16th Sunday in Ordinary Times
Wisdom 12:13.16-19; Rom.8:26-27; Gospel of Matthew 13:24-43
God is Alive . . . in our Sufferings!

Preached by Msgr Philip Heng, SJ at Cathedral of Good Shepherd, on 23rd July 2017

As we are to reflect on Jesus’ Parable of the Wheat and Darnel/Weeds, and the Parables of the mustard seed and yeast, we are to remember that Jesus is referring to the “The Kingdom of Heaven” that exists within the reality of our imperfect world and our church in which we live daily.  We are all without exception called to live our faith daily, with the awareness that you and I are called to be faithful to God, through a life of daily conversion of heart, regardless of how grave or small this may be. 

It is in our ongoing faithful response to God’s grace for daily conversion that we are able to live the discerning life of knowing between the “wheat and the darnel or weeds” of our lives; choosing what is of God and reject what is from the Evil spirits.  And experiencing the “yeast” that when mixed with three measures of flour that will eventually be leavened all through - where the witness of our faith can draw the multitudes closer to Christ, our Lord.  It is in such discerning and daily conversion of hearts that we are then able to grow from a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds into a huge tree that the birds of the air can come and shelter in its branches. 

Pope Francis, in His General Audience a month ago shared that we are all called to be saints.  Pope Francis says, “Saints show us the path of Christian hope and teach us to follow in their footsteps . . . They are a great cloud of witnesses to us because they have passed along our same path, have known the same toil, and live forever in the embrace of God . . . They are those who have “gone before us, marked with the sign of faith.” 

When we consciously live in Christ-like ways, then we are actually living the “saintly life that God is calling us to, even though we remain imperfect in our love for God and to our family and neighbour. 

There are different ways of living a “saintly life.”  If a person is constantly trying so hard to live his or her faith with great fidelity regardless of the painful challenges he or she is facing daily, and even though this person has his or her fair share of imperfections, I would consider such a person a saint as I have no doubt he or she would immediately find himself or herself at the gates of heaven as soon as he or she dies. 

Take the case of Julie who is a mother of two children and a grandmother of four.  Julie’s childhood has been very blessed with good Catholic upbringing.  Although, Julie married a very good and loving Catholic husband, here mother-in-law, who is not a Catholic, for whatever reasons unknown to her, hated her and frequently hurt her deeply through her words and ways.  Julie would light a votive candle every night at her altar, kneel in front of our Lord and Our Lady in her prayers and cry, “Lord, why?  What wrong have I done?  I try so hard to see You in my mother-in-law and love her, yet she continues to hate me.”  This suffering continued not just for one week or one month, but for some 25 years; inclusive of the last five years of Julie’s mother-in-law’s bedridden life which needed Julie’s caring and loving attention of great tenderness and love. 

Before Julie’s mother-in-law died, she asked Julie, “Why is it that you continue to love me, when I never loved you?” Julie’s very simple answer was, “Jesus wants me to love you.”  Hearing that, Julie’s mother-in-law immediately cried, and said, “I too want the Jesus that you love.”  She was then Baptised, before she died.  Amongst the many things that Julie does for God, she continues to serve the Church, bring Holy Communion to the sick, pray daily for sinners in the world . . .

I am sure many of us know of people who are also like Julie.  These “Julies” of our Church are saints not only because they do good.  These “Julies” are saints because more importantly, they truly love deeply and dearly because they love Jesus.  They also have great patience and humility in their tender love even though they are constantly rejected and hurt by the people they love.  It is easy to love people who love us, but one of the characteristics of “saintliness” is to love people who do not love us and are difficult to relate to and more so, if they hate us. 

Julie’s saintliness is in loving her mother-in-law with the compassionate love of Jesus, not only for one week, but consistently for more than 25 years.  Julie’s saintliness is in loving Jesus through her mother-in-law whom she does not understand, but knows that in all probably is hurting in one way or another, for only a deeply wounded person can continue to reject love and hate for 25 years.  As such, Julie was indeed, able to see the distinction between the wheat and the darnel that was in her life.  Julie could very well have rejected her mother-in-law as the “darnel” of her life that is causing her so much pain and confusion in living her faith, but she did not. 

It was Julie’s love for Jesus that her faith was able to grow from the size of a mustard seed to one that could shade the 25 years of pain and suffering, and thus grow into a huge tree of faith and love of Jesus for her mother-in-law and the many people whom God placed in her life. 

My brothers and sisters in Christ, in reflecting on what to share in this homily, I had intended to write the stories of some five or six other “saints” that I know of who are alive today . . . However, I have only time to share the true story of Julie’s life.  Julie’s saintly life is not only to give us the renewed hope, in the crosses that we may be carrying in our lives, but more importantly, for us to be more open to God’s calling of you and I to be the “mustard seed and the yeast” of Jesus’ Compassion for others who are suffering and are in deep pain, like Julie’s mother-in-law.  This is so that those of us and others who continue to live in the darkness of their pain and sufferings will come to experience a conversion of heart and change for the better. 

As I conclude, let us be reminded that we live in an imperfect world of much suffering and we practise our faith in “The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” which is made up of sinners.  This means that while the Church is Holy because She is the Body of Christ, we as individual believers are not yet fully holy, and are in constant need of conversion from our sinful ways, until the moment we die, and finally leave this world and join God and all the saints in Eternal life, in heaven.

The essence of today’s Gospel is the mystery of God’s Kingdom as Jesus expressed through the Parables of the “wheat and darnel, mustard seed and yeast” assuring us of the gift and certitude of the Final Victory of heaven.  But, to gain eternal life we are to have the wisdom of the patience and humility that Jesus has shown us and had led Him to His Humble Crucifixion and Death.  The true story of the life of Julie, is one of the many concrete stories that we know of, that affirms for us that it is possible for you and I to live a saintly and Christ-like life, and become the mustard seed and yeast that bears much fruit through the Light and power of the Holy Spirit that works within us. 

On our own we cannot eradicate the evil in our world and change the lives of people who refuse to change and refuse to be converted.  As such, we are only called to be a faithful and as obedient as we can to living God’s Will, and allowing the Light of the Holy Spirit to help us discern between the wheat and darnels of our daily living, and grow in the vocation of “sainthood” that God wants you and I to live daily

Fr Philip Heng,S.J.

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