July 18, 1999 --16th Sunday "A"




Our natural tendency is to classify people in two categories, the good and the bad, ourselves generally in the first category, of course. This is characteristic of individuals as wells as of nations and religious groups.

We are often disturbed by the relativity of reality, and in our frantic search for security we try to make absolutes of all our concepts about everything, and we are easily threatened by those who do not have the good sense of being just like us. We easily become intolerant and sectarian.

The Apostles themselves were scandalized by the attitude of the Pharisees and of some hesitating disciples, and they would have liked Jesus to send the fire from heaven on his enemies. Jesus refused.

He was the universal pastor. He did not appear in might as the judge who would separate the good from the wicked. He did not establish lines of separation between his disciples. He did not judge. He had come for the sinners and he simply hoped to be able to convince everyone to recognize himself/herself as such. In his love, waiting for a response, he had an extraordinary respect for all those whom he loved. His patience was the sign of a radical self-detachment.

Throughout all his life he was the incarnation of divine patience toward the sinner. He showed that divine pardon was limitless and that no sin could snatch man from the merciful power of the Father.

The message of today's parable however is deeper: Jesus is not a new law-maker, bringing about a new law superior to the old one. What he has brought is a new leaven to be put into the dough of mankind. By its universality that leaven calls all the generations to think over, to remodel their lives. No human institution can imprison that ferment. Everything has to be remodeled.

Being his Body, the Church is charged with the task of incarnating among men the patience of Jesus. His mission is not to sort out the good from the wicked, but to present a genuine visage of love. On this earth the wheat is always mixed with chaff and even with tares. The line that divides them is a line that cuts through the center in us all. Sorting cannot take place until after death.

The other message of the parable is that the law of the Kingdom is a law of growth. A good exercise of faith consists in knowing how to be attentive to the germs of new life in our community, our family, our Church, and to foster their growth without being disturbed by the eventual presence of tares.

Sin sticks to our skin. It is not something that suddenly enters our lives and that we can go and suddenly lay down somewhere. There are in us seeds of sin and seeds of healing. The struggle between the two will last till our death. And so is it with the Church and the World.

None of us can hope to be able to imitate Christ's patience unless we are nourished by the Word and the Bread. It is for this reason that we celebrate again today this Eucharist, that can nurture in us the seeds of life. Let us approach it with trust and hope.