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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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She prays.

Slowly, her veined hand moves across his sunken chest. No longer is there a heartbeat. He is gone. Unfathomable peace suffuses his shriveled remains. Within that sacred moment she rests—fulfilled are her vows of almost seven years, pronounced that festive afternoon in their parish church where they had met at daily Mass, their snowy hair enhancing their flushed faces. Afterwards, merriment enlivened their white-tent reception filled with families and friends. It was all about love with its inherent sacrifices.

She prays.

Of little consequence, now, were his temper tantrums, rigid judgments, blaming—behaviors exacerbated by his Parkinson’s Dementia, three years into the marriage. Of little consequence was his frequent need in the middle of the night to pack his things in a pillowcase and go home. Of little consequence was his emptying the contents of the kitchen drawers into the refrigerator, of flooding the bathroom floor. Of little consequence was his violent reaction to placement in a skilled nursing facility, despite painstaking preparations. Now, he lives in eternal life and that’s all that matters.

She prays. Her eyes glisten.

Salted by keen suffering, she lives the mandate of Jesus Christ to be “the salt of the earth.”

Her name is Mary.

 

This week, many in the Christian world remember.

More than two centuries ago, a misfit was hounded to death on a cross atop a steep hill outside the city walls. Before sundown, friends removed his desiccated remains to a nearby cave for burial, then huddled together in secrecy lest they be discovered. Days of indescribable angst followed. The third day, several women sought out their beloved, only to find the tomb empty and an angel proclaiming his resurrection.

Empowered by this phenomenon, this man’s followers spread his teaching throughout the world. Deep joy spirited their footsteps toward neighboring villages; its flame ignited those who were receptive to its transforming message of littleness and service. Merriment tickled psyches, drew broad smiles.

But as with such divine in-breakings, its fire flickered. Materialism, secularism, and hedonism spawned other sophistries that undermined the humility and truth and simplicity, the very foundations of this life path. The pursuit of comfort and prestige and power became paramount, no matter the misery, even bloodshed, of those in the way.

Even the reforms of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) did little to deter this spiritual malaise.

Like “The Fool on the Hill,” alone, scorned, ignored, the Crucified still looks through the eyes of the poor, the afflicted, the harassed. He cannot stay away. These are his people and they know it.

But there’s more to this picture. Such suffering passes; within its wake easters in unfathomable LIFE. We are invited to participate, even now, within moments of grace.

 

 

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