God turns everything to good for those who love him

Homily for the Seventeenth Sunday of Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

When bad things happen we need support and encouragement. That is why the second reading today (Rom 8:28-30) is cherished by those who love to read Scripture and by those who attend prayer meetings. It is one of the passages of the Bible that gives reassurance when things go wrong. In the second reading we heard Paul state,

We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him (Rom 8:28).

It is a promise for those who love God and the promise is that God turns everything to good, that God will somehow or other bring the best out of a bad situation for those who love him,

We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him.

St. Paul is promising that evil does not have the last word. God has the last word for those who love him, and that last word is that God will turn everything to their good. Paul is certainly not denying that bad things can happen to those who love God, but he gives the reassurance that God will turn everything to their good.

There are many examples of God turning evil to good in the lives of those who love him. One example is Joseph who was sold as a slave by his brothers to traders going down to Egypt but in Egypt he became second in command. During the famine in Canaan his brothers came down to Egypt for food and he reassured them saying that the evil they did to him had been turned to good by God because now his family would be spared of starvation through him (Gen 50:20). Every year during the Easter Vigil, we hear in the Easter Proclamation or Exultet,

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a redeemer…

It is saying that because of the sin of Adam Christ came. God righted the sin of Adam through Christ. Sin is always evil and always to be avoided but God in his own way can bring good out of evil.

O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam,
which gained for us so great a redeemer…

The greatest example of God turning evil to good is Calvary. The death of Christ by means of capital punishment became the means to our salvation. Without the cross there would have been no resurrection. Therefore Paul’s teaching,

We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him.

is fulfilled above all in the life of Jesus. Jesus loved his Father in heaven, and experienced evil, but was raised up in the resurrection.

This faith and hope in God expressed by St. Paul in the second reading is also seen in the other characters in the readings in today’s Mass. In the first reading when Solomon becomes king he did not ask God for riches or other blessings but for the ability to distinguish between good and evil (1 Kings 3:5-12). God granted his request and he is known as the wisest person in the Old Testament. His ability to distinguish between good and what is not good is also seen in the characters in Jesus’ parables in the Gospel today. A man has the ability to see how valuable a purchase this field would be because of its hidden treasure (Matt 13:44). A businessman has the ability to see the value of this one pearl above all others (Matt 13:45-46). Just as these men can distinguish between what is really valuable and what is not, likewise a Christian can distinguish between what leads to God and what does not. Those who love God give up what is not leading to God. Solomon and these two characters in Jesus’ parables have the ability to see beyond what is all around to what is most important. They remind me of Martha’s sister Mary who sat at the feet of Jesus when he visited their house while Martha herself was busy about the house (Luke 10:38-42). Those who place God first have the love of God that allows them to understand, as St. Paul says, that God can turn everything to their good.

However the story doesn’t end there. Solomon fell out of love with God and became morally corrupt. While not the only person in the Old Testament who was or became morally corrupt, in the case of Solomon it is more shocking because he showed such promise as we heard in our first reading. Therefore, in a sense, he is the Old Testament figure closest to Judas because Judas also seemed to have great promise since he had been put in charge of the apostles’ common fund (John 13:29). The third parable Jesus tells in the Gospel today also causes us to reflect on the disaster of becoming morally corrupt (Matt 13:47-50). Jesus says that just as fishermen separate fish when they bring the nets to shore, there will be a separation of people in the next life.

There are plenty of examples in Scripture of the mess some people get into when they do not love God or fall out of love with God and cannot allow God to turn everything in their lives to good. On the other hand, evil does not have the last word. God has the last word for those who love him, and that last word is that God will turn everything to their good.

We know that by turning everything to their good God co-operates with all those who love him. (Rom 8:28)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was on vacation in Ireland after joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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