16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, 19 June 2020
Mass Readings: I: Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Responsorial: Psalm 86; II: Romans 8: 26-27; Gospel: Matthew 13: 24-43
Mont-Saint-Michel off the coast of Normandy France was established as a monastic community around 708 A.D., according to the story, from a vision of St. Michael the Archangel to a local bishop. For centuries it has been a place of pilgrimage, faith and prayer (besides more worldly uses as a prison and fortress). Now connected to the mainland by a causeway it is easy and safe to access. But for thousands of pilgrims the journey was fraught with changing tides, quicksand and a path often obscure in the tidal waters. While it is easy to visit now, often more from tourists than true pilgrims of faith, it still illustrates the difficult and at times perilous journey that people of faith undertake in seeking the fullness of God’s kingdom.
It also illustrates an important lesson from our readings of God’s Word this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time. This Sunday of July, here in California we once again are facing the closure of our churches and the inability to share in the graces of Mass due to the Covid 19 struggles. We are called, again, to grow and share in a deep spiritual communion with God and each other as alone and together in our homes and families we miss the fuller communion of gathering with each other.
These strange tides of change and uncertainty from this virus are tossed and blown by the ongoing storms of politics and civil unrest sweeping the lands. For many we continue with a sense of feeling unsure of what God is doing, where is God leading, or perhaps even…Where is God? The media and most secular experts cry out to “follow the science”, to listen and heed the words of medical, clinical and political experts as we go through this extraordinary time. And indeed heeding the wisdom of science is a matter of life and death. It is vital to be able to separate our fears and feelings from the morass of politics and hype. But it is also important that while the work of the God-given disciplines of science and medicine are essential they are not God or the Gospel. It is good to realize doctors and scientists are seeking, working hard to learn all that is needed in this struggle. And to pray God’s mercy and grace and wisdom to prevail .
This brings us back to our journey to Mont St. Michael, or more accurately, our journey with and to God. Our Gospel during these weeks of summer share many parables. Some are long and rather complex. Others are short and fairly clear. We can realize that these parables of Scripture are also given to us as we encounter the parables of our life. It has been said a parable is an earthly story with an heavenly meaning. So whether in Scripture or in the experiences of the day we encounter lessons of the world with heavenly importance. But, like the earlier pilgrims to Mt. St. Michael, we encounter paths, lessons that are not always clear or easy to understand. We know the peril of the quicksands of human weakness and our limited wisdom. We face the changing tides of popular values and fashionable energies that can sweep us off the causeway of God into waters churning with strife and angry currents. So as we look to our destination (the full presence of God and God’s Kingdom) we would heed the sound ways of God to helps us trust and understand as we take these steps. Much like the first disciples we need to come aside with Jesus and say: ” I don’t understand! …This doesn’t make sense! Jesus… what do you mean? what do you want?”
Whether our pathway is clear and calm, facing tides clearly rising or battered by the often intense storms of life we can experience and know essential, solid rocks of safety and grace that will help us on the path God calls us to share with Him.
First we must remember that it isn’t about our wisdom, our understanding or feelings. The shifting gravel of stress or fear or the perilous quicksands of anger or hate are not where God would lead. The primary place God would lead is into the holy, healing arms of His Son. It is in our relationship with Christ planted deep in the Truth that He is able to forgive, heal, cleanse us of the wounds, muck and mire that we find in this world.
If you have ever had the privilege of digging for clams you know you can experience the reality of sinking ankle, knee or deeper into the sandy mud. It can feel impossible to escape…at least with your boots. And if the tide is coming in it can be a powerful opportunity for…. courage. It is so often an opportunity of needing the help of others.
On our journey to God’s Holy presence we may be stuck in such muck. But the presence of Christ can lift us out of the mire to know His cleansing and healing. Even if we are stuck in uncertainty or in a place well beyond our abilities we can, abiding in God, know the power and help of the Holy Spirit. It is immersed (baptized, confirmed) in the Spirit of God we encounter the grace of the Holy Spirit praying for, with us, perhaps beyond our understanding and vision but always in the purpose and wisdom of God. This year, 2020, has caused many to wonder what God is doing…if anything! Yet it is in the Spirit infused prayers of the Paraclete we learn Jesus is in control. He is on the throne and that whatever happens God will show us the way. And it will be the Holy Spirit who will prayerfully remind us that the path we are on is shared by the angels and saints and who may well lead us to pray to St Michael the Archangel.
As we walk with Christ, in the prayer fullness power of His Holy Spirit we grow in understand as we face the parables of our life, as we learn those lessons and truths God knows what we need. And it it is this holy wisdom brought into our hearts and minds we grow stronger in God’s peace. The parables of Scripture and the parables of our life are lessons given us by God. But as Scripture promises these lessons, this wisdom of God is gentle, powerful encouraging and shared in peace. Indeed these lessons may bring us to or through difficult even painful times. They may call for deep conversion and change. But even with those hard tests and lessons we grow in the peace of heart that this is right. This is bringing me closer to God and the person God created me to be. Jesus never promised a life of peaceful circumstances. He promised us..His cross and His peace that is always greater than what the world may offer.
Finally we encounter, walking with Christ, in the prayer Presence of the Holy Spirit, filled with the peace of God in heart and soul that we are growing in the love of God. The Apostle John, in his first epistle wrote the three words perhaps most oft quoted (and oft in ignorance of the Biblical roots)…“God is Love”. In our pilgrimage to God, to God’s holy mount we are traveling to a place of countless graces, intense, indescribable holiness and majesty. But we are pilgrims always to and in the holy Love who is God. This love saw our fallen sinful failings. And saw us redeemed and made whole. This God who is love sees us on our struggling path through tides and seas of worry and sorrow, fear or doubt and sees us with Him entering the gates of our eternal home. Words will fail to describe all God would share with us in the beauty of His holiness. But the fears that would assail on our path will shrivel and fall away in the Presence of Jesus who will call us to face our fears and allow Him to cast them out as He brings us into our heavenly home.
The parables of Scripture are many and mysterious. As are the parables of life. But these earthly stories with deep heavenly truths will, in Christ’s Presence, the Holy Spirit’s power, the Peace of Jesus and the Love of our Creator will bring us to the joyful gates of God’s holy mount.