Some words from

THIS SUNDAY’S OLD TESTAMENT READING [WISDOM 12:13. 16 – 19] will help restore the words righteous and righteousness to their true meaning … for your strength is the source of righteousness” … and a little later reference is made to the righteous man.”

These words have suffered because of their application to a person being ‘proper’, ‘controlled’ ‘perfect’ in conduct – especially in the public forum. Here we find the origin of the term self-righteous which has always indicated a certain and real degree of hypocrisy. In addition, the words have become attached to behaviour which is socially acceptable – even when such is not in accord with Christian morality. Then, of course, that word morality has its own difficulties ….. too often it is entirely subjective without any real connection to facts.

For example – in Victorian times the husband and father would be described and accepted as both righteous and moral because he cared for wife and family in material terms, joined them for dinner and afterwards led family and servants in a short period of prayer. Then, he departed home and spent the rest of the evening with his mistress. Yet he remained an ‘upright’ man and a pillar of society?!

So we see the difficulty. However, the scripture extract which concerns us teaches quite clearly that true righteousness finds its source in our living and loving God. We need to notice that this reading provides the foundation of true righteousness when it proclaims that you show your strength when men doubt the completeness of your power.” The moment we start doubting the wisdom of the Gospel approach to real moral

behaviour we begin to forfeit our belief in the truth that real strength comes with mildness of judgement (you who are sovereign in strength judge with mildness.”) and our ‘morality’ becomes harsh, a two-edged sword, and adopts double standards.

Mildness

is not weakness. Rather, it is an honest approach to the reality of human situations, difficulties, and challenges. This is the way that our God has taught his people. We need only to recall the lessons taught by Jesus in his encounters with the Samaritan woman at the Well and the woman taken in adultery. {see JOHN 4: 1 – 26, and 7:53 – 8: 11} It is, for example, very easy to become self-righteous in our counsel or judgement to a husband or wife who has to care for a disabled or invalid spouse. However, do I actually know the real demands (often unreasonable) being made of the care-giver (and what about ‘feelings’) on a day-to-day basis? How would I cope if suddenly faced with having to care for a grouchy, invalid, brother-priest who, perhaps, did not like dogs? I have no domestic help and am not accustomed to personal encumbrances! To be honest, I do not know but would prefer not being put to the test! {I also already have sympathy for any of my younger brothers who sometime in the future may have to put up with me!!??}

The word righteous talks about a person who is morally right – not in judgement of others but in personal lifestyle, and for the disciple of Jesus this must indicate a Christian morality. In addition, the word righteousness is linked to prudence and wisdom. Too often, however, the understanding of prudence is confined to silence and inaction – but prudence is really concerned with

WISE words and action. The righteous person is wise in word and deed. If we also take TODAY’S PSALM [86 or 85] into account we will notice that the righteous person should be “good and forgiving, full of mercy to all who call. … compassionate and gracious, slow to anger .” Here we see all of prudence, wisdom and real mildness.

All of this may well indicate a daunting challenge but in

TODAY’S SECOND READING [ROMANS 8: 26 – 27] Saint Paul indicates where we find courage and motivation. The Spirit helps us in our weakness” ….. (and we need) to search our hearts in order to know the mind of the Spirit. Unfortunately, all too often the Spirit is ignored. We forget that, for the Christian, the Spirit is as essential as breathing.

To develop into a truly righteous Christian we need to start planting the very small mustard seed in our own gardens. What eventually appears is a large shrub in which many different people will find a place of rest, encouragement and healing. {see

TODAY’S GOSPEL: MATTHEW 13: 24 – 43} The same reading tells us that then the righteous will shine like the sun.” Indeed, he who has ears, let him hear.”

The Lord also teaches us today that the self-righteous rush in without wisdom or prudence …. they go (lacking all mildness) on a crusade of rough tactics by yanking out the offenders and destroying the good that is there. In comparison notice the mildness and wise prudence of the landowner who is prepared to wait for the good to develop slowly but surely – waiting is often wise action.

Are we too impatient with ourselves and with others? There is no such thing as instant righteousness. We have to grow the beans, then grind them before we brew.