The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
2017 – Cycle A
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, Psalm 86; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13: 24-43
No one likes weeds in our nicely manicured lawns, do we? Well, I must admit I love a field of dandelions, a carpet of summer yellow. And then later in the season you get to blow on the puffy white balls and the seeds fly off like little parachutes. But I digress. Weeds! Most people go out and purchase Roundup Weed Killer, Ortho GroundClear or Scott’s Turf Builder to surgically destroy the pesky plants and bring refinement back to our lawns.
But what if we couldn’t tell the difference between our rich green grass and the dandelions? What if they both looked exactly alike? Would you take the chance of using weed killer and risking instead of a rich green lawn a dead brown plot of land? Pretty much that is what Jesus is talking about. The good seed of wheat and the bearded darnel, what is translated as “weeds”, look exactly alike.
In a similar way abundance can lay alongside poverty and can oddly look alike. Deprivation can masquerade as abundance. And we do a great injustice when we judge.
What is the difference between an obese person due to an improperly balanced diet of choice, rich, fatty foods and an overweight person due to an improperly balanced diet because they cannot afford healthy foods but must rely on canned items filled with sodium?
What is the difference between the stone washed ripped jeans that our youth pay big dollars for to look chic and the dirty torn clothes of a poor person, a mentally ill person or a child whose head of family is underemployed?
Gilbert and Sullivan put it well in their operetta, H.M.S. Pinafore:
“Things are seldom what they seem, Skim milk masquerades as cream;
Highlows pass as patent leathers; Jackdaws strut in peacock’s feathers.
Very true, So they do.
Black sheep dwell in every fold; All that glitters is not gold;
Storks turn out to be but logs; Bulls are but inflated frogs.
So they be, Frequentlee.”
What does hunger look like? We might recall the images of Biafran or Somalian children suffering from famine. Have we ever seen such images in our country? What does hunger look like in our country? We don’t have a famine of the land but do we have the famine of a consumerist society that only wants the best, thinks it deserves the best? Did you know that 40% of food is wasted in our country from farm to fork to landfill? That’s almost half the food grown and bought in our country. That is an injustice against our hungry and poor sisters and brothers. How can we tout being the greatest country in the world when we not cannot, no, are the cause of not being able to feed our own people? Hunger may look different in our country but it is just as real. “Things are seldom what they seem…”
Jesus’ parable offers the image of two people who sow seeds; seeds that will grow into similar looking plants but seeds whose consequences are very different. What kind of seeds bring forth the Reign of God? I want to encourage you to sow seeds of justice.
Our national budget for the fiscal year 2018 includes deep cuts to domestic and international programs that serve poor and hungry people. Proposed are more than $1.7 trillion in cuts to safety-net programs including SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), WIC which stands for Women, Infants and Children, and refundable tax credits for low-income working families. More than $190 billion of these budget cuts alone are to SNAP which will impact millions of senior citizens, working families, and unemployed Americans. Funding for Food for Peace is being eliminated which subsidizes emergency food aid and development programs. These budget cuts will make it nearly impossible to end hunger and extreme poverty in our country. But we can make a difference by sowing seeds of justice.
In the bulletin last week and this week is a sample letter (see below) along with the names and addresses of our congressional representatives. I strongly encourage you to reflect, pray and consider writing letters to our representatives. Individual and personalized letters are read over form letters. These seeds of justice I ask that you bring with you to church over the next two Sunday and members of the Peace and Justice Committee of our parish will collect them. On the 2nd weekend, 6 August, we will bless them and parishioners will hand deliver them to the offices of our congressional representatives. Two years ago, our parish participated in this Offering of Letters through Bread for the World, an interdenominational organization that advocates for hungry people in the United States. Parishioners wrote 150 letters which joined letters from people who come to our food pantry and parents of children participating in the summer lunch program at Neahwa Park. We blessed and delivered close to a thousand letters to our legislators. Make a difference in people’s lives. Help end hunger and poverty in our country. Sow seeds of justice.
Dear Senator N./ Dear Representative N.
In the U.S., 1 in 8 families struggles to put food on the table. My Catholic Parish of Saint Mary in Oneonta, through our food pantry, in conjunction with three meal sites in the city serve numerous individuals and families daily. Parents in my community rely on the Summer Food Service Program to feed their children a healthy lunch when school is out for the summer.
Also, 20 million people are at risk of starvation due to the extraordinary famines in South Sudan, northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, and Yemen. The impact from famine will persist worldwide in the coming years. Recently, Congress allocated $1 billion in additional funding to address famine. It is crucial that the U.S. continue to be a leader in foreign assistance for the common good of all people.
Therefore, cutting trillions of dollars over the next decade in funding to programs that help low-income households, such as SNAP and Medicaid, would jeopardize food security for millions of U.S. families and programs that address economic development to impoverished families in the U.S. and abroad will increase hunger and hardship.
As Congress works on the 2018 budget and spending bills, I urge you to challenge and reject cuts to lifesaving programs. Budgets are moral documents. They directly reflect our priorities. A foundation of our country’s values and my Catholic Church’s Social Teaching is the uplifting of people, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving drink to the thirsty, that is, the common good. Addressing hunger and poverty and their root causes must be a priority for our nation if its people are to flourish.
I ask you to make budget proposals that address these critical issues and challenge deep and disproportionate cuts to critical anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.
New York State Senators and their addresses:
Senator Charles Schumer, United States Senate, 322 Hart Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, United States Senate, 378 Russell, Washington, DC 20510