16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
As was the problem last week the readings and the Gospel contain an overabundance of riches on which to preach at Mass or meditate at home. This weekend we hear the second of three readings from the long 13th chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, a reading that picks up where we left off last week. The overall sense of the readings and the psalm taken together is: what God has done for us, the last judgment, and the movements of faith.
The first reading is from a section of the Book of Wisdom subtitled: God’s Fidelity to His People in the Exodus. Over the next three or four weeks the first reading at daily Mass will focus on the story of the Exodus up to and including Moses’ death just before entering the land. We will hear again and again of the people’s infidelity to the covenant despite God’s unwavering fidelity.
The Book of Wisdom was written many centuries after the Exodus. This particular reading reminds us of God’s love for us, and his tolerance of our tendency to be less than faithful to our side of the covenant. There is great consolation when we hear: “You judge with clemency and with much lenience you judge us.” With those words in mind consider the parable of the wheat into which was sown bad seed.
Scholars suggest that the seed sown with the wheat was a type that, in the early growing stages, was difficult to differentiate from the wheat. Any attempt to remove the weeds would be based on judgment and appearance, judgment that could be wrong. Wrong judgment would result in loss of good wheat. Better to give all the plants the benefit of the doubt, better to let them to grow to maturity before putting the good into the barn and the bad into the flame.
Just as God never wavered in His commitment to the Israelites in the desert He does not waver in His commitment to us. God does not judge or condemn us without allowing multiple chances to reform our lives as individuals and our life as a people. The final judgment, the final sorting, does not happen on this earth but only after death. And so we can say with the psalmist as often as necessary, “But you, God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, O Lord, abounding in love and truth, turn and take pity on me.”
We have daily opportunities to allow for the action of grace in our lives. That action is illustrated in the two short examples of the mustard seed and the yeast.
I’m going to ignore the mustard seed because I’ve been a bread baker for decades. I’ve gone through hundreds of pounds of all types of flour and so the example of the yeast is a resonant one. Despite having watched hundreds of loaves of bread raise I’m never less than amazed by the action of a very small amount of yeast. When mixed with three cups of water, a tablespoon of salt, a tiny amount of sugar, and six cups of flour a tablespoon of yeast disappears from view. But its ultimate effect is very visible. After mixing, stirring, kneading, and a few hours for rising, what began as a beige, gloppy, sticky mess becomes a smooth shiny dome that is ready to be transformed by heat into warm, fragrant golden loaves of bread.
In the same way that the invisible action of grace transforms us yeast transforms the nature of the ingredients to which it has been added. The result is a whole that is much much more than the sum of its parts. But, this transformation does not occur without work. Yeast cannot exert its effect without some attention to detail on our part. We must maintain the proper conditions for the yeast to act. Water that is too hot kills the yeast. Bread won’t bake in an oven that is not hot enough. The dough collapses if you drop the pan while putting it into the oven. In this last case, however, it will rise again if given time and the proper conditions.
Baking bread is not foolproof but it is not difficult either. And so it is for us. Cooperating with grace is neither mindless and automatic nor impossible. Like baking bread, cooperating with grace requires some effort and attention to detail. Grace, like the grains of yeast mixed with other ingredients, is invisible and thus it may be forgotten in the midst of our many daily concerns. If we do not maintain the conditions conducive to the action of grace, we, like improperly handled bread dough, remain beige, gloppy and sticky messes. If we are careless about our faith we collapse with the first jarring blow. We maintain the conditions necessary for the action of grace through prayer, regular participation in the sacraments, (particularly confession and communion) and meditation on the Word of God. In that way we make ourselves ready for the final action of the Kingdom of God.
The question is: Will we rise to the occasion?
Coffin Bay is lovely. But the real highlight of Thursday was visiting the pig farm-antique store-restaurant. My favorite kind of photography is the sort here with the exception of the landscapes which get boring though they are important to locate the action in time and place.
This is a free-range piglet. Basil, the dog, had to be chained for this one. He was very excited seeing another animal his size.
This photo gives "eating like a pig" a whole new depth of meaning.
These old seltzer bottles reminded me of every circa 1950's rec room I've ever been in.
More marbles. This time they are over 150 years old. Originally made in Germany.
This record rack was just inside the door. A turntable here would allow for a John Denver sing-along; to say nothing of some very aerobic dancing.
This one stopped me dead in my tracks in the shop.
This is the view from the back of the restaurant part of the place. Coffin Bay is in the distance.
This is a very hungry bird. Talk about eating like a pig. And he was quite nasty to the other birds that wanted him to share.
A panorama of Coffin Bay.
Busy week coming up. Got called about a funeral on Saturday afternoon. Gonna be a very long day.