17 Jul 2011
“‘“Where have the weeds come from?”’” (Matt. 13:27) In the name …
I think probably all of us have heard about the impending debt crisis we’re facing here in America. The once richest country in the world now could end up defaulting on our loans by August 2nd. Our bond rating may possibly be lowered because creditors can’t be as sure as they once were that we would pay back the money they lent us. That in turn is going to raise the interest rates across the board, that will make borrowing for everyone more expensive, and that could worsen an already sputtering economy. And what do we hear from our national leaders down in Washington, D.C.? So far nothing of substance. They won’t compromise with each other. They seem more worried about elections than with governing. They’re not as worried about correcting the problem as they are about being held responsible for it. You know there is one thing, however, that they are doing to help pay down the debt. They raise the tax on alcohol, then make absolutely sure that the country is in such a terrible mess that you have to drink more.
But this situation speaks compellingly about responsibility. August 2nd comes as no surprise. We’ve been talking seriously about the national debt since at least the 1980’s. That’s 30 years not 3 weeks. And we’re a democracy. We can’t only blame the politicians. They didn’t inherit their office or take it by force. We’re the ones who elected them. They say that a great leader like Abraham Lincoln could not be elected President today because he was not a good looking man. We’ve been seduced by mass media. If a person can afford to buy millions and millions of dollars worth of time on the television, look good and stick to the script, then that person has a pretty decent chance of getting elected. That’s because the public doesn’t seem to be looking for statesmen or stateswomen. Statesmen and stateswomen tell us what is true even though it may be unpopular. Politicians are what we have and they tell us what is popular even though it may be untrue. And we settle for this.
Responsibility can’t be shrugged off onto someone else’s shoulders. It has to be accepted. With this in mind, let’s go back to this morning’s Gospel parable. It’s a little bit weird if we pay attention. Jesus starts off by introducing the parable as a story about the “kingdom of heaven,” but then He goes on to weave a tale about the problem of evil in the world. The parable dwells on why evil exists side-by-side with the good. “Where have the weeds come from?” Why can’t the evil just be uprooted? And through His parable Jesus offers the explanation that to remove the bad would also threaten the good.
That makes a lot of sense, but it takes a lot of time to explain, a lot more than can be given on a beautiful summer’s morning when the rest of the day beckons to us. But suffice it to say, it’s about responsibility. The choice of evil can be uprooted according to the image of the parable, but that would entail the eradication of choice, of free will. And if the choice to do bad is removed, then automatically so is the choice to do good. We lose our morality, and we, therefore, also loose our humanity. We are no longer free and responsible beings. We are no longer made in the image and likeness of God. We become something much less than who we are. Rather than helping us it actually hurts us.
And then finally in the last sentence of the parable the bad are destroyed and the good rewarded. Finally Jesus seems to get around to the purpose of this parable that was intended to tell us what the kingdom of heaven is like. Then the more you think about the parable, you begin to think that heaven isn’t only about the end-result. Parables about heaven should involve how to get there. And now think again about Jesus’ story. The weeds among the wheat are an unfortunate reality, but a reality nonetheless. They can be complained about. They can be despised. They can be cursed. But they’re there. The wheat gathered into the heavenly barn, however, perseveres. It grows not free of weeds, but in spite of them. There’s a message of responsibility here. Life is not fair, and life presents us with some pretty tough choices some times, but they have to be faced. Look at the chaos that not facing up to the reality of fiscal responsibility has brought upon our government by both our leaders and we the voters. Responsibility is sometimes hard, but it’s better than the alternative.
But thank God there’s more to this morning’s message than this. Responsibility is an unavoidable reality, and the promise of heaven’s reward is a wonderful elixir for worldly pain, but there’s still the unfortunate anguish of having to deal with life’s greatest tests now. Sometimes no matter how responsible we try to be, life can feel overwhelming. If the economy worsens, for example, many more people will feel the unavoidable heaviness that just seems impossible to push aside. I was speaking with a woman a few days ago. Her sister-in-law is 91 and lives Social Security check to Social Security check. How will she live if the government impasse continues? And how many thousands upon thousands of other exactly similar situations will there be? And so we need to also listen to Paul’s words to us today. Words that I have long cherished. Sometimes, says he, things are so bad that we don’t even know what to pray for. We don’t even know what to ask of God for help. He’s talking about being at the end of our rope. Nowhere to go. Then Paul offers those amazing words that this is exactly when we need to turn it all over to God. When we don’t know how to pray, says he, “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.” (Rom. 8:26) It’s a feeling, a presence, a certainty that can’t even be expressed, but it’s there. He’s there. God.
Responsibility is ours in life. It’s what makes us human, and even makes us like God. But we aren’t God. Sometimes life and its responsibilities are simply too much to bear. That’s when we need to remember and rely upon the fact that when we don’t know which way to turn, the Spirit within us prays with “sighs too deep for words” to help us find the way when we can’t. Let us face the responsibilities we can as best we can, but for all others let us trust in God. And for this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo