Homily – 16th Sunday Ordinary Time – 23rd July 2023
In the Gospel Christ speaks to one of the most perplexing mysteries of human living, the mystery of evil. All of us base our sense of the purposefulness of life on the fundamental moral assumption that the good are rewarded, the evil are punished.
And so, when we look around us and see that so many times, in the imagery of the Gospel, the weeds seem to be doing better than the wheat, that can be a very threatening thing.
Today’s Gospel is the answer to the mystery of evil, even if not yet a very satisfying one. The mystery of the tension between good and evil in our world, how the two can exist side by side in a divinely created world, like the weeds and the wheat, is really in essence the mystery of creation. The tension between good and evil is not yet resolved because simply enough, creation is not yet finished. It is not really true to say that God has created a good world. It is much truer to say that God is creating a good world, that right now the process of creation is going on.
The moral challenge of Christianity is to learn to live lovingly in a world that is right now very often illogical, unjust, even evil, not only because of what it is now but because of what it is meant to, and will be become.
And this Gospel passage, as well as any number of others, is fairly insistent on the fact that it is God who is the author of this final justice. He will perfect what he has begun.
So in a sense it is not up to us to combat evil or to punish sinners. We are just not very good at that. Every time Christianity set out to actively fight evil, it has made a horrible run of things. From the suffocating moral censorship of puritanism to the carnage of the crusades and the inquisition to the bitter hatred of the courter-reformation, all our best efforts at actively eliminating evil in the world have proven to be more of an obstacle than an aid to God’s creative process.
Ours is an unfinished world, a world that is still being made. Since the moment God first said “Let there be light”, he has never stopped saying it. The process of creation goes on and it sweeps us with it. If we struggle against that sweep, if we set our own designs in place of God’s, the outcome will inevitable be tragic. No one of us, no whole society of us, has more creative power than God. Ut if we have the courage to cooperate with the sweep of creation, if we simply be as God has meant us to be, it will be a joy, and the final justice of God will be well begun in us.