July 26, 2015 at 5:58 pm Leave a comment

SCRIPTURE READINGS: EX 32:15-24; 30-34, 28; MT 13:31-35

We all want to grow in holiness and be successful in our projectsbut, quite often, we cannot wait.  We have no patience, not only with ourselves but also with those around us who are slow in living up to the life of Christ, or slow in their work. This is even more so in community living.  How often do we bemoan the fact that our community is not as united and loving as it should be?  At times when we see the failings and weaknesses of our fellow brothers and sisters, we cannot help but judge and condemn them.  Sometimes, we even wish that they be removed from the community.  Yes, if only such difficult people are removed from our community then our life would be so wonderful and godly.

If we are feeling this way, then we can easily identify ourselves with the impatience exhibited by Moses and the Israelites in today’s first reading.  The narrative tells us that the people were impatient in waiting for Moses who went up to the mountain to receive instructions from Yahweh. In their impatience, they pressurized Aaron to make for them a god who could be their leader.  They simply could not wait.  Aaron in his rashness acted without thinking of the consequences and gave in to their demands and made for them a golden calf, a symbol of power and strength.

Similarly, Moses too was impatient.  He projected his intolerance onto Yahweh, making God appear as if He were also impatient and angry.  Moses’ deep encounter with God made him feel great shame for his people who turned against Yahweh when He had delivered them from the slavery of the Egyptians.  Thus, when he came down from the mountain, and when he saw the calf, the scripture says, “Moses’ anger blazed.”  Fuming mad, “he threw down the tablets he was holding and broke them at the foot of the mountain.  He burned the calf into powder which he scattered on the water and forced the Israelites to drink it.”

But the truth is that God is patient and mercifulIf God were portrayed otherwise, it is due to a mistaken perception due to fear and guilt.  Indeed, when Moses later interceded for the grievous sin of his people, the Lord forgave them, albeit not without the need to repair the damage done.  As if to reassure Moses to leave this matter behind him, He commanded him, “Go now, lead the people to the place of which I told you.  My angel shall go before you.”  Yes, God is patient with us in our sinfulness.  At the same time, we cannot avoid running away from the consequences of our sins.  This is made clear when Yahweh said, “but on the day of my visitation, I shall punish them for their sin.”

Today, Jesus in the gospel affirms the patience and grace of God for us sinners.  In the parables of the mustard seed and the yeast, Jesus wants to remind us that the kingdom of God is not built in a day but gradually with the grace of God.  Three qualities are needed if we were to recognize the process of growth,namely, patience, humility, and faith in the power of God.

Like the mustard seed, we must recognize that growth in holiness takes time.  We need to reckon with the natural law of human growth.  We need to allow people, including ourselves, time to grow out of our immaturity, ignorance and selfishness.  We must therefore be patient and learn to wait.  It is necessary to give people the benefit of the doubt that they want to change their lives and that they are trying, albeit with much struggles and difficulty.  To condemn and pass judgment on them is to rule out any possibility of growth or the power of God’s grace.

To have patience, we must be humble, like the mustard seed.  Just as the mustard seed begins in a small way and later blossoms into one of the biggest shrub and becomes a tree, so too it would be foolish of us to despise small efforts in beginning something good.  Be it a project or a good practice, we must begin small and start from somewhere. The danger is that quite often, in the face of evil and sin, as in community living, we tend to give up hope and say to ourselves, “Oh, it has been like that for years.  Nothing can be done.  So do not waste time doing anything good!”  When we adopt this kind of negativity then it shows that we are impatient with growth.  In giving up hope on people, we give up hope on ourselves too.

More than just impatience, it is also our failure to recognize the power of God at work in transforming our lives.  In the final analysis, conversion and growth is not a human effort but the grace of God at work in us.  This is what the parable of the leaven is illustrating.  The leaven is the grace of God at work in us, secretly and invisibly transforming us from within.  It is that same inner divine power that enables the mustard seed to become a tree.  So too, we cannot rely on our human strength to grow in holiness and perfection but on the grace of God.  But we must be patient, since holiness is ultimately a grace and a gift.

If we are patient and learn to wait, then the grace of God will gradually but surely transform us, as the leaven transformed the dough and the growth of the mustard seed.  When that happens, then the glory of God will be visible in us for all to see, so much so that we will attract others to see the glory of God at work in our lives.  In this way, like the mustard tree, we become a refuge whereby people can take shelter in us.  As a result, more and more people are able to embrace the kingdom for themselves until one day, the whole earth is filled with the glory and power of God.

Let us therefore pray for this patience, humility and faith in the power of God’s grace.  Our task is to be open to His grace; but the work of conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit.  We must abide by His time, knowing that God will definitely be faithful to His promises and that He will transform us into a community of grace and love just as He transformed the Israelites into the people of God.  We must have hope, not despair; patience, not condemnation; faith, not self-reliance.

Written by The Most Rev William Goh
Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore
© All Rights Reserved
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Entry filed under: Catechesis.

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