When we listen to a parable from the Lord, like the Apostles,
we are often unsure how to understand it.
Here’s a suggestion:
To get more out of what the Lord says,
Try asking what about his message
is something you do NOT want to hear.
Let’s try it with this parable.
It clearly illustrates how good and evil will endure until the end,
and only God will really solve the problem.
Not only that, God is willing to be patient --
often much more patient than we think he ought to be.
So far, so good.
But many take this parable to mean something else:
that we don’t really have to worry too much
about confronting evil -- they let that be God’s job.
So for example, what do you hear people say --
even people who imagine themselves to be good Catholics?
“I’m personally opposed, but…”
See how convenient a surface reading of this parable can be?
Now, you might ask,
how can I be so certain I’m right and they’re wrong?
Because if you go through the Bible, you will not go far
before you find God telling us
he expects us to stand up for justice --
particularly for widows and orphans,
For the foreigner and the outcast,
the poor and powerless.
But there seems to be a conflict. What do we do with that?
Well, remember my suggestion.
Let’s look for something in the parable we won’t like to hear.
How about this: You and I don’t get to play God.
Let me ask you: have you ever played the “if I were king” game?
That’s where we are ready to explain --
if anyone asks, and even if they don’t --
all the ways we can fix what’s wrong with:
-- The world
-- The church
-- The archdiocese
-- The Reds…or even the Bengals
-- The parish
-- The county or the village
-- Even the family next door!
But here’s the thing. Does anyone ever play,
“I’ll be vice president --
have no power and let someone else call the shots”?
That’s nowhere near as fun, is it?
That’s how you solve the seeming contradiction.
Elsewhere, our Lord tells us: work for justice.
But here, he tells us, you won’t be the one in charge.
When we work in various ways in pursuit of justice,
one of the humbling and frustrating things we must face
is the limit on just how much we can accomplish.
Let’s talk about the marriage question.
A lot of us are astonished and discouraged
to see so many around us going along with redefining marriage.
Just as an aside: it’s not really all that surprising.
It’s been a long time in the works.
To be very plain: when we as a society
first accepted easy divorce laws,
and then accepted contraception,
this was the logical outcome.
Still, a lot of people are thrown off.
As a result, many are simply abandoning
what they always believed; they are, as they put it, “evolving.”
It’s very hard to stand alone.
Meanwhile, maybe others of us,
while not abandoning the truth at stake here,
still might get mighty discouraged.
We might be tempted to take
the “personally opposed, but…” approach, and let God sort it out.
But here’s the thing.
When God tells us we must work for justice,
When did he promise we’d see results on our timetable?
This is not a negotiation:
“OK, God, I’ll work for prolife laws, or to help the needy,
or to oppose the death penalty, or to defend marriage…
but we have to win by such-and-such a date!”
Saint Thomas More was on the right side;
and he pretty much did everything right.
And he got his head chopped off!
But never did he imagine that that meant
he didn’t have to do exactly the same thing as he did!
So you and I are called to work for justice.
And lest you think that doesn’t apply
to this question about marriage,
let me explain why it certainly does.
It’s about justice to the truth.
The truth about what family is,
and therefore, what being human is: male and female.
These are not mere external attributes;
they are at the core of who we are;
and we are not interchangeable.
When government or society starts saying
that something essential to human identity
actually has no meaning?
Watch out: that’s a road to oppression.
And this is about justice to children.
We have already become a world in which
children are less a gift we accept, and more a right we demand.
We have more and more people seeking children,
not for the sake of the children’s needs,
but to meet the needs of the adults!
The word for this is narcissism, and it never ends well.
This massive social experiment will not end well.
And lots of people will suffer along the way.
Meanwhile, we have the maddening truth of today’s Gospel.
We have our methods and timetable; and God has his.
The parable tells us the field has wheat and weeds;
children of light and children of darkness.
Right off the bat I can think of two reasons God is so patient.
First, he’s waiting for those of us,
who imagine ourselves to be pretty spiffy wheat,
to discover how weedy we actually are!
And then, of course, God is surely eager that
as many of the weeds as possible cry out:
Please save me! Lord, have mercy!”