HOMILY FOR SIXTEENTH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME (A)


How often have we heard of perceived wrong doers being pilloried on social media or erased from narrow visions of the perfect society? In popular culture, there is even a word for this tendency. It is called de-platforming.

The lessons of history remind us that as a local, national and worldwide Church community, we have not always got things right. We all need God’s strength and we all need God’s mercy.

Scripture teaches us that we should be wary of a sharp moral sensibility that is devoid of any concept of redemption and love. Because, morality without forgiveness is impoverished. When there is no room for confession and reconciliation, hearts become hardened.

Throughout the ages, society has often reinforced division. Us and them, the rich and the poor, the learned and the ignorant, the good and the bad, the fair and the foul, the in group and the out group. But reality is far too complex for such simplistic thinking.

Jesus plants us as the good seed and helps us to become the wheat. Yet, weeds take root. It’s not easy to understand but he also tells us to let the wheat and the weeds grow side by side. He does not ask us to live within an artificial bubble of contrived goodness. No, instead he asks us to contemplate reality for the way it really is, to look at ourselves and the world with a clear vision.

In life, corrosive emotions can burn a destructive path in society that divides rather than unites. By engaging in harsh judgement ourselves, we risk blocking the light and further damaging the good. God wants us to understand that we don’t have to focus our attention on division. There is an eternal punishment for the consequences of sin that liberates us from magnifying the effects of wrongdoing in the world around us.

Jesus freely shares with us a profound spiritual truth that has lain hidden from the foundation of the world. It is best to leave the work of hell alone and get on with our mission of helping to bring the Kingdom of Heaven to earth. Indeed, Jesus asks us to love God and to love our neighbour as ourselves. To be just, we must be kind. It is up to God to make the final judgement.

The Christian vision of humanity recognises that everyone is a blend of virtue and vice. Indeed, the whole of society is a complex mix. To live with this complexity, we need to be patient and moderate in our judgements. This requires forbearance because we know that God’s loving embrace remains open to everyone who seeks repentance.

Jesus compares his Kingdom to the growth of a mustard seed that grows into a large bush upon which the birds of the sky dwell. He also compares it to the yeast that a woman mixed with wheat flour until the dough was leavened.

Life is complex but we cannot be blind to the interconnectivity, relationships and interdependence all around us. This expresses beautifully the mystery of the Kingdom of God. Each one of us grows towards God’s light within the larger web of creation where transformation is always possible.

Throughout our lives, God helps us to grow. He wishes us to be good and avoid turning into weeds that blight the harvest. God wants us to let his goodness shine through in ourselves, in others and in all creation.

When we seek God’s way, even when we don’t know how to pray, the Spirit of God expresses it within us. Turning to God to seek repentance opens our hearts to the joy of personal transformation and helps us to look at the world and ourselves with a clearer vision.

Conscience, the inner voice that discerns right from wrong, can become confused and corrupted by the complexities of living in the world. Confession helps us to accept and live by the light of truth with a clean conscience.

God wants us to free ourselves from the darkness of unknowing. This is the illuminating impulse of our faith. The Christian journey is one in which we have no need to fear an honest examination of conscience and there is always room for confession.

This is a true path to living in a world where each person focuses on removing the weeds from their own inner life rather than judging others. In the words of the hymn Amazing Grace: ‘Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come. Tis grace has brought me safe thus far; and grace will lead me home’.

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