Our gospel reading last Sunday presented the parables of the wheat field, the mustard seed and the yeast. All three images underscore the incredible dynamism of the kingdom of God which starts small and gradually grows into something large and productive. The wheat field yields a rich harvest that fills the barn, the tiny mustard seed grows into a large bush and provides shelter for the birds, and the little yeast raises the dough that turns into a loaf.
The first parable is treated more lengthily because it touches the mystery of evil, as depicted in the malicious sowing of weeds among the wheat by an enemy. While the laborers worried and volunteered to pull out the weeds, the owner calmly told them to let them be, lest they’d pull out the wheat along with the weeds. Both would have their hour of reckoning at harvest time.
Evil is a reality that baffles us. If God is good, why is there evil in the world? This is a perennial question that disturbs even the most spiritual. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us that God allows evil because he can draw good out of evil.
However unpleasant and repulsive pain may be, it often provides the necessary condition to unleash our hidden potentials and bring out the best in us. Experience tells us that whenever we overcome any obstacle or difficulty, we grow in self-mastery, discipline and maturity. What does not kill us can only strengthen us. (Nietzsche) Without Auschwitz, there would be no Maximillian Kolbe or Victor Frankl. Without Laur, there would be no Ninoy Aquino who was converted from an early obsession for the presidency to a total commitment to free the Filipino, who is worth dying for.
Pain is purifying. Someone said that it is only with eyes washed by tears that one can see what is of genuine value. One positive outcome of Covid-19 is that today our air is cleaner, our sky clearer and our waters purer. With the lockdown imposed on human activity, the earth is finally given some respite from man’s abusive and destructive actions. The pandemic is a precious opportunity for us to purify ourselves of unnecessary attachments and to put our life in order.
Pain is redemptive. When we step on something sharp, we instinctively withdraw our foot lest we fall into a serious and fatal wound. Pain serves as an EWD (early warning device). I once read an article about a man who was incapable of feeling physical pain. You would think it’s an enviable gift. Not he; how he wished he was normal. He almost lost his leg when he stepped on something burning and did not realize it until someone intervened. Pain tells us that there is something wrong we need to address if we are to keep our health and save our life.
Above all, pain is salvific. Through his passion and death, Christ saved us from sin. As disciples we are called to take up our own cross and follow him. It is by uniting our own sufferings with Christ’s that we are made sharers of his life and heirs of his kingdom.
Yesterday, we held a prayer rally to implore God to save us from an impending tyranny, a virus more deadly than covid-19 because it threatens not only our life, but also our freedom. We prayed for our government leaders that they may be true to their duty of protecting the rights of the people, who put them in office. We exhorted our people to stay ever vigilant lest we be robbed of our democracy. Most of all, we prayed that the Lord establish his kingdom among us.
The kingdom is of God, and we are but his instruments. Its end and fulfilment is certain, though we may not live to see it; this is our ground for hope. What is asked of us is to trust God and to be faithful in doing our part in the building of his kingdom. The newly canonized saint, Archbishop Oscar Romero, expresses this in his moving prayer:
“The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work. We plant the seed that one day will grow. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities. We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own. Amen.”