“Avoid extremes!” We often hear this said and at times probably have given this advice to someone and maybe to ourselves. Today’s Scripture also seems to be offering this advice: “Avoid the extremes!” We need to avoid the extreme of ignoring our personal darkness, evil inclinations and sins and the extreme of being so focused on our evil inclinations that we leave no room for God’s mercy.
Jeremiah’s “Temple Sermon” (Jer 7:1-11) warns against my relying on external religious observance while tolerating a habit of cheating employer or employees, betraying one’s spouse or anyone who in justice deserves my truth and integrity. Jeremiah warns the Israelites not to profess confidence in “the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord” if at the same time they are indulging in all forms of dishonesty, immorality and idolatry in their customary practices.
Jeremiah would have real problems with someone who might be attending Mass very regularly and loudly professing firm convictions about the Catholic Faith while at the same time harboring deep racial prejudice or a deep bitter lack of forgiveness. It reminds me of an old limerick type rhyme:
“Mr. Lundy went to Church;
he never missed a Sunday.
But Mr. Lundy went to Hell
for what he did on Monday!”
In contrast, the Gospel’s parable of the weeds growing with the wheat would seem to caution us to avoid the opposite extreme: so obsessing over my sins or shadows that I don’t allow for God’s Mercy. The householder is distressed over the weeds sowed in his wheat field by some enemy. Nevertheless he orders the servants to let weeds and wheat grow together lest an over-zealous uprooting of weeds might destroy the wheat.
Jesus presents this parable as an image of the Kingdom. As such the parable would suggest that we let God take charge of the harvest. “Let God be God!” Let God be the one who in the final analysis judges between true wheat and real weeds. Sometimes our impatience with our personal shadows or what we might feel are temptations might even interfere with God’s creative design for us. I recall a small banner I saw mounted on the wall of a friend’s room:
“God doesn’t make junk!
Have patience with me— God isn’t finished with me yet!”
What we might reject in ourselves, rooting it up and throwing it away, God may have a more positive purpose in mind. Jesus Christ is balance. If we keep our eyes fixed on him and review our lives as much as possible through his eyes, we will avoid all unhealthy extremes.
Fr. Lucian Clark, C.P. is a member of the Passionist community in Union City, NJ and is the Director of Passionist Volunteers International.
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