Fr. Charles Irvin
16th Sunday of the Year [A] 2014
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43
We live in a strange world, don’t we? So many people begin things with good intentions, wonderful visions, and really want to make things better, both in their own lives and in the lives of others. Marx and Lenin, the fathers of communism, really wanted to make the lives of their countrymen better. We went to war in Vietnam with good intentions. Atomic energy was supposed to make the world a better place. But, as in so many great efforts, things are likely to eventually go wrong.
The same is true in our own personal lives. People fall in love and get married with nothing but the best of intentions, with high hopes, with hearts filled with love, and with wonderful visions. Then, somewhere along the line, things turn sour.
Life is mixture of good and evil. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world. There’s much in our nation that is both good and bad. Our governmental officials are both good and bad. There’s much in our Church that is good, and there are some bad things in it too. If we’re honest, we see that there is both good and bad in us individually and collectively. Everywhere we look we find this strange mixture of what’s right and what’s wrong.
The world of great literature and the world of great art try to help us deal with this mixture of good and evil. The famous Star Wars movie series presents good people who, for some mysterious reason, go over to the Dark Side. The authors and producers of Star Wars didn’t give us an explanation of why this happens, theygave us only the epic struggle of good trying to overcome evil. The world’s great writers, novelists and poets give us no ultimate answer to the problem of evil’s origins; the only thing they can do is help us deal with the problem.
The Bible tells us that Lucifer was one of the greatest of all God’s angels. His name, Lucifer, means “Light Bearer.” He was one of highest of God’s creatures; he bore God’s own light. And yet… for some reason he became the Prince of Darkness.
The reason? Lucifer put his will before God’s will. He refused to obey God. He opted to go his own way. He defied God. The mystery is: Why did he do that? Isn’t that the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden?
As followers of Jesus Christ, what do we do with the problem of evil? That’s the question raised in today’s readings. Answering the question is a big problem for all of us. Just what do we do when it comes to ridding ourselves and our world of evil? The Scripture passages in today’s first reading and today’s gospel account suggest that we deal with evil as God deals with it, with patience and forbearance. Evil will eventually reveal itself and evil will eventually suffer the consequences it brings down upon itself. Sin brings with it its own suffering and punishment. Don’t we see that?
There are a couple of interesting points about the parable of Jesus we just heard that I want to point out to you. One is that when He was asked where the weeds came from Jesus replied: “An enemy has done this.” He doesn’t tell us why God has enemies; He simply takes it as a fact. He is a realist, not a dreamy eyed idealist. To take a realistic view of life we simply must begin with the facts – evil exists and it comes from people who have chosen to defy God. It may not make any sense to us. We simply must take it as a fact of life. People, of their own free will, choose to defy God and do things on their own quite apart from Him. In the world of human choices, things are not as they ought to be, things are quite apart from what God intended them to be. The price of human freedom of choice is terribly costly, not only to us, but to God. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had to pay that price.
Why, we ask, doesn’t God simply pull up all of evil’s weeds? Why doesn’t God, with fire and brimstone, simply blast evil off the face of the earth? Well, that’s a lot easier said than done. Suppose God did, what would happen? What would happen to each one of us? Aren’t we all a mixture of good and evil? Wouldn’t we still get caught up on their firestorm of evil’s destruction?
Which brings me to the second point, namely the fact that so very often what is evil appears to be good, and what is good appears to be evil. We can’t make the sorting, only God can.
In today’s parable Jesus speaks of the weeds are darnel. Now at the beginning of the growing process darnel looks just like wheat. It’s only when harvest time approaches that the difference between the two becomes apparent.
We know that to be true, don’t we, when it comes to the great enterprises we have begun. It’s only after the passage of time that we find out what’s really good and what’s really bad in our marriages. It was only after communism matured that we came to know just how evil it was. And the same principle applies in so many areas of our lives. Everything has something wrong within it. We certainly know that’s true in our own Church, in our nation, in our world, and in our own personal lives.
There are no “quick-fix” and easy solutions. Patience and forbearance are necessary, and to have patience and forbearance one must have faith. This is what Jesus is calling us to have – faith in His heavenly Father’s plan, faith in His heavenly Father’s ultimate ways of dealing with us and with our world. We have to believe in God’s goodness and believe in His love for all that is good in our world. Reliance on God and acceptance of His ways is the only way we can overcome evil both in our world and in our lives.
Isn’t that the faith Jesus had when we suffered His agony in the Garden of Gethsemani and as He hung dying on the cross? The Evil One tempted Him to despair, tempted Him to go over to the Dark Side. But Jesus remained steadfast, confident that in the end, at harvest time, His Father in heaven would harvest the good wheat and burn the darnel. Dying, Jesus handed over His fate to His Father in heaven.
Yes, it is a strange world we live in. But at the same time it is a beautiful world, a beautiful world filled with wonderful… even heroic people. The great miracle is that goodness and love have survived evil’s onslaught.
What is the vision in which you live? Do you really have faith in God your heavenly Father? Today, once again, Jesus invites you to share in His, vision, in His hope, and in His faith that in the end God will bring good out of evil. Truly Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.