Readings for The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Wis. 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-33
The question that is really being addressed by our Lord in today's Gospel is regarding the role of the "Kingdom of God" in the world. To accomplish this Jesus uses three parables: the weeds sowed in the field, the mustard seed and the yeast in the flour. The parables address the questions of why there is evil in the world; how can a little faith make a difference and how a little good can transform the world.
The first point reminds us of one of the greatest gifts that God has given us, "free will." God's desire is that we choose to love him freely and turn away from sin. I personally am happy that the harvester is not pulling out and destroying all the weeds. I am afraid I may be one of them at times and that our parish would be empty if we were constantly being weeded. There is an old story about an old Cherokee speaking to his grandson about a fight that was going on inside of him. He said it was between two wolves. One was evil: Anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, gossip, resentment, and false pride. The other was good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf do you think will win?” The old Cherokee replied, “The one I feed.’”
A very poignant example of this parable can be found in the recent Florida jury verdict of not guilty for Casey Anthony. Most Americans believe that she was guilty of murdering her baby and that she deserves punishment even though there was not enough evidence to convict her of the crime. I have heard some of the most horrendous desires for retribution from people calling talk shows. Understandably, many are very angry that a child was possibly brutally killed by her mother; but the reaction demonstrates how evil can multiply and grow if we allow it to take hold in our hearts or our world.
Another example is the number of prisoners in our country. At year end 2009 around 1 out of every 135 U.S. residents was incarcerated in prison or jail. The total incarcerated at year end 2009 was 2,292,133, with 1,319,426 state prisoners and about 170,000 in the State of California. The need for society to incarcerate criminals is evident, however, our country is not any safer than most of the world despite our jailing a much higher percentage of our population.
While the parables found in today's Gospel do not resolve our societal dilemmas, they do address our role in our world. First, we must have faith. The tiniest mustard seed when given a chance will grow into the largest of bushes giving life and comfort. When we feed the good seed within us it will grow and give life to others. As small as we are, we can all make a difference in the world when we allow God to work through us. Second, we have a very important role to play in the world. The bread would have no life without the yeast. We are the yeast of the world. Our love, compassion, kindness and forgiveness will give life to the world. Yes, there is much evil in this world. There is also much more good! Our role is to allow the good to grow in our hearts and the world around us.
This is especially true this week as we invite the world into our parish for our annual fiesta. All of San Pedro and many others will be visiting our parish this weekend. Our kindness and love are a great opportunity for the kingdom of God to grow in our community. Let us welcome all who come to our parish with great love inviting them to share in the joy of the kingdom of God.
Rev. John F. Provenza