July 23, 2023 — Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
WIS 12:13, 16-19; PS 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16; ROM 8:26-27; MT 13:24-43 OR 13:24-30
Today’s readings are filled with lessons both cautionary and consoling for the Christian steward.
Our first reading, from the book of Wisdom, reminds us that our God is just as well as kind, all-powerful as well as merciful. “For you show your might when the perfection of your power is dis-believed… But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency.” God is indeed kind and loving, but He is also a just judge, and the day will come when we will have to give an account for what we have done with the gifts of time, talent, and treasure that He entrusted to us during our lifetime. We will be judged by God for the part we played — or did not play — in the building of His kingdom.
We are never alone in this work, however, as we are reminded in our second reading from the letter to the Romans. “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness… the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groaning.” We must turn to the Holy Spirit continuously to guide us in our daily lives as Christian stewards. The Holy Spirit is the source of all wisdom. He will reveal to each of us the unique mission the Father has given us, as individuals and as a parish family, in the building of the kingdom of heaven. And He will give us the strength we need to remain faithful to our mission.
Jesus uses several parables to describe this Kingdom in our Gospel passage from Matthew. First, He compares it to a man who sows wheat in his field, but in the darkness of night an enemy comes and sows weeds in the same field. Both weeds and wheat are permitted to grow and only at the harvest time are they separated, or “judged” — the wheat gathered into the sower’s barn and the weeds finally destroyed. So, it will be for each of us at the end of our time on earth. It is a sobering reminder of the justice of God.
But Jesus also gives us comfort and hope in this passage. He says the kingdom of heaven is like the small portion of yeast that is mixed in with flour for the making of bread. The yeast makes up an insignificant fraction of the ingredients, yet it is vital to the outcome — without that tiny bit of yeast, the bread simply will not rise. In a similar vein, Jesus compares the kingdom of heaven to a mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds.” But when it is full-grown it becomes the largest of all the plants, a sturdy and hardy bush where “birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”
It is those latter two descriptions that are especially encouraging to the Christian steward. So often, the prayers that we pray, the service we offer, the gifts we give — in comparison to the immense needs around us — can seem laughably small. But, as Jesus makes clear through the images of yeast and the mustard seed, that is not the truth!
Far from it.
God sees and treasures and “grows” our offerings of time, talent, and treasure in ways we cannot begin to imagine. If we are but faithful stewards of the gifts entrusted to us, the day will come when we “will shine like the sun in the kingdom of [the] Father.”
In justice, in gratitude, in love, then, let us remain faithful to the mission entrusted to our care for the building of the kingdom of heaven.