God is patient and merciful; he is also just and righteous. But the justice of God surpasses the justice of the world and is a wonderful expression of his mercy. This is what our readings today tell us.
In the first reading, the inspired writer of the Book of Wisdom affirms that God is indeed a God of justice: “For your might is the source of justice.” At the same time, God executes justice with clemency: “Your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.” In the Lord, all of us sinners can find “good ground for hope.” For he does not want to punish evildoers as they justly deserve. Rather he prefers to be patient and to give us an opportunity to repent of our sins. Whenever we repent, he is ready to forgive us. His mercy endures forever!
Our Gospel today is a wonderful affirmation of the patience of God. The field which is filled with a mixture of weeds and good grain represents the world. We do not live in a world full of angels and saints, but a world full of sinners and saints – and we cannot always tell them apart! The joy of heart that we experience in the presence of goodness exists side by side with the suffering that comes from human weakness and sin. At times we are eager to root out whatever causes us suffering and destroy it, but that is not God’s approach. He does not want to risk destroying any good seeds. God is just, so he will eventually collect “all who cause others to sin and all evildoers” and will punish them. But he waits for the right time to judge, allowing mercy to reign while sinners have another chance to repent. Until our last breath we still have an opportunity to change our hearts and follow the Lord.
We can also see the patience of God at work in the growth of his Church. The images that Jesus uses to describe the Kingdom of Heaven apply to the Church on earth. God allows her to start small and humble, like a mustard seed. He keeps her hidden, like yeast in the dough of the world. Jesus himself started his life in humility and hiddenness. He came as a little child, without any fanfare, and lived for years in obscurity as a common laborer. When the hour came for him to begin his public ministry, he allowed himself to be baptized by John, like everyone else. And he started the Church by gathering a few fishermen. But the little Church grew and spread over the whole world, giving the gift of faith to many people. Now the Church is like a “large bush,” a spiritual dwelling place for all who find life burdensome. The Church remains present in the world, even where it is rejected or persecuted, providing spiritual yeast to raise up the dignity and hope of countless hungry souls.
God’s mercy is also clearly affirmed in the second reading. God knows that we are weak and imperfect, and that “we do not know how to pray as we ought.” However, he does not leave us helpless. In his mercy, he sends the Holy Spirit as our advocate, teacher, guide and intercessor. As he listens to the cries of our hearts, he hears them enveloped and enriched by the “inexpressible groanings” of the Spirit. Indeed, “the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness”; he never gives up on us, never abandons us.
As God invites us to ponder his patience and mercy, he also calls us to be like him. He is good and forgiving; we are to be good and forgiving as well. He is slow to anger and does not judge hastily; we must strive to do the same. He teaches us that “those who are just must be kind.” Even when the wicked seem to triumph, God fills us with hope. We do not have to demand instant justice, for justice will surely come, in God’s proper time.
We must also learn to be patient with ourselves. When we feel discouraged because we see no growth in our spiritual life, let us remember that we too are mustard seeds and yeast. God prefers to use little seeds to provide shade for many, and hidden yeast to provide an abundance of bread. As we entrust ourselves and our little mustard seed of faith to God, we ask him to make it grow to give comfort and spiritual food not only to us but to many others.
As God is patient and merciful with me, am I patient and merciful with others? As the mustard seed and yeast take time to mature, am I patient with myself or do I get discouraged? In my sins and imperfections, do I trust that the Spirit will never give up or abandon me?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 6. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.