Parables and Lamentations

I was invited to reflect on today's readings at a communion service with our retired Sisters today at groovy sister hq.  Always an honor to break open the word with these amazing women. Here's what I shared.

Today's Gospel comes towards the end of a lengthy discourse in Matthew Chapter 13. If you remember, it started with Jesus trying to find some quiet time by the sea.  Instead he was surrounded by huge crowds, and so he started to teach them in parables.  First the Parable of the Sower.  Then the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat.  Then the Parable of the Mustard Seed.  And finally the Parable of the Yeast.

In today's reading, after he shared all of these and sent the crowds away, the disciples come up to Jesus. "Can you explain that one about the weeds ... again?"  I don't know about you, but I find great comfort in the realization that the disciples sometimes just didn't get it.

It can be hard to get it.  Especially in the midst of pain, suffering, war and destruction, like in the first reading from Jeremiah.  Almost 11 years ago, after the September 11th attacks, I heard this reading fairly often.  It was used in peace prayer services because it captured the spiritual outcry of that moment so well.
"We wait for peace, to no avail,
for a time of healing, but terror comes instead."

Come to think of it, this lament from Jeremiah fits the spiritual outcry of today as well.
"If I walk out into the field, look!
those slain by the sword."
Syria, Afghanistan, Aurora, Colorado.
"If I enter the city, look!
those consumed by hunger."
925 million people will go hungry today.  1.4 billion people will try to get by on less than $1.25 for all their essential needs.

What are we to do?  Cry out to God? By all means. As Jeremiah cried out, his eyes streaming with tears day and night ...
"Remember your covenant with us."
Margaret Anna Cusack, founder of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace, was also deeply moved by the suffering of poor and oppressed people, deeply moved to action.
"... it did matter to me a great deal, in view of our common humanity, and in view of my love of the poor, that I should do all I could for those whom He had loved so well." (The Nun of Kenmare)
As Sisters of St. Joseph of Peace today, we too are moved to actions for peace through justice. As our Constitutions say:
"The weight of suffering and oppression borne by so many people today, especially those who are economically poor, cries out to us for action." (Constitution 21).
And so it does.  And so it should.

But lest we be overwhelmed by the sheer enormity of what this calls us to do, Jesus reminds us in the Gospel that in the end, this is God's work.  In the end, God will be God.
"Christ is our peace, the source of our power. United with him we engage in the struggle against the reality of evil and continue the work of establishing God's reign of justice and peace." (Constitution 2)
We do what we can, we give freely of who we are, deeply moved by the cries of our brothers and sisters, confident in God's faithful love to sort it all out in the end.

Today is the feast day of another founder, St Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits.  I'd like to end with his prayer from the end of the Spiritual Exercises.  He knew that it was up to God to be God, and us to give of ourselves to God's love and work.  No more.  No less.

Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
my memory, my understanding,
and my entire will,
all that I have and call my own.
You have given all to me,
to you, Lord, I return it.
Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
Give me only your love and your grace,
that is enough for me.

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