16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The scriptures today are both reassuring and unsettling.
On the one hand they speak of the mercy of God – our lord’s love for each of us is so great that no matter how we behave he treats us with patience and mercy – even to the surprising degree related in the parable – allowing evil to exist alongside good in the world even in our own lives. Perhaps in the hope that we will repent and turn to good before the end, before the time to answer, before the weeds are separated from the wheat and burnt.
On the other hand when we see or are suffering ourselves from the effects of evil and injustice it doesn’t seem quite sufficient to say ‘God is allowing it now but at the end of time – the evil will be punished, there will be retribution, justice will triumph’. We may believe that but what about the wicked right now enjoying life and escaping punishment whilst the innocent suffer? That can’t be right. And of course, it isn’t right which is why we have laws and courts and police and why we strive to help the suffering. But no matter what we do the tares still grow with the wheat.
The resolution of all this is only found in love of Jesus and in, as part of that love, carrying his passion, death and resurrection in our lives. In this life we are always going to have to face injustice, suffering and pain. But if we face that united in love with Jesus then we face it knowing that God, in love, will never abandon us, even if we are tempted to abandon him. We face it knowing that God will in love save us, that we will triumph over suffering and that justice will prevail. We undergo even death confident that life awaits.
In love with Jesus this isn’t simply a comforting hope or a philosophical conclusion. As we grow in love with Jesus, through prayer, service and the sacraments we deepen our sharing with him in his passion, death and resurrection. And far from being a hope or a philosophical conclusion this attitude becomes something we experience and know in Jesus. I suffer with Jesus, I am crucified and die with Jesus, I rise with Jesus. In love with him, I experience nothing without him.