SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME-AWisdom 12: 13, 16-19
Romans 8: 26-27 Matthew 13: 24-30
There was a prospector looking for gold who thought that all of the good fortune in his life was due to good luck.
All of the other prospectors had left the scene but he continued his search for treasure. The weather got chilly and he was out of food when he discovered a carton. He opened it up and said, “Here I am, prospecting for gold and almost starving to death, when I uncover this carton full of canned food! What a lucky man I am!”
There are people who that think that all the blessings in life are simply due to good luck. But you and I don’t just let things go and hope for the luck of the draw. We plan, we work hard and so often we see the fruits of our efforts. But even with careful planning, unexpected things and things beyond our control will still come our way.
We know that we do not control every single detail in life. There’s not a single one of us that chose who our parents would be. Not a single one of us chose the city where we would be born. Not a single one of us chose our mother tongue.
There are things in life that are beyond our control, even when we are careful planners. Blaming it on bad luck does not help us to deal constructively with those things.
Sometimes people rely upon superstition to try to manage what is beyond their control. We find that in the sports world.
I remember watching baseball on television with my dad, and one of the players that I really liked was Minnie Minoso.
Well, there was a story about Minnie Minoso when he was playing for the White Sox in 1961. It was a double-header, and he struck out every time he went to bat. Right afterwards he went into the locker room and walked into the shower with his uniform on. He said to his teammates, “I’m washing away the evil spirits.”
In the next game he had three solid hits, two of which were home runs. Right after that game, eight of his teammates followed him into the showers wearing their uniforms!
Now that’s superstition – and that’s how people sometimes deal with what they consider to be beyond their control.
Sometimes people approach religion in a superstitious way. There is a practice called “Lucky Dipping.” A person opens their Bible randomly, closes their eyes, points to a passage and takes that as God’s answer to them.
Well there was a man who did this and then opened his eyes and read: “Having betrayed Jesus, Judas went out and hanged himself.” He didn’t like that answer so he tried it again. He opened his Bible again, closed his eyes, pointed and then read: “Go, thou, and do likewise.”
Now, that clearly was not God’s message to him! He was using Scripture in a superstitious way. Scripture IS God’s Word, but we need to use Scripture as God intends. The Bible is not a book of magic.
So how do we approach things in life that seem beyond our control? Well, luck is not going to help us. Superstition is not going to help us.
What will help us is our trust in God, who watches over us always, who can turn all things to the good.
There is a Jewish story about a man with his mule and his rooster and who came to a village. He asked to stay there for the night, but they wouldn’t have him. So he went to the outskirts of town and found a cave. He got his rooster and his mule all comfortable outside, and inside he turned up his lamp and he settled down for the night, knowing that his faithful rooster would wake him up early so that he could say his prayers.
He just got settled in that cave when a wind came and blew his lamp out, so he called it a night and went to sleep. The next morning it was very quiet. He went outside the cave and saw that some wild animals had killed his rooster and his mule. He needed provisions, so he walked into town and discovered that everybody there had been murdered by robbers.
Then it dawned on him: if he had been given a place to stay in town for the night, he would have been murdered too. And if his rooster and his mule had not been killed by other wild animals, if his lamp within the cave had not blown out in the wind, he might have been discovered by those same robbers and murdered also.
And so he prayed, “Thank you, Lord, for delivering me and keeping me safe.
Our Second Reading today is from St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, chapter 8, and only two verses – twenty-six and twenty-seven. With what I have put before you today, listen to these two verses with perhaps a new understanding. Paul writes:
“Brothers and sisters: the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. For we do not know how to pray as we ought. But the Spirit Himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the One who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because He intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will” [Romans 8: 26-27].
Even when things come our way that we did not wish for and are beyond our control, we have a God who watches over us. We don’t deal with the challenges of life all alone.
You look rather hungry today, so I thought I might finish with a food story. A woman was known for her devil’s food cake, and her husband decided to watch to see how she made it: what was her secret?
She got out the big mixing bowl. She measured the flour, and he thought to himself, “Flour – flat, tasteless and dry…” He watched her add a cup of sour milk, and he thought, “That’s going in there too…” and he questioned his like for chocolate cake! Then she took an egg and cracked it and dropped it in – a raw egg! Then he really wasn’t sure…
She finished making the batter and poured it into the baking pans and put them in the hot oven.
That evening she presented her famous devil’s food cake for dessert. And he had a spiritual reflection about that experience.
He thought to himself how often in life things seem so dry, flat and tasteless – like the flour. How often in life we are handed something that seems so sour to our taste – like the milk. How often in life we are given a raw deal –like the raw egg. How often in life we bear the heat of trial and affliction – like that cake batter going into the hot oven. But look what happens to all those ingredients under the watchfulness of their maker.
We have all kinds of ingredients in our lives. Some are sweet and pleasant and rich, while others are dry and sour and raw and heated. But we don’t work with those ingredients all by ourselves. We work under the watchful eye of our Lord and Maker.
It is not luck, it is not superstition that will get us through. It is the care and the providence of God who is with us always. As that wise saying encourages us, “Let go – and let God.”
And I encourage you: let God be God in your life.