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It begins small—a mass of shoots along the ground, their tendrils angling for fence posts, for trellises, for garden lanterns, for rock outcroppings along creek bottoms. The fevered race is on. Summer sun hotwires their prodigious growth into swirls of greenery that soon become tangled thickets. Occasional breezes whip the gummy tendrils onto still more shrubs or upon whatever lies in their path. In late August clusters of star-shaped flowers feather the tops of these vines, their sugary sweetness intoxicating bees and other insects.

 

 

 

Sweet Autumn Clematis is the name of this perennial.

It seems that gossip has similar characteristics: fiery, infectious, showy, invasive, suffocating. Such psychic darkness lurks beneath the guise of excitement and hilarity and swells the media’s breaking news and ignites lunchrooms. Its fabricators insist that they are in the know, no matter the mangled remains of their prey. The resulting entrapment seems impermeable to change—But not so.

Both tangled vines and gossip are noxious, and harsh measures are needed to destroy them. The first hard frost kills the perennial and reduces its lush foliage to the straggly hairs of a witch hell-bent on escape. And the laser-truth of grace excises the lies from those afflicted and restores their characters, whether still living or deceased.

We have only to wait. Evil has always had short shrift in this world.

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“The Lord hears the cry of the poor. Blessed be the Lord.” So prayed the Psalmist over three thousand years ago, his response to the ills of his day.

His angst resonates with our own: darkness and confusion that numb sensibilities, sicken resolve, foment divisions, and bifurcate values. The computerized stranglehold upon time seems to have become the new god, the Sacred appearing to have abandoned his creation. Beneath the glitz of social media, the entertainment world, and the towering megapolis of progress evidenced in skylines the world over, putrefies a spiritual and moral stench that suffocates the soul.

But no matter, greedy pundits say, just ramp up the freebies and just watch how the sheeple will respond. Give them more cake.

In the Psalmist’s time, however, a remnant held fast to the Sword of Truth within the depths of their being. The same holds true today. As dismaying as the media’s escalating reports of rancor, carnage, and death appear, we cling to a different reality, one modeled by Jesus of Nazareth who endured the same dregs of evil, yet triumphed over them.

So with today’s Psalmist, the author of the Serenity Prayer, we pray “…taking as Jesus did this sinful world as it is, not as we would have it, trusting that You will make all things right if we surrender to Your will, so that we may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with You forever in the next.”

All is indeed well.

 

The night split by lightening, roiled by thunder, throttled by high winds, and drenched by slanting rains feels like menacing spirits on rampage.

Yet with morning, sunlight seeps within the crevices of the pavers in my backyard and begins germinating the seeds deposited by trickster winds. After a few days, the inevitable happens. Patches of crabgrass sprawl aimlessly like the disorders that crop up in my psyche: resentments, fears, self-centeredness, and irritation. Beneath such eruptions lie rioting instincts. Ferreting them out continues to be a humbling practice because of their deep-rootedness.

The question, from whence come these disorders leads to a deeper one: the evil that exists both within and without us.

Jesus speaks to this fact in the parable of the weeds and wheat (Mt. 13). During the night an enemy cast noxious seeds into a farmer’s wheat field; in time, ugly weeds sprouted. Alarmed by this discovery, his servants asked for direction. Lest they pull up the wheat, they were told to leave the weeds alone until the harvest. Then, a reckoning would occur.

Jesus likens the wheat field to the Kingdom of God; the sower, to the Son of Man; the enemy, to the evil one; and the harvest, to the end of the world. Indeed, there will be a reckoning. “The Son of Man will send his angels and they will gather out of his kingdom all… who do evil and throw them into the blazing furnace….”

Thus Jesus’s followers are not to lose heart by evil that serves to hone their skills of Kingdom-living: “They will shine like the sun.…”

 

 

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