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Sixteenth Sunday in ordinary time: Wisdom in judgement

Today’s readings: Wisdom 12, 13.16-19; Romans 8, 26-27; Matthew 13, 24-43.

The God of Jesus Christ is undoubtedly not the God as so often projected in religion and in our churches. If we were to abide faithfully by what the Scriptures say, much of what we portray in religion would simply fall apart. Protestant theologians in the past accused the Catholic religion of attributing to the Church what Jesus proclaimed about the kingdom of God. To some extent they were right.

We are these weeks revisiting the so-called parables of the kingdom given exclusively in Matthew’s gospel. It is remarkable that Jesus, whenever he spoke of the kingdom of heaven, never used images of power and never depicted God’s kingdom as if something that in some spectacular way would conquer the world.

If we were to measure today the faith of our people, we cannot do this in terms of numbers or religious practice. Today’s Scriptures actually depict the clear-cut contrast between the way we judge reality around us and the way God may perhaps be judging it.

As we read from the Book of Wisdom, God’s patience, at times judged by us as passivity, teaches us an important lesson. It is this lesson we need to heed to today, particularly if we want to read our times from the lens of the gospel parable. The incident portrayed in the gospel of the wheat and the poisonous darnel left to grow together probably makes us feel uneasy with God’s ways.

We normally demand instant judgement, but God is lenient. So God’s love, mercy, and patience sound quite scandalous to our way of seeing things. We insist on passing judgement in terms of what is right or wrong and hence in terms of who deserves and who deserves not to belong to this kingdom of heaven. God’s ways are different. The gospel is crystal clear on this.

In the wake of all that has been happening in the past 200 years, in our churches we still live in denial and we still resist the idea that we need to change course. This is what providentially Pope Francis is constantly provoking in the Church, in spite of the resistance on all levels of Church life and in spite of the dubia and doubts coming from everywhere in the name of doctrine or tradition or a truth constructed in time but proving to be alien to God’s truth.

Our local brand of religion remains in a traditional rut, making of us a schizophrenic country. Where most people really stand is completely alien to what happens in our churches and in our idolatrous village festas. In our churches we continue to cater for the aging few, seeking mainly to preserve the past.

We lack the courage to read reality as it is. We do not dare to face what people really believe and carry in the depths of their hearts. We prefer to stick to complacent cliches that we are still a Catholic country or that we are an extremely generous people. But this confirms only how superficial we are in our analysis of society and of our true identity.

We might still think that the poisonous darnel of Maltese society is that people are coming in lesser numbers to church, or that our legislators are enacting laws that no longer see eye to eye with Christian doctrine. Little do we realise that these may only be the symptoms of our true malaise.

We need wisdom in judging our times. When we lack wisdom we risk judging reality at surface level, and we will never acknowledge what is happening beneath that surface, in the depths of people’s hearts.

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