Send Them to the Moon

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rupert Murdoch is scrambling a lot these days to keep from losing his sanity, his credibility, and his vast media empire. I’m sure if it were all up to him, a few more heads would roll and his big nightmare would just melt away like the darkness at the dawning of day. He is one powerful individual, and when he has a bad day, the whole world knows about it. So like Mr. Murdoch, you and I can feel pretty helpless and clueless every now and again. So we’re in good company.

It can sometimes seem like forces out there are constantly conspiring to put a halt to our happiness and fulfillment. And in the face of turmoil and opposition and misfortune, all we are able to do is wait, wait for things to get better, wait for the opportunity to fight back, wait for the opportunity to be a greater force for good. Or we can complain until some better alternative presents itself. And speaking of things I can do absolutely nothing about but wait, I decided to list the things that lately seem to leave me feeling quite helpless. Sometimes it just all seems to be part of the way things work, the natural development of human interactions, or from another perspective, a natural development of our human nature – that there will always be people who will cheat, steal, kill and lie to get ahead. And it happens in a whole lot of places human beings are found: among friends, within families, between neighbors, in small businesses and big corporations, in sports, entertainment, local and international politics, the church. These past few years we have witnessed evil perpetrated by human agents as ordinary as you and me. It can be disheartening. I almost wish we could get all these people together who make other people’s lives miserable and banish them to some desert island in the Pacific (although that might not be punishment enough, since many of us would like to end up on some island in the Pacific). Or we can send them to the moon! It’s an easy solution that will easily anger other groups of people. So they can go to the moon, too.

What would you do?  Enact more restrictive laws, levy heavier fines, impose tougher jail sentences? We could give up some more of our civil liberties to prevent further harm? We could authorize random searches, racial profiling, armed guards at every street corner, the thought police, a federal agency investigating un-American activities?  Been there, done that.

How about mandatory oversight boards, random drug screening, tougher child abuse laws, zero tolerance policies for drug use and violence in our schools, and for sexual predators? Mandatory jail time for convicted dealers, repeat offenders, abusers of animals, alcohol-related auto accidents, cop killers, frat hazing, mail fraud, tabloid stalkers, paparazzi, telemarketers, email spammers, hackers, negligent medical practitioners, perpetrators of hate crimes, neo-Nazis, hate radio commentators, road rage and airline rage, school bullies, corrupt law enforcement, judges and politicians, perjurers, plagiarists, environmental terrorists, pornographers, bad comedians? There are days I wouldn’t hesitate to send them all to the moon. But would the world be a better place after I accomplish forced exile? Chances are I will find other people who tick me off and send them to the moon too. How long before we all make the list ourselves and end up on the moon? But can we realistically build a perfect human society free from injustice, dishonesty, violence and hate? Will we ever successfully separate all the weeds from the wheat? And these were just the people on my “weed” list. A few of you may be on my list, I won’t deny it. I’m sure I’m on somebody’s list. Will we ever understand the true nature of evil and effectively root it out to create a more perfect world? Probably not, but we should not stop trying. Visions of a better world are what propel and distinguish political campaigns, and we can’t have enough of those …

Sometimes we might even wonder why God isn’t more involved. If God can do something, and we believe God can do a great deal, why this seeming indifference to tremendous suffering and injustice in the world? Why does God show no outrage, no horror, no disgust? The book of Wisdom portrays God as just and merciful toward all people, even toward the unjust and the merciless. God who is without equal in might and power chooses to be lenient and forgiving. God teaches us by example that justice must also be kind. This example of mercy gives us hope of forgiveness for our sins. Jesus tells us God is concerned about the presence of evil in the world, God is alarmed by the prosperity of weeds in the wheat field. But God’s concern for the wheat is even greater. Care for the wheat is more important to God than the destruction of weeds.

The mystery of evil has not escaped God’s attention. I am convinced God’s plan is already in motion, and has been since the creation of the world. In God’s design, the weeds will be bundled up and thrown into the fire in the end, while the ripened wheat will be harvested and stored. It is not for us to override God’s plan because God seems indifferent to our pain. Jesus tells us our most immediate concern is whether or not we are bearing fruit for the harvest.

The greatest damage done by weeds is depriving the wheat of sustenance by crowding its roots and blocking the light which enables the bearing of fruit. At the least, the weeds waste good soil and nutrients simply by taking up precious space. Although we cannot eradicate all evil in the world, we can put greater effort into positive initiative and action. If we are to bear fruit for the harvest, we must do our part to nurture hope, to bring about justice, peace, equality, understanding and the common good. What we can do with some effort and enthusiasm is not insignificant. Those in more prominent roles can do more to prevent the spread of evil by taking proper action, undermining its progress, and punishing offenders. Yet unlike weeds, human hearts can change. Sinners can repent. People can come around. In our understanding of fairness and justice, punishment and retribution often make perfect sense. But God sees things differently. God’s justice at the proper time will be absolute and complete. There will be no disputing or questioning God’s judgment. Until then, God offers us compassion, kindness and mercy. Weeds can be good for the wheat. They provide challenge, incentive and purpose to prosper and bear fruit. The great harvest is fast approaching, and the wheat will be gathered into the barn, while the weeds will be bundled up for burning. While there is time, there is reason to hope. And nobody should have to be sent to the moon.