We take turns to give the homily (sermon) during our community masses and it was my turn today. The readings were Jeremiah 7:1-11, Psalm 83 and Matthew 13:24-30. They say you can tell the preferences of the homilist by the examples he uses. What do you think?
Let’s start with a common image, though I wouldn’t presume everyone would have gone through this. Imagine yourself as a child atop a child’s bicycle. Imagine also an adult who stands behind, holding on to the bicycle seat, keeping it steady. Imagine yourself riding with the hand steadying you, feeling it’s comforting presence. After a while, as you feel the wind in your face and the freeing turn of the pedals, you ride. Then you turn behind and realise that the hand is not there anymore and the adult is a distance away, smiling broadly. You may wobble and fall, or you may press on. The important thing is that the adult let go.
What’s the significance of letting go? Why is it so important? Because the adult, someone who loves us enough to go through the exhausting regime of running behind a bicycle, trusts us enough to let go and leave us to the risk of injury and success. Love is about protecting and nuturing but it’s also about letting go. The trust and subsequent freedom allows the child to truly feel empowered – to know that falling and hurting oneself is part of growing up and to know the joy of riding that bicycle on two wheels, on one’s own.
That’s the same thing that happens in the Gospel of today. One should note first that the wheat that’s sown is all good seed – and that’s what we are, committed hearers of the word who want to do all that the Lord wants of us. The next thing is that despite the presence of the weeds among us, the Lord trusts us enough to leave us to our own devices. He knows us, loves us and gives us life but wants us to lead that life on our own, making our own choices that could be good or bad. The trust also empowers us as we seek to live in the freedom that’s given to us. Just like the adult holding on to the bicycle, the Lord knows that letting go of us and allowing us to grow with the weeds among us is not without risk but it’s in the struggle to grow well that we will be able to truly flourish.
Psalm 8 from this morning’s Office emphasises this:
You have made him little less than a god;
with glory and honour you crowned him,
gave him power over the works of your hand,
put all things under his feet.
With this great empowerment, what are we to do? How would one exercise all this responsibly so that we can flourish?
The first thing is to recognise that the weeds are still there with us. This is important. We cannot go about thinking that we’re free to do whatever we will and all things well go right in the end. We need to go about with our eyes open, aware of all the potential temptations and pitfalls, trials and even people who can be stumbling blocks to our leading a good life. We face them, aware but unbowed, knowing that we’ve got the love of the Lord behind us.
The other thing is the need to be free and to take discerned risks. The discerning bit is also important as we’re not called to be daredevils who take risks for their own sake but to be mature in leading our lives, not erring on the side of caution all the time just so that we can be safe Christians. Sometimes we need to stick our necks out, risk getting hurt in seeking to do all that the Lord has put us here for. We’re called to live without training wheels, to feel the wind in our faces and pedal hard into the empowered life that the Lord has for us.