FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 | Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16 | Romans 8:26-27 | Matthew 13:24-30
Today’s readings describe an extremely patient God. The selections suggest that we give the persistence of evil a second look as a sign not of God’s indifference but rather of his mercy.
A man was walking through a supermarket with a screaming baby in the shopping cart. A woman nearby noticed that time and again the man would calmly say: “Keep calm, Edgar. Keep calm, Edgar." Impressed for the man’s patience as the child continued to cry noisily, the woman walked up to him and said: “Sir, great job for your patience with baby Edgar! A bawling baby can rattle even the most level-headed person.” To which the man replied, “Ma'am, I am Edgar!”
The Book of Wisdom offers a profound reflection on the great power God possesses. God has the authority to do anything he wants simply because he is God. He does not have to explain his actions and judgments to anyone. Yet, God does not take delight in displaying his powers and does not use his strength capriciously. Despite God's unlimited power, he acts with patience and moderation, even towards his enemies. Instead of destroying them suddenly and utterly with a single blow, God is lenient, giving his enemies both the time and the possibility to come to recognize him as the true God, and to amend their wicked ways. His power is immense that it can afford to demonstrate patience. A more common translation for patience is “slow to anger” and the one that best captures the original Aramaic arak (עָרַךְ) is “forbearance”. In short, God waits a very long time before He gets in your face!
Nanette is a widow who is raising six children after her husband Crisanto, who used to be a rubbish picker at the Payatas dump, was mistakenly killed by police in a crackdown on illegal drug use. She was left alone to care for two children from her late husband’s previous marriage and four from their marriage together. Crisanto's unexpected death sent Nanette into a pit of sorrow. Vincentian fathers and brothers began visiting Nanette, but she remained lonely and depressed. "I am no longer able to pray to God," she confided to them, "In fact, I am not certain I believe in God anymore." After an awkward moment of silence, Fr. Daniel, one of the visiting priests responded, "Then we will believe for you. We will pray for you." In the following weeks the clerics met weekly to bring grocery donations and pray with Nanette asking God to help her experience God's presence and healing. Months later, as the priests and brothers gathered again in Nanette's tiny makeshift shack right by the road, Nanette greeted them with a smile. "It is no longer necessary for you to pray for me," she said. "Instead, I would like you to pray with me."
In his Letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul reminds us that although we are weak, God is patient with our human limitations. God gives us the Holy Spirit to aid us in our weakness and intercede for us with Him. The apostle Paul’s intent is clear: he wants to encourage us, especially when we feel our own weakness, because the Holy Spirit is praying for us. Even though we do not know how to pray as we should, we should be encouraged to keep praying. So, if you say, “I don’t have the strength to stand for what is right and true,” then kneel at the feet of Jesus in your weakness. Cry out to Him for deliverance. The next time you’re about to lose hope and get discouraged, run to Jesus. Every time you feel your weakness and inability, call out to Jesus. God has not left us alone in our weakness. Rather, His Spirit helps us by interceding for us. All saints have been weak men and women who did great things for God because they reckoned on the Spirit of God being with them. Let us realize that when we pray the Spirit is always joining with us, so that we are not praying alone.
Ruben, a young seminarian, was taking a pre-ordination evaluation. During the questioning, Fr. Joselito, one of the priest-examiners asked him if he believed in a personal devil. "No," he replied, "I do not believe in the devil." Hearing this, the formators began to discuss the seminarian's fitness for ordination. They were on the verge of disqualifying him when Monsignor Berto, one of the older faculty members spoke up: "Don't worry about Ruben's present disbelief in a personal devil. This whole thing will take care of itself. Assign him immediately to work in the parish and it will not take more than two weeks before he changes his mind."
In the Gospel, Matthew explains that the Christian community consists of a diverse mix of individuals, ranging from the good to the wicked and everything in between. According to Matthew's analogy, God sows the good seed, while the evil one sows weeds among them. Removing all the weeds poses a risk of harming the wheat, so what might seem like inaction is actually God's patient approach. We are not supposed to give up just because things are not perfect yet; God is still actively working. God never supports evil, but hastily removing the evil might inadvertently uproot the good. There's a possibility that the evil could overpower the good, but there's also hope that the good can influence the evil positively. God's patience with the wicked is to offer them a chance to repent and change their ways. The coexistence of weeds and wheat is meant to continue until a time of complete growth, when harvesters will separate the two. God's patience is aimed at transforming the "weeds" into "wheat," showing His care for all of us. We are all a mix of imperfections, but God loves us regardless. So, even as we endure perceived injustice around us, we have time to allow God to purify the injustices within us. God doesn't give up on any of us, and we should not give up either. We must keep striving and hoping until the end of time. In the meantime, let us live our lives abundantly, even amidst challenges and difficulties. Let us be our best selves, loving God and our neighbors as best we can. As we cooperate with God's grace, the goodness, compassion, justice, and decency within us can flourish once again likewise in our beloved Philippines.
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum