“Fair Play” By Stephanie O., Fiat Ventures

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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Growing up as a middle child, I have always been concerned with fairness and justice. I liked things to be as fair as possible, probably because my sweet, chatty older sister and adorable baby brother seemed to naturally attract all the attention. Justice seemed like a bigger extension of fairness— good things should happen to good people and bad people should get what they deserve, I thought.

As we all get older, though, we realize things aren’t always so straightforward. It can be hard to determine who is right in a situation and we learn to see from other perspectives. Shockingly, we also realize that we’re sometimes wrong! In this week’s readings, we hear a lot about how God sees and interacts with us imperfect people— with kindness and justice.

The first reading highlights how just and powerful God is, but also how He watches over us with kindness and leniency. That’s pretty different from our human nature. When someone does us wrong, we generally want them to face whatever bad consequences they’ve earned. However, when we mess up, we may share the blame or bring up how the situation was difficult or unfair. Although we try our best to be impartial judges, we have our limitations.

For example, we may roll our eyes at a family member having an immature outburst and think, “They have no patience. Can’t they see what’s going on? Don’t they know that their behavior isn’t helping?” These thoughts may seem benign, but they position us to look down on our loved ones and their needs. On the other hand, when we’re upset, we may strive to fix it, let it be known that we’re upset, or even have our own outburst. The only difference is that this time, the problem is uncomfortable to us.

Okay, so we need to show patience and kindness toward others, because we ourselves aren’t perfect. So why make such a big deal about justice, when mercy is such a good thing? Because with God, we have both perfect justice and perfect mercy. We are called to be compassionate and forgiving, just as God is, but we are also called to promote justice. The Sacrament of Confession is a great example of this: our reconciliation with God and others may begin in the confessional, but we are urged to go forth and make reparations for the wrongs we’ve committed. In some ways, it isn’t enough to simply confess our sins and continue on with life as usual.  I once heard of a priest who for a penance told a man to buy his wife flowers on the way home form Confession.

The first reading also presents the unity of kindness and justice— hope. In the Gospel, Jesus uses two parables to emphasize that amazing things come from humble, unexpected places. He describes how a little bit of yeast can affect a vast amount of dough and how a tiny mustard seed can grow into the largest of the plants. While our human nature may compel us to remain self-centered, we can ask God to transform us into His likeness and empower us to incite change for good. When we emulate Christ by fostering kindness and justice in our communities, we bring forth hope.

This week, I challenge you to practice justice and kindness with both yourself and others. Especially in these difficult periods, we need to offer compassion to those around us and to ourselves. At the same time, we also need to confront our own biases and promote justice in our day to day lives and interactions. Let us be the mustard seeds whose actions create hope and a better world!

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