The Lord of the Slow-Motion Miracle

User’s Guide to Sunday, July 23

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Sunday, July 23, is the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Mass Readings: Wisdom: 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86: 5-6, 9-10, 15-16; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43 or Matthew 13:24-30

In today’s Gospel, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is a big deal that looks like it’s not a big deal at all.

Look at his three analogies for the kingdom.

First is a field of wheat with weeds intermixed. This is a reality that slowly reveals itself over a growing season, and it is only remedied at harvest time.

Second, the kingdom is like a mustard seed that becomes “the largest of plants” and attracts nesting birds who “dwell in its branches.” This takes even longer — the slow growth of a tree to a bush that can support a bird’s nest.

His third analogy is yeast, which a woman kneads into bread. Yeast works its magic slowly and quietly, such that you hardly notice what is going on.

In each case, the kingdom is something you have to wait for. It’s also something you have to prepare for.

If you want bread now, you needed to start making it this morning — or further back, you needed to ground the flour. Or further back than that, you needed to sow the wheat in the field, where it grew with the weeds.

C.S. Lewis pointed out that God always works his slow “magic” this way. “God creates the vine and teaches it to draw up water by its roots and, with the aid of the sun, to turn that water into a juice which will ferment and take on certain qualities,” he wrote in Miracles. “But when Christ at Cana makes water into wine, the mask is off.”

He is the Lord of the slow-motion miracle. He can speed up the process if he wants to, but he rarely does.

Look at the first reading from Wisdom. It tells us about how God’s “might is the source of justice” and teaches that “those who are just must be kind.”

But how does God teach this? According to the reading, by the slow and sure way nature works and the long, drawn-out tale of salvation history.

Look at the second reading from Romans, where St. Paul speaks about how the Spirit teaches us to pray. He does it by coming “to the aid of our weakness.” He does it by working through “searching hearts” and “interceding through inexpressible groanings” as we “wait for adoption.”

There is no such thing as instant gratification in the spiritual world.

Where does that leave us? It means we have some time. We have a chance to make our lives what they ought to be.

But it also means we have to start. You’ll never get bread later unless you sow now, then reap, then grind, and then add yeast. You’ll never be a saint if you don’t pray and listen now.

Our Lord says that “the Son of man will send his angels” who will throw some “into the fiery furnace” and make others “shine like the sun.”

You want to be in the right place then? Begin now.


Tom Hoopes is writer in residence at Benedictine College

and author of The Fatima Family Handbook.