16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 2020)
A man wanted to buy an animal that could help him in the household chores. The animal merchant, after knowing the buyer’s need, brought to him a small box with a centipede and told him that it is guaranteed to accomplish whatever work assigned to it. The man brought the centipede home and ordered it at once to tidy up the living room. In no time at all, the living room was perfectly clean. So was the kitchen after the centipede did its job. One Sunday morning, the man asked the centipede to buy a newspaper at a nearby store. Ten minutes have passed, then twenty, then thirty. No centipede arrived with the daily. Becoming impatient, the man went out to see what happened. He was dismayed to see the centipede still at the front door and has not gone yet. The man asked the centipede why it took too long to leave for the store. The centipede, apologetically said, “I’m sorry sir, I have just worn my 81st shoe, I still have nineteen left!”
It is easy to become impatient with all the shortcomings and defects of the world and man. Impatience became obvious in many of us when Covid-19 struck us with no mercy. Many of us cannot wait until the quarantine is over. It is too difficult for some of us to adjust to the things that we need to do in the presence of the virus. We are in a rush to be with friends, to travel, to go to restaurants. The vaccine takes too long in coming. Most of us are just too impatient.
Impatience also shows itself in the way we look at our weaknesses and in the way we judge the sins of others. Our quickness to curse ourselves and to condemn others is a sign that we cannot wait for ourselves and others to overcome the human follies that humble every man.
This Sunday’s gospel is a lesson on patience. The farmer who takes time to wait, no matter how long it would take for the harvest season to arrive, is an epitome of a patient man. He is willing to allow the weeds to grow with the wheat, and to compete with the wheat for the nourishment provided by the soil. Since the weeds and the wheat look alike at the early stages of growth, uprooting the weeds early on might put the wheat in danger of also being mistakenly uprooted. Thus, the farmer has to wait until harvest time because only then can the wheat be clearly distinguished from the weeds. Only the wheat will bear fruit and the weeds that bear no fruit can then be uprooted and burned. This, indeed requires a long time of waiting.
The farmer represents God. God is patient with each one of us.
We all have shortcomings. We succumb to temptation and commit sins. We hurt one another, steal from one another. We can be dishonest, adulterous, cruel, unjust, scheming, and wily. However, there are also seeds of goodness in each of us. No matter how vile we are, we can be moved with compassion by people who are homeless, jobless, and loveless. We are drawn to extend to them a helping hand. There is a desire in us, no matter how faint, to be honest, to be kind, to forgive. God sees these seeds of goodness in us and he knows that these grains can grow and flourish and bear fruits in the form of works of mercy, acts of kindness, gestures of love.
That is why, God does not strike us dead when sometimes we steal and tell blatant lies. He does not send lightning to summon us to hell when we commit adultery or any act of cruelty and dishonesty. He allows the evil in us to exist side by side with our seeds of goodness, confident that, in the end, the goodness in us will prevail. This is how the Lord is described in the First Reading from the Book of Wisdom: “You judge us with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us . . . And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind, and you gave your sons good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.”
We should have this patience of God when we look at ourselves and one another and when we have to face the shortcomings and evil in our world. We just have to trust that the good in each one of us can grow and flourish and generate a bountiful harvest of goodness in the end.
We are a work in progress. God is not finished with us yet.