16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 17, 2011)

Mercy and Power. Those seemingly opposite words are at the heart of Sunday’s readings. God is so extraordinarily powerful that he can be extraordinarily merciful, compassionate, and gentle. It seems almost paradoxical, doesn’t it? Perhaps the closest human comparison would be we human beings; when compared to an infant, or a puppy or kitten, we are extra-ordinarily powerful. But the very frailty of those little ones calls forth a loving tenderness and gentleness. Yes, we do get impatient sometimes, but God never gets impatient with us.

The question about whether God will deal with us from a stand of justice or from a posture of mercy is huge in the human mind and heart. Most Catholics over the age of 50 will remember that it was very definitely God’s justice that was stressed the most. There seemed to be no question that we were weeds in the wheat patch of life. The only question was “how weedy were we?”

But somewhere along the line a mustard seed was planted. Some yeast was inserted into our thinking about God. I don’t recall exactly when it happened to me, but I do know that at some point God’s mercy became the touchstone of my life, and I suspect you could say the same. We moved away from our fear of the Lord’s strict justice, and moved into the safe harbor of his embracing mercy and compassion.

We actually began to see that it was OK to have some weediness in our lives, that that is was not the end of the world and would not merit everlasting fire. Now I’m not advocating that we deliberately cultivate weediness….no way. It’s just that sinfulness is a fact of human life; it’s not to be cultivated, it’s not to be torn out. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Yet that very tension allows us to grow patiently into persons of true faith who know mercy is at the center of God’s Kingdom.

Be God’s smile for someone today, for God smiles upon you!

herb yost reflections

Fr. Herb, C.S.C.

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