Homily for 17 July 2011 - 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

Wisdom 12:13,16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Psalm 86; Matthew 13:24-43

In our Gospel lesson from St. Matthew we heard several parables of the Kingdom of God – the wheat and the tares, the mustard seed and the yeast in the dough. What do all these have in common and what do they say about the kingdom of God? What they have in common is the idea that even a small amount of the Kingdom, perhaps one faithful person, can transform a large amount of the fallen world, that planted we will grow, mixed in we will raise the whole and the final judgment is in God's hands. In the wheat and the tares, or weeds, God allows all to grow together and sorts them out at the end. What this means to us is that, in the Church, we do not judge one another as to the sincerity and depth of our faith, we do not reject the nominal or lukewarm Christian, we do not condemn those who have left the Church, rather we hope and pray for all that their faith may become real, that they may repent and that God will have mercy. We can never know what small thing may turn their hearts toward God.

Also, in this parable, it is made clear that we do have enemies, that the evil one and his followers, both demonic and human, will try to despoil our work, will try to discourage us and turn us from the path of righteousness. However difficult the way may become, we must remain faithfully at our work, cultivating the wheat and the tares, knowing that God will be able to separate the truth from the lie.

Growing up in northern California, whenever the parable of the mustard seed came up in the lessons the pastor would always point out that the seed of the redwood tree was even smaller, and grew much larger. However small the seed or how large the tree, the point is that it provides a home, shelter, food, rest and shade to all who come to it. The Kingdom of God, that is the Church, must be welcoming and kind to all, not judging, not aloof – but not stupid. Through the Spirit we have been given discernment, we can recognize the tares among us, the seeds of discontent, rebellion and trouble making and guard against them, while continuing to love and minister to those who have harbored them.

I have been baking bread since I was 14 or 15 years old, and I know how powerful a little bit of yeast can be, but you have to put it in the dough. The Church, the Christians who make up the Body of Christ in the world, must be in the world. We cannot stand apart, removed, afraid to get our hands dirty. Our Lord and God Jesus Christ died so that the world would live, live in peace, freedom, love, joy and forgiveness, we need to be down in the dirt planting those seeds wherever we go like Johnny Appleseeds of the Kingdom of God.

Our tree, our loaf, our field are wherever we are – we don't have to go any where to find a rich opportunity for Christian mission – though we may, if we are called. Most of us, however, find plenty to do right here; in our homes, our schools, our workplace, the marketplace, the street, the city, the neighborhood, even the Internet and the telephone. However we may reach out a hand in justice, in kindness, in forgiveness, in caring – there is the work of the Kingdom of God. And don't worry about whether we are fit, or prepared for what we may face, as St. Paul writes, “...the Spirit helps us in our weakness.” We need to set aside any thoughts of self, any fear of embarrassment or rejection or clumsiness and pray for guidance and move forward in the strength of the Spirit. We may fall on our face, we may be laughed at and dismissed as crazy or stupid, but that doesn't matter if we have humbly and lovingly done what is right. Remember, it is God who will judge.

To live in the Kingdom of God is not a matter of geography, it is not a place but a state of being; a state of being in grace, in right relationship with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we can be there anywhere – that is the caim, the enfolding, upholding presence of God, the love and shared faith of the Church.

Polynesian sailors are masters of navigation using the smallest clues of wind, waves, birds, and floating branches to guide them from one island to another without the use of compass or sextant. However, according to their tradition, they don't move, the world moves under their boat until they get where they are going. The Kingdom of God is something like that, we stand still and calm and at peace while the world rushes past us, and as it passes we sow seeds of faith, hope, and love, until we get where we are going, which is where we have been all along – standing firm on the Rock of Christ.

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