Like the Biblical prophets, we yearn for definitive judgments from on high. Most of the time, they are not forthcoming. Habakkuk’s plaintive question speaks for multitudes: “Why (O Lord) are you silent when the wicked swallow those more
righteous than they?” Jesus’s comment on this matter rings true: “(God) makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”
Nothing vexes the human spirit more profoundly than the apparent silence, even indifference, of God in the face of evil.
Jesus’s parable of weeds and wheat helps (I’m grateful to a friend and reader of Richard Rohr for drawing my attention to Rohr’s use of the parable in a recent reflection). In it, workers tell the owner of a field that weeds have sprouted amid the wheat, and ask if they should pull them up. The owner responds: “No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let them grow together till the harvest…”
Mysterious, perplexing, infuriating, yet “let them grow together” is God’s way. It directs our attention to the field which is us, collectively and individually. Do we ever act with no admixture of sinfulness? Can we ever purge our lives of complicity, through commission or omission, in the world’s evils? No; the roots of weeds have wrapped themselves around those of our wheat. One can’t be uprooted without the other.
At God’s final harvesting of souls, and only then, the roots will be disentangled and the wheat gathered into God’s embrace. Until then, then, the sun will rise and the rain fall on the just and the unjust alike. This perennial reality feels like God’s silence and indifference. In the rhythms of the church’s prayers and praises, though, we learn, in fits and starts, to call it mercy.