Spirituality for Today – Fall 2017 – Volume 22, Issue 1

Accepting Life's Mysteries

Reverend Monsenior Frank Wissel

There is a Gospel story that tells of seemingly senseless vandalism. A farmer had worked hard, prepared the ground, and planted his field with wheat. When the task was finished, nothing remained but to wait for the anticipated harvest, which would hopefully come a few months later.

Farming is a risky business. The planting of a crop does not necessarily guarantee the gathering of a harvest. Things can, and often do, go wrong. A drought can come, in which case the plants will die for lack of moisture. An excessive amount of rain can fall and rot the seed in the ground. Swarms of insects can come and devour the tender vegetation, leaving the field as barren as a desert.

Such disasters are a part of the natural risk of farming. Those who would make their living this way must expect and somehow learn to accept these disasters.

It goes with the territory. But this particular farmer fell victim to another kind of disaster, one rooted not in the quirks of nature, but in the wickedness of the human heart. No farmer could anticipate it, and learning to accept it would be next to impossible.

The problem did not become known until the growing season was well advanced. Then the farmer's servants observed that the field was saturated with weeds. This discovery suggests that the weeds strongly resemble the plant but have their own identity when they reach maturity.

It was obvious to the farmer what had happened. This was no natural occurrence. It was a deliberate act of vandalism. Shortly after he had planted his crop, someone had come under the cover of darkness and planted these weeds. They would not destroy the wheat, but would drastically reduce the yield, and would certainly complicate the harvest.

Why would anyone do such a thing? The farmer must have had asked himself that question many times. There was nothing to be gained by it. The perpetrator had lost sleep and worked hard in order to accomplish evil. It would put no money in his pocket or food on his table. The only thing he could possibly have derived from all his planning and hard work was some warped sense of satisfaction in seeing another human being suffer.

This story, that Jesus told, vividly illustrates one of life's most baffling mysteries: the presence of evil in God's world.

Where did it come from? How did it get started? Why is it allowed to continue? Disappointing though it may be, Christian faith offers no precise answers to any of those questions. Why do people suffer from the recent earthquakes, foods, bombings and war? As Sigmund Freud once said, "The devil may be the best way out as an excuse for God. But even so, once can hold God responsible for the existence of the devil."

Jesus offered no excuse for God, but neither did he offer any explanation of evil. He simply recognized it as a fact of life.

The universe in which you and I live is filled with mysteries. Early in childhood, we began to ask questions. Some o f them were simple and easy to answer. Others were complex and more difficult to answer. Our parents probably told us that when we were older we would understand more, and in one sense that is true.

We may well get used to unanswered questions. They are going to be with us for as long as we live. This is not to suggest that we should accept our ignorance and stop searching for the truth. It is simply to acknowledge that life is so deep and so profound that we will never touch the bottom.

Now, there is something disturbing about that. Like children in a dark room, we fear the unknown. We live answer. We long for certainty. As St. Paul writes, "My knowledge is imperfect now, then I shall know even as I am known."

In the meantime, we must accept this as a fact of life. We will face endless questions to which the only available answer will be, "I don't know."

But in the midst of all this mystery, there is at least one thing we do know, and it is this: We already have enough truth to live by.

It isn't all that we want. It isn't all that we will ever have in this life. We are learning new things all the time. But we hav enough truth right now to live decently with ourselves, kindly with our neighbors and rightly with our God.

In hours of confusion, we can seek inner peace from the Lord, and find all the truth we need to guide our lives, and the strength to follow it.