Greeks. After that came the Turks and others, through to those from Vietnam.
Australia spends $1billion a year to detain asylum seekers.
Despite the derogatory names they were given, each national group has gone on to make a great contribution to the development of Australia, from a backwater of 5.5 million people in the 1940s. They helped build the roads, sewers, hospitals and schools that were essential to accommodate our rapid development. Along the way they also created many outstanding local and international business organisations. I expect that the new wave of North Africans will come to make a similar contribution.
Jeffrey Newman, Ivanhoe, Letters, The Age July 16, 2017