Opening Remarks — Story:
The headline read, “Perfect execution shuts it down.” It was the CUSA Baseball Conference playoffs, USM against Rice for the conference title. USM had a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the ninth with Rice batting. With two outs, Rice had runners on first and second, and the batter got a solid hit to deep left-center field. The Rice runner on second scored easily, and the one on first was rounding third base and heading toward home for the tying run. USM’s center fielder caught the ball on one bounce and started the relay by throwing it to the shortstop. He, in turn, threw it to the third baseman, who threw it to the catcher, who tagged the runner out a fraction of a second before touching home plate. The stadium erupted with shouts and cheers. USM won the championship.
If any player in the three-relay sequence of throwing the ball to home plate had their body position or throwing arm out of perfect position or took an extra second during the relay, the runner would have been safe. Perfection is possible! Despite our shortcomings, we can still imitate God’s holiness and mercy.
Today’s Wisdom reading portrays God as possessing awesome and fearful power and might, but unlike us, uses His power and mastery not to coerce, intimidate or manipulate. But to dispense mercy, leniency, forgiveness, and an approachable, even invitational demeanor. Yes, “Power corrupts” and “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We see this maxim lived out every day. Children learn early that a well-timed temper tantrum gets them what they want. Older students bully the younger, supervisors disrespect employees, add your own. Yet life offers many possibilities for us to make our influence over others Christ-like with compassion, mercy, and loving-kindness.
1st Reading: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19 Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 86:2-3, 3-4, 5 2nd Reading: Romans 8:26-27 Gospel: Matthew 13:24-43
Psalm 86 is a prayer for help to stay true to the Lord and praises God for the goodness and mercy the psalmist has experienced. The response, “Lord, you are good and forgiving,” comes from a contrite heart ready and willing to act in ways pleasing to God. Sincerity of heart is the attitude the Psalmist displays in this song of praise and thankfulness.
Sometimes we pray with the attitude, “What can I say to convince God that my petition should be given favor?” But that misses the mark. We cannot fool God. A contrite heart, a docile spirit, and a willingness to do God’s bidding will get us farther than the ‘right’ words.
Much of Paul’s letter to the Romans emphasizes our docile surrender to all the Lord God wants us to be, giving up our stubborn will and ways and inviting the Holy Spirit to form us anew. But the invitation can be nothing more than lip service if we do not yield every morsel of independence from God. Buying into the world’s promise that freedom means I can do anything I please, even if it is not pleasing to God, is a false sense of ‘perfection.’ Thereupon is the secret of weakness; it perfects us to overcome desires of the flesh and configures us more to the image and likeness of Jesus.
Chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel reveals Jesus preaching in the streets rather than in the Synagogues and speaking in parables to solidify His message. A good exercise is for us to read and meditate on each parable and record how these pearls of wisdom impact our lives.
Someone has described a parable as ‘an earthly story with a heavenly meaning.’ The stories are illustrative comparisons between Christian truths and everyday life. As stories, parables make truth concrete. They begin with things we understand to teach about things we do not understand. In this lies a conundrum; the parable reveals truth to those who desire and seek truth but hides truth from those not interested enough to think or too blinded by hardness of heart to see (Matthew 13:10-17).
Today’s Gospel has three parables (the sower of good seed, the mustard seed, and yeast mixed with wheat), and Jesus uses them all to describe the ‘kingdom of heaven,’ a term synonymous with the reign of God. It is an ideal state of mind and heart where God’s perfect will is desired, embraced, and demonstrated in the believer’s life. Each time we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we seek God’s kingdom in our lives and pray for its coming into the world (“thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”).
The first parable establishes the principle of tension between good and evil. God, who represents good, sows good seeds on the fertile ground of our hearts because He has made us good. God expects the good basis to grow and bear fruit. But evil (weeds) enter in usually in darkness, starting in the secret recesses of our hearts and growing as we feed and nurture sinful habits. God makes the good seed grow for a while until we choose the way of the weeds and the devil who sows them and choke out the good God wants for our lives. What sinful habits do you practice secretly that have caused your good seed to be smothered by weeds?
Closing Comments and Questions:
There is a harvest time when we face the Lord and give an account of our lives. Jesus concludes the explanation of this parable with the warning, “Whoever has ears ought to hear.” Whose voice are you listening to? Whose ways are you imitating? None of us are perfect, as God is perfect. But we can do some things perfectly.