A reading from the Book of Wisdom
(Chapter 12:13, 16-19)
This reading is praise for the all-powerful, just, and merciful God. “For your might is the source of justice: for your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all…. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind.” There it is. The God of the Judeo-Christian tradition is powerful, just, and kind, and that is what we, too, should be.
I wonder how Jews who suffered through the Holocaust or Christians who lived through three years of terror in Mosul under ISIS brutality would have heard those words. What about people who live in our own country who are victims of violence or families in our own community who live with addictions that have taken or might take the lives of their loved ones?
Why doesn’t the all- powerful, just, and merciful God swoop down to fight these injustices and heal all this suffering? Of course, we know very well that fighting for justice and healing suffering is our job in partnership with God, though sometimes it may seem that God is too silent a partner. But maybe God is not really silent. Maybe we are not tuned into the powerful healing presence that is always there. Maybe we want healing and understanding only on our terms, not God’s. “I am with you always.” That is the promise of Jesus. Can we tune in? Can we be open? Can we get past what we think God should be doing and become aware of what God is already doing in our lives?
(Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16)
“Lord, you are good and forgiving.” Are you good at asking God for forgiveness and at giving forgiveness to others?
A reading from St. Paul's Letter to the Romans
Saint Paul has an answer to the questions we have been asking so far in this commentary. “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit intercedes with inexpressible groanings.” If you and I ever feel as if we can’t really pray, as if we are not connected to God, that’s all right because the Spirit of God, the very person of the Holy Spirit, lives within us. It is the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us. It may not happen in the time that we want or in the manner we choose, but if we stay present, healing will happen.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Matthew
In the gospel reading in today’s Mass, we have a series of parables about agriculture, the sowing of seeds and harvesting of grain. Jesus uses these stories because everyone in his society would know what he was talking about. They were almost all poor farmers who had to deal with dry rocky soil to grow the crops. What was worse, because of the power of the Roman Empire, most of them had lost their land and were forced to work as day laborers for unjust wages.
Jesus was talking about hope in the kingdom of heaven, not something in the far distant future but something that was growing silently right before their eyes and that continues to grow in our own age. He was calling a new Israel together as a powerful force for justice and mercy, just as he calls us now to be a presence of the kingdom of God in our society.
The kingdom of God is not a political reality but rather a way of living and believing that has the power to affect all of the reality that we live in.
Illustration, by Helen Gould Harmon White (circa 1900) in Christ's Object Lessons. Public domain.
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.