Reflection for July 20th – Final Vow Retreat

From July 18th through July 24th we will be sharing daily reflections from the Final Vow Retreat in Bungoma, Kenya. We ask that Brothers and Associates join Brothers Moses Wafula Barasa, Serge Lumbala Kachunga, Daniel Ongeso Ohola, Marc Kabwita Mufuka, and René Mambwe Kijiba in reflection, as these brothers prepare for their Final Vows. Please keep these brothers in your prayers, as well as their retreat leaders, Brothers Larry Harvey and Richard Mazza.

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The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.  While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.  The slaves of the householder came to him and said, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?  Where have the weeds come from?’  He answered, ‘An enemy has done this. ’His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’  He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest . . .

Matthew 13: 24-30

The parable which Jesus tells in today’s gospel does not accord with our understanding of farming or of our judgment of good and evil  It seems “right” to us to uproot what we judge to be evil so that the “good” might flourish.  But Jesus reminds us in this parable of the limits of our judgment.  In our own lives and in the world around us we cannot always in the moment tell what is good and what is evil.  Sometimes what seems like the worst thing we’d want to happen becomes a source of deeper good for us.  And sometimes those aspects of our personalities and lives that we would most want to deny are really manifestations of our true call and spiritual identity.  Also, quite often our judgment of others, of who is good and who is bad, are products of our own limits, biases and prejudices.  God does not judge as we do.  As the first reading from the Book of Wisdom tells us:

And you taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are just must be kind;
and you gave your children good ground for hope
that you would permit repentance for their sins.

Wisdom 12: 18-19

The following is from a sermon on the parable from Reinhold Niebuhr.

“Nay,” said the householder.  “Lest while ye gather up the tares, you root up also the wheat.”  The suggestion is that a great deal of evil may come from the selfishness of humans, but perhaps more evil may come from the premature judgments of humans about themselves and each other.  “Let both grow together until the harvest.”  These wonderful words of Scripture suggest that while we have to judge, there is a judgment beyond our judgment, and there are fulfillments beyond our fulfillments.

Consider how much more evil and good, creativity and selfishness, are mixed up in actual life than our moralists, whether they be Christian or secular, realize.  How little we achieve charity because we do not recognize this fact.

. . .

Thus, human history is a mixture of wheat and tares.  We must make provisional distinctions, but we must know that there are no final distinctions.  “Let both grow together until the harvest.”  The human person is a creature and a creator.  He wouldn’t be a creator if he could not overlook the human scene and be able to establish goals beyond those of nature and to discriminate between good and evil.  He must do these things.  But he must also remember that no matter how high his creativity may rise, he is himself involved in the flow of time, and he becomes evil at the precise point where he pretends not to be, when he pretends that his wisdom is not finite but infinite, and his virtue is not ambiguous but unambiguous.

From the standpoint of the biblical faith we do not have to despair because life is so brief, but we must not pretend to more because we are so great.  Because we are both small and great, we have discerned a mystery and a meaning beyond our smallness and our greatness, and a justice and a love which completes our incompletions, which corrects our judgments, and which brings the whole story to a fulfillment beyond our power to fulfill any story.

We thank you, our God, for your judgments which are sterner than the judgments of man.  Help us to remember them when moral men speak well of us.  We thank you for your mercy which is kinder than the goodness of men.  Help us to discern this when we are overcome by the confusion of life, and despair about our own sin.  Grant us, O Lord, always to worship you in all our doings in the greatness of your creativity and the wonder of your judgment and your mercy.

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