16 OT 

WRITING STRAIGHT ON CROOKED LINES
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

 

If we confess our sins, God will be merciful. At the end of time on Judgment Day, however, Jesus will separate the good from the evil and the good will enter his Father’s kingdom.

We sometimes have a machine-like notion of God. We expect God to reward us or punish us rather like a spiritual slot machine. We may have a touch of a mechanical mind about us. Good is good, evil is evil, and don’t get the two confused.

Life is, of course, not neatly divided like this. It is messy, and the parables in today’s Gospel reflect the way God works with us in the midst of our uncertainty and doubt. On occasions in the Old Testament it does appear that God operates on the principle of “one strike and you are out.” We think of the story of the eviction of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, and of poor Moses striking the rock twice in the desert and being forbidden entry to the Promised Land. Yet on other occasions, as for example with King David, God is only too eager to forgive and give people another chance.

In these parables of the kingdom we are given a picture of God gradually transforming us from within, allowing good and evil to flourish together and waiting patiently for the mysterious growth that occurs in the life cycle of seeds and the miraculous expansion of yeast in dough. The Lord longs for us to turn to him, he is patient; he gives us time to develop all the skills and talents he has endowed us with, so that we can use them on his behalf.

Sometimes we act as though we have been created in total perfection, and the main aim of living is to avoid falling away from this pinnacle in any way. If we think like that, then inevitably we will live in constant fear of doing wrong or not measuring up to the high standards of our calling. Both the patterns of life and God’s own expectations work differently. We are certainly created in the image and likeness of God, but as we grow we will at times grow straight and true, at times veer off at a tangent.

This can be painful, it can be uncertain; it will certainly involve great changes in us, physically, mentally and spiritually. Think again of how a seed must break open its kernel and go through a variety of transformations till it reaches its full growth. Think of yeast and the vigorous fermentation that takes place as it expands the dough or turns grape juice into wine. We too undergo bewildering changes as we try to discern what we are called to be and to do with our lives. God waits patiently for this to happen, for God has given us the gift of our freedom, which allows us to stray as well as to grow true. When we find ourselves most unstable, we may remember that God has the habit of writing straight on crooked lines.

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a net cast into the sea which catches all kinds of fish. When it is full the fisherman halls it ashore. Then he sits down and sorts out the good fish from the bad. The good he keeps, the worthless he throws away. In a sense, we are all fishers. Each day we cast our net into the sea of life. At the end of the day, we have a catch, sometimes small, sometimes large. May we take time to sift through that catch.

Lord, give us the wisdom to know what to throw away and what to keep.

f t g m