The Book of Wisdom we hear from today was composed quite late in the Old Testament era, likely less than a hundred years before the birth of Jesus. Its inspired author wrote in Greek rather than the Hebrew language in which the earlier books of the Old Testament were written, and he had developed a clear understanding of the cultural movements of his day, both good and bad.
While his heart was set on Jerusalem our author almost certainly lived in Egypt in a Jewish diaspora community. He was concerned that his fellow Jews would be taken by the prevailing Greek culture, which had melded with ancient Egyptian lore in an unhealthy way. The message of much of the Book of Wisdom, while cloaked in colorful language, is that God is loving and gentle with those who revere him—leavening his justice with mercy—and that God deals with the impious and merciless by giving them the justice they deny to others.
First we hear: “your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved.” Next: “though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind” (Wis 12:16, 18-19).
The point that God is self-secure and has no need to flex his might to impress anyone becomes apparent: it is comforting to be devoted to such a God rather than the false gods of Greek mythology, who were said to be constantly preening and competing with each other. Christians should imitate God in every way possible, but perhaps especially in this way—being at rest in our own skin, as God made us—as it would give us great inner peace.
That seems to be part of the Gospel message delivered today in several parables, most importantly in the parable of the weeds in the field. After speaking this parable Jesus explains it to his disciples, noting that the Son of Man is sensible enough not only to sow good seed, but to refrain from pulling up the offspring of bad seed lest he uproot the fruit of the good seed as well.
The Son of Man, who is Jesus himself, is like our peaceable God as described in the Book of Wisdom. He is not easily shaken or alarmed but is content to wait until all the seed has borne its fruit, for better or for worse. Then he tells us: “The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matt 13:41-43).
When we are upset by the knowledge that another person is “getting ahead” of us or is doing wrong we should certainly defend our rights, preventing the person from harming us or others. At the same time we should not let the very fact that such people exist frustrate us; rather, as the author of the Book of Wisdom urges, and like the wise sower of seed in the Gospel, we should be good ourselves, extending kindness to others, and leaving the administration of justice to God, who is “a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity” (Ps 86:15).
Father Edward Mazich, O.S.B.