16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 23rd 2017.
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43
Shining like the sun in the Father’s kingdom
I adopted a philosophy in my high school years that taught me a bitter lesson about life. I did not put in my best to excel in studies but to do the very minimum I could do to avoid failing. It backfired. I ended up doing way too little than I should have done, failing the examinations, and having to repeat the exams to enter college. I cannot make the same mistake in the spiritual life, being mediocre and minimalist with the aim of avoiding hell instead of striving for heavenly glory.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus indicates the high goal we should aim for in the spiritual life: “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” In the kingdom that Jesus describes, it is not enough to avoid being burned in the fiery furnace like the weeds in the parable that have been planted by the enemy. It is also insufficient to be the wheat merely avoiding to be tainted by the weed. We must aim for Heaven at all cost and strive to enter through the narrow gate. (Lk 13:24)
How can we strive for heaven constantly and not just to aim at avoiding hell? Today’s Readings show us three things that are necessary.
First of all, we must strongly believe in what Jesus Christ has done for us and what He continues to do for us today. These means that
1. We must believe that in His love for us, Jesus continuously sows good seed of His word of life in our hearts, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.”
2. We must believe that Jesus, knowing our utter inability to even pray for what we truly need, graciously unites Himself to us through His Spirit to assist us in our weakness, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings.”
3. We must have faith that we can pray and do His will in all things because of the presence of His Spirit with us: “The Spirit intercedes for the holy ones according to the will of God.”
4. We must also believe in the power of this divine life to transform our world just like the yeast affects the dough in which it is placed, “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour until the whole batch is leavened.” We are not condemned to a life of easy compromise with this world because this world has no power over the life of Christ that is within us, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.”(1 Jn 4:4)
5. We must believe that every moment of our lives is an act of that divine patience and mercy granting us the opportunity to return to God, “Let them (good seeds and weeds) grow together until the harvest.” We can surely make a change in our lives by the grace of God, “God gives His children good ground for hope that He would permit repentance for their sins.”
Secondly, we must be aware of the plots of the devil in our lives and in the world today. The evil one cannot stop the growth and spreading of the good seed; so he plants only what appears like good seed-plants in such proximity to the truly good wheat plants that it is too dangerous to try to separate them immediately, “If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.” We must learn from our past failures in the moral life how we fall for the direct or stealth attacks of the enemy through his conscious or unconscious human agents and fallen angels.
Thirdly, in addition to nurturing out faith in Jesus Christ and what He is doing in our lives today and becoming aware of how we are overcome by the evil one, we must also take firm action.
1. This action includes an intense sacramental life, especially the Eucharist and Confession. While the Eucharist nurtures and fosters the life of the true seed of Christ within us, the Spirit’s light and strength from Confession helps us to recognize and reject what does not nurture that life.
2. We must also cultivate a heartfelt gratitude for the seed that has been planted in us. Receiving the good seed with a sense of gratitude to God makes us cherish and appreciate the gift of new life that we have received from Christ Jesus. It is hard for us to be careless and negligent in the spiritual life if we are truly grateful for the gift of new life in Christ.
3. We also need constant prayer so that we can experience the light and strength of the Spirit within us guiding us to do the will of God faithfully in this world. It is in prayer that we allow Jesus to instruct and strengthen us to patiently endure the spiritual battle, “Let them grow together until the harvest.”
4. We must also be convinced that it is only in the will of God that we find our strength, hope and joy. The apparently good seed of the evil one eventually takes away our freedom, makes us confused, and kills our joy. A life of compromise and mediocrity only weakens, discourages and saddens us.
5. We must also be vigilant against our evil inclinations, the deceptions of the devil and the ploys of the devil’s conscious or unconscious human agents. The evil one waits for the opportune moment when we let down our guards to plant his deadly seeds, “While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds throughout the wheat, and then went off.”
6. There is also need for us to examine our attitude to suffering in this life. We should realize that, just as “the sufferings of this present life are nothing compared to the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8:18), so also the sufferings of this life are nothing compared to the pains of hell where Jesus teaches that there will be “wailing and grinding of teeth.”
7. There is also a need for us to take hold of and make use of the infinite mercy and patience of God now. We must place all our trust in the mercy of God who allows both the evil and the good to exist for now even as He offers the good the grace to persevere in goodness and offers to the evil the grace to repent. For both the good and the evil, there is always grace for a new beginning.
8. Lastly, we must heed the warning of Our Lady of Fatima in 1917 who warned us that many souls are going to hell today. Maybe many of us are just aiming to do the very minimum that we need to avoid hell and sadly end up missing the mark. Our Mother Mary also calls us to aim for the excellence of the divine will without compromise “Do whatever He tells you.”
Our Eucharist is an encounter with Jesus Christ, who never ceases to sow good seed in our hearts. The devil is also busy sowing deadly seeds that only appear good to us with the aim of making us doubt what Christ has done and is doing in our lives and to weaken our own free action. With strong faith in Christ’s uninterrupted actions in our lives and our readiness to respond to His divine promptings and reject the seeds of the devil, let us aim for heavenly glory so that we eventually “shine like the sun in the kingdom of our Father.”
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!