The Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Today I want to talk about the way we worship.  And I’m not talking about wearing a mask, or social distancing, or even the rudimentary parts of worship like genuflecting or singing or observing silence, as important as those things are.  In fact, I’m not talking about worship in the sense of what we do here at church at all.  I’m talking about what we do before and after Mass; the worship we do out there in the world—the whole business of living our lives, and letting worship affect everything, because it should—in fact it has to.  The thing is, as challenging as it is to worship when we’re here in church, it’s still way easier than worshipping out there in the world, isn’t it?  But Jesus has always been clear that worship has to mean something in our daily living, or it’s not true worship at all.

You know the issue quite well, I’m sure.  We may intend to work hard, and pray reflectively, but life almost always throws us a curve ball and all our pious plans go out the window.  You know what I mean, right?  People at work don’t do what they’re supposed to.  Others in our family get into rough situations and test our patience.  Our commute is exacerbated by the pouring rain.  And it can go even deeper: news about a loved one’s illness, news about our own illness, the fear of a pandemic, and on and on.  And then we can slip up and fall into sin, that sin we have been praying hard to overcome and doing everything we can to avoid.  Our pious plans can turn into a very rough week indeed.  Really, among the blessings – and we have to admit, there are blessings – life can derail us and bring us to a rather frustrating place.

The good news is that our Liturgy of the Word speaks to all of that today, I think.  The wisdom writer in the first reading praises God who has the care of all, and who permits repentance for sins.  The Psalmist extols God who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and fidelity.  Saint Paul tells the Romans, and us, that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness, helping us to pray the right way, even praying in our stead when we cannot.  We need all that consolation when our week doesn’t go the way we hoped.

And then we have the Gospel, which continues the theme of planting seeds that we heard last week.  Here we hear of the wisdom of God who allows the weeds to grow among the wheat and is wise enough to sort it all out at the harvest time.  This Gospel talks all about the Kingdom of God and what it will be like.  It will be like a tiny mustard seed that grows up to become a huge shrub.  It will be like a measure of yeast mixed with flour to become a loaf of bread.

Here are a couple of things I want us to take from this Gospel.  First, the Kingdom of God is now.  Jesus made it real, showing us that the kingdom is present in ordinary ways: a mustard seed, a measure of yeast.  He wants us to see that we don’t have to wait for a far-off distant Kingdom or some kind of extraordinary sign, but instead to live in the Kingdom now, where he is our King.  That means we have to put the whole of our being and our lives and everything we do in his service.

Second, the mustard seed, the yeast – that’s us.  We are the ones to come to life and make the Kingdom happen.  Jesus needs us to go out and proclaim the message, to witness to the presence of the Kingdom, to make people want to be part of it.  Our prayer, our love, our joy, all of that make it possible for people to come to know Christ.  The Kingdom of God is our true home; the rest of the world is just a road along which we are traveling.  When we live in the Kingdom here and now, when every moment of our lives is lived in anticipation of the holy presence of God, we will be ready for the great coming of the Kingdom in heaven, where all will be made right and we will live forever as one with our God.

If we’ve had a less than stellar week, we need that good news, we need that Kingdom. We need to know that God is patient, and forgiving, and allows us to come to maturity before there’s judgment. We need to know there is mercy and forgiveness, and a Spirit that prays with us and for us in our weakness. And we need to hear Jesus call us to be leaven in the world, even though we’re not perfect. He needs us to work on changing sadness to hope, directing all eyes to the One who is our true King. That, friends, is true worship.

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