Reflection for Sunday – July 23, 2023

Readings: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43 
Preacher: Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler

The first time I reflected on these readings, I was overwhelmed with a sense of God’s great love for each of us. This God that Wisdom tells us cares for all. Twice emphasizing that God is lenient. Our psalm sings of a God who is loving and forgiving.  Slow to anger. Abounding in kindness and fidelity. Our God remains faithful even when we are not.

As I read, a forgotten memory popped into my head. As a teenager, I had just earned my driver’s license. And I took the family car out to run an errand. As the first model of its make to have power steering, it handled very stiffly. In parking, I stripped the decorative chrome strip from the side of the car. You can imagine that I expected the worst when I returned home! But my father simply said, “My dear, let this be a lesson to you that you don’t know all there is to know about driving.”

Romans speaks of a God who knows our weakness. Whose Spirit stands ready to help us. To ask for whatever we need to act in love and truth. Even when we don’t know how.

I think of Fr. Greg Boyle’s example. This Jesuit priest has worked for decades with the gangs of Los Angeles in what has become the largest gang intervention program (“Home Boys”) in the world. Transforming thousands of lives with his message of kinship, compassion and love. Modeled on Jesus’ life of love and inclusivity.  No “us” and “them” there! Fr. Boyle is not naive about the serious criminal backgrounds these young people bring. But one might say that he sees the wheat among the weeds. And nourishes it patiently. Just as our God does.

We all have weeds of one kind or another in our garden, don’t we?  You and I could probably name some of the most obvious ones in our society today. Racism. Sexism. Homophobia. Environmental degradation. White nationalism.  Poverty. Xenophobia. All of these challenge us as disciples to show instead God’s loving care for all of God’s creation. “The kingdom of God” in the parables refers to the reign of God on earth. And we are drawn into bringing that about.

Weeding the garden of our lives is less about what’s wrong, and more about discovering the wheat that has always been there. It’s about trusting the good seed that was planted in the beginning. About reclaiming the beauty that has been covered over. After all, Scripture tells us that on each day of creation, “God saw that it was good.” It also tells us that our God delights in us!

This weeding is the process of a lifetime, though, isn’t it? The other two parables in today’s gospel remind us that great growth can come from the smallest beginning. But also that it takes time. As any breadmaker waiting for yeast to work can tell you!

Just as the love shown in Fr. Boyle’s ministry enables the transformation of gang members, so our patient God, who loves us into growth, enables our transformation. To the extent that we allow it. Yes, we have choices to make. Rest assured that the Spirit is waiting to come to our aid.

Deirdre McKiernan Hetzler
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