BY: Fr. Gerald Musa.


Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful.
– C.S. Lewis

The Jewish Talmud, an ancient collection of teachings, recounts a tale involving an elderly man and Abraham. In this story, Abraham warmly invited the man into his tent, hoping they could pray together to the Almighty God. However, the man, being a fire worshipper, declined the invitation. In response, Abraham asked him to leave his dwelling. Later that night, God appeared to Abraham in a vision, reminding him of the man’s ignorance. God revealed that He had tolerated the man’s beliefs for seventy years, and questioned why Abraham could not have patiently endured his presence for just one night. This story shows how patient God is with us and how impatient we can be with one another. Jesus came into the world to show us how God’s justice, mercy, and grace are at work in our lives, guiding us towards redemption, forgiveness, and transformation.

Jesus paints 3 pictures of the kingdom of heaven that demonstrate the mercy and patience of God (Matthew 13:24-43). First, he paints the kingdom as a farmer who goes to sow wheat. Second, he presents the kingdom as the Mustard seed, the smallest seed that grows to become the biggest plant. Thirdly, he describes the kingdom as yeast mixed with flour, which becomes leavened bread. Nevertheless, this passage of the Gospel of Matthew focuses strongly on the Parable of the wheat farmer (Matthew 13:24-30). The parable is about a farmer who sowed good seed (wheat) and the enemy came to sow weeds among the wheat while he went away. The plant grew and the weeds grew as well.

The slaves of the householder were unhappy to see weeds around the beautiful wheat that the farmer planted. They asked the master if they should pull out the weeds, but the master replied:

‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’

The farmer was very right to stop them from pulling the weeds out. Wheat and weeds are so similar on the farm that it takes an experienced farmer to differentiate between them. It is more so when both are still growing, but when the wheat and weeds come to maturity it is easy to separate them because the wheat plant has grains and the weeds are ‘grainless’.

The parable explains how God allows a sinner and a saint to live and pray and worship together. It refers to the mother Church that welcomes everyone, good and wicked alike. The parable presents a God who allows good and evil to co-exist and who lets his sun shine on both sinners and saints. Psalm 86 speaks beautifully of this God who is good and forgiving and who is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.”

The book of Wisdom amplifies the mercy and patience of God (See Wisdom 12:13, 16-19). This wisdom passage proclaims God as the Master of Might, who judges with clemency and governs with much lenience. Secondly, this same passage speaks about a God who offers his children a second chance by accepting those who repent. Thirdly, the passage declares that human beings have something to learn from the nature of God: that those who are just must be kind. No wonder Prophet Micah says: “He has shown you O man what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To do justice and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8).

We have a tendency to be unlike God by our judgmental attitude. Often we judge others without sufficient evidence and we are quick to condemn others without exercising patience or even offering a second chance to the people we dislike. The measurement people use for judgment is quite different from the yardstick God uses. Man looks at appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). It is not within our human power to judge anyone since God is the righteous and ultimate judge who does not make a rash judgment but waits until the end of time.


But wait a minute! If God is so merciful, does he exercise any sense of justice? In as much as God is a merciful God, he is also a God of justice. Scriptures assert that God is just (Deuteronomy 32:4; Zephaniah 3:5). The later part of the parable of the wheat farmer demonstrates a God who also has the power to wield the big stick in the final judgment. Judges in law courts imitate God’s sense of justice when they hit the hammer-shaped gavel on the desk to stamp their authority.

A loving father cannot train his son on the wings of mercy alone. If he does so, he would produce a spoilt child. This is why C.S. Lewis says: “Mercy, detached from Justice, grows unmerciful.” Mercy is relevant when it is mixed with the right dose of tough love, which is justice. Thus, in the parable Jesus speaks about the final judgment when God grants eternal rewards to the good and condemns unrepentant perpetrators of evil. God is merciful when he treats people with great patience and he is just when, at the end of time, he gives each one what his conduct deserves.

Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43; 16th Sunday of Year A;


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