July 17 is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A).
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30
Secular textbooks often say religion is mankind’s way of answering three worries of people:
1. Where did we come from?
2. What is our purpose?
3. What happens when we die?
They have a point: Mankind longs to know these things, and none of these answers can be found with science. But the answers of these are more like starting points for religious people, not ending points. There are three other questions we religious people spend a lot more time worrying about:
1. What is God like?
2. Are we worthy of him?
3. How can we bridge the gap between us?
Today’s readings have answers to each of these, and the answers are definitely “Good News.” Herewith, the answers from today’s readings:
What is God like?
He is just and powerful and merciful.
So says the first reading, from Wisdom: “Your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.”
Or, as the Psalm puts it: “O Lord, you are good and forgiving.”
Are we worthy of him?
No, certainly not. And if we don’t recognize who he is, we will separate ourselves from him forever.
Says the first reading: “You show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved.”
Or, says Jesus himself in the Gospel: “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace.”
So, how can we approach him?
We can’t. He has to approach us.
As the Psalm puts it, he has to turn toward me, not vice versa: “Turn toward me, and have pity on me; give your strength to your servant.” What’s needed is his strength, not mine.
Or, as the Letter to the Romans puts it: “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.”
Or, as the Jesus in the Gospel puts it, we have to join the Kingdom to get the protection of the King.
Jesus brilliantly answers all these questions — secular and religious — in his parables.
Where do we come from? For what purpose were we made? Jesus tells us: God is like “a man who sowed good seed in his field.” God put us here, for the sheer joy of doing something beautiful and good.
Where do we go when we die? “The righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.”
What is God like? Are we worthy? Can we approach him?
God is the not only the one who sows. He is also the one who causes us to grow, with faith, from a mustard seed to a 10-foot tree or causes us to grow like yeast, from a lump of dough to bread. He also is the one to settle our battles; we don’t have to root out the weeds in our midst. That’s his job.
God is the beginning, the middle and the end in our Christian life. We just have to keep ourselves open to his action by removing the obstacles of sin. That is Good News indeed.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas, where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.