As human beings, we oftentimes seem to be much better at fault-finding and seeing what is wrong, than we are at working for and finding what is good and positive in people and situations around us and our world.
I wonder if, at least in part, that stems from a certain amount of insecurity on our part, and so we end up projecting on to others, and finding fault outside of ourselves, rather than trying to look at how we might ourselves grow and mature more fully.
The scripture readings for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak of a God who is compassionate and merciful, a God who is patient with us and with our growth and potential. Since his election, Pope Francis has made a strong point of emphasizing the greatness of God’s mercy, and calling the church to manifest that mercy more effectively in our time.
The author of the first reading from the book of Wisdom (Wis 12:13, 16-19) speaks of such a God. Wisdom speaks of God as “….a master of might who judges with clemency.” God does not have to go around proving anything to anyone.
Oftentimes, the less secure we are, the more we tend to strike out and judge others. We are called to be more like the God spoken of in Wisdom. In the short passage from Paul’s letter to the Romans (Rom 8:26-27), Paul assures us that the Spirit comes to us in our weakness.
In our culture, there is so much emphasis on success. One of the issues with that approach is that then the focus in on ourselves, and we can more easily become inflated. Father Richard Rohr, a Franciscan, has commented a number of times that we usually learn more from our failures than we do from our successes, because then there is room for God’s Spirit
in us. Otherwise, we are too full of ourselves.
Jesus’ parables in Matthew’s gospel (Mt 13:24-43) also speak of God’s patience with our growth, and the potential for growth and development that God sees in each of us.
In the first parable, Jesus advises us to be patient, and not to make a quick judgment to pull the weeds, lest we pull the wheat up along with them. And, there are wheat and weeds in each of us.
The mustard seed reminds us that there can be great potential and growth even from very small beginnings. Like the yeast in the third parable, we are to work quietly from the inside to leaven our environments for the good, and to be a catalyst for growth and change.
As the old Christopher Movement said so often: “It is better to light just one little candle than to stumble and curse the darkness.” Pope Francis, as did Pope St. John XXIII at the convening of Vatican Council II, calls us to be more about doing what is right, rather than to condemn what is wrong.
(Fr. Wayne Gubbels, retired)