BY KATIE LACZ | July 20, 2020
Sunday’s Readings

Last week, for the first time in 17 years, the federal government used its authority to administer the death penalty to a 47-year-old man named Daniel Lee. As I write this, two more executions are scheduled imminently, including for a 68-year-old man with dementia. 

Last year, Pope Francis finally clarified the slight technical ambiguity in the wording of Catholic Social Teaching around the death penalty, calling it an offense “against the inviolability of life and the dignity of the human person, which contradicts God’s plan for [humankind] and society” and saying that it “does not render justice to the victims, but rather fosters vengeance.” From my own experience doing community organizing against the death penalty in North Carolina 13 years ago, I can tell you that the saying that “those without the capital get the punishment” is absolutely true—whether that be capital in the form of income, or social capital imbued by race. 

wheat

In Sunday’s Gospel, Jesus uses his favorite teaching tool—stories. The parable of the woman and her measure of yeast, of the mustard seed, and the one that gets the most detail: the wheat and the weeds. 

The audience of Matthew’s Gospel would recognize the “weeds” sown by the enemy in the parable as darnel weed, which has the tricky quality of looking pretty exactly like wheat until it is fully grown, when it stands up straight while wheat droops over. You risk doing more harm than good if you try to make the call too quickly. The harvest might be lost and a vital source of food ruined. 

Jesus is warning his disciples, and us, to not make the call about who is a weed too quickly. This happens when we label a person as “irredeemable,” when we separate them from their community prematurely because they cannot pay a cash bail or because of harsh, racist sentencing laws. This happens with the plague of mass incarceration—of rushing to label and pull out the weeds—which has spoiled a generation’s harvest of community, family, and standard of living. 

It happens, too, when we decide the weeds are the people who might look like us, but who believe far too differently from us on the political spectrum to be considered moral or godly. 

In each case, we reject the possibility that there is even an infinitesimal speck of grace within the person—the size of a mustard seed or a measure of yeast. 

And when we do so, we act contrary to God as She is described in the reading from the book of Wisdom: “You judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us;” and in Psalm 86, “abounding in kindness.” God acts in ways that give us hope, that gives each of us space and permission to repent and draw close to the Spirit who knows us beyond words. 

That is the model we must follow; that is the power with which God acts. When we rush to judgment we risk ruining the harvest, damaging the kin-dom of God as it grows among us. Each of us holds the potential to nourish each other; that life-giving capability comes from God and cannot be extinguished by humans. 

This week, allow yourself to reflect: Whom do I dismiss as a weed worth pulling out? When have I rushed to judgment? When, in contrast, have I experienced the “loving and forgiving” God who abounds in kindness? How can I pass that on?

2 replies
  1. Avatar
    Mr Anon says:

    We are not judge or jury nor do we have the right to assume everyone that is behind bars is guilty or innocent. People know what’s right and what’s wrong even from a young age we are taught by our elders regardless of poverty, skin tone or upbringing this is what all races do. How is it “racist sentencing laws” ? a criminal that did the crime deserves the courts verdict and sentencing it does not matter the person pigment, you should actually view criminal cases and you will see that similar sentences are given out across all races. But if a particular race is commiting half the crimes on US soil…covered by US law…governed by all races…then it’s a culture problem not a racist problem, maybe take a trip to Portland, NY, Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit, Atlanta. LA or even Florida and visit the areas you see on news and then tell me what you think,if not stay in the suburb or gated community in your safe zone and type stuff you know nothing about. If you feel like all criminals are innocent and receive unjust sentences let them move in to your neighborhood next door to you and then you can say something because I hear and see things that most people should not witness maybe have sympathy for the victims of crime not criminals it makes me sick that people cry about guilty criminals. God Bless our country and the laws that keep the innocent safe from criminals and long may it continue for generations in the future.

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