One of the most important discoveries coming from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s years of studying evolution is that it’s normally the weakest link that survives; the strongest usually becomes extinct. The reason is simple: the weakest is forced to adapt, and adaptation is the key to evolution. Because the strongest frequently can’t adapt when its environment or circumstances change it’s doomed to disappear. We have no dinosaurs walking around today; they simply couldn’t adapt to a changed environment.
The famed paleontologist and theologian observed that once evolution reached the stage of “reflexive consciousness” - not only are we conscious, we’re conscious of being conscious – we change when we freely decide to change. He concluded that, at this point along the evolutionary road, the only force that can compel us to evolve is the force of love. In other words, we now must make a free, conscious decision to make ourselves weak.
Teilhard was convinced that, by insisting his followers give themselves for others, Jesus was actually handing us the blueprint for the next, essential stage in our evolution toward the “omega point:” that moment when all creation becomes one in God. Those who make themselves weak by loving will evolve; those who insist on falling back on their strength and refuse to love will become extinct.
Weakness is at the heart of our faith.
Our Wisdom author points out how even God becomes weak for our sake. In today’s passage the writer reflects on one of Yahweh’s best-known personality traits: forgiveness “Though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you.” Whenever someone forgives, someone gives up his or her power over others. Weakness is simply an essential element of forgiveness.
Paul seems to have surfaced the necessity of this weakness thing long before Teilhard began his research. He’s convinced that during our weakest moments God becomes our strength. As he reminds the Christian community in Rome, “The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness.” We can’t do it alone.
Matthew’s Jesus presumes weakness is even a part of God working effectively in our daily lives. Though two of today’s three parables stress the growth of God’s presence from ultra-small to ultra-large, the first parable assures us that God’s kingdom will always be a “mixed bag.” There’s never going to be a time when communities committed to surfacing God or the risen Jesus in their life will be made up solely of wheat. Weeds will always be in the mix. Those waiting to make their move until everyone in a particular Christian community proves to be a faithful follower of Jesus are going to have a long wait. The gospel Jesus expects us to give ourselves to good and bad people; to those who are sincere, and to those who simply are along for the ride. When we choose to love, we choose not to discriminate. God will eventually take care of rewarding and punishing. Our job is to take care of loving.
The older I get, the more I appreciate our Catholic practice of creating “geographical parishes.” Our communities are made up of anyone living in a certain area. We don’t “go to this church” because everyone theologically agrees with us, or belongs to the same political party, or shares the same racial or ethnic background. We’re expected to become church with all who show up on any particular weekend. Seems we could accomplish much more if we could work with people who are like ourselves.
Yet, as Teilhard would remind us, the weakness which forces members of a geographical parish to constantly adapt, is actually our strength, our guarantee we’ll constantly evolve.