One of the very few things I remember from my high school chemistry class is that a compound is the result of several elements that are brought together. Once the compound is made, the elements cannot be extracted from it and returned to their original forms. For the compound is not like a mixture or a blend that would allow a separation of its elements. The elements forsake their uniqueness in the process of becoming one, a new entity.
This is somewhat analogous to the genesis of the human person. From a creative act of love, a mother and father’s genetic strands meet, combine and the process is underway for the development of an infant — a near perfect and living compound made from two persons, containing the traits of both of them but traits that have found an expressive and inseparable unity in the singularity of a baby.
God’s life is in us. We are made in his image and likeness — a human/divine compound in which the human cannot be understood apart from its divine dimension. God’s love for us has moved him to incarnate his life with ours and one cannot be separated from the other.
Several of the Gospel readings this week tell of Jesus and his use of parables to explain the Kingdom. One of the parables offered by Jesus tells of good and bad seeds growing together in a field and the quandary that poses to those working in the field — they want to know if it is possible to remove the bad so that the good may thrive. The harvest master tells them that it would be best to wait until the time of harvest, when the bad can be separated more easily from the good and be burned.
I do not think any one of us knows how to sift the good from the bad that we experience within ourselves and our world. Even with the life of God within us, we are to a great extent blind and helpless when it comes to diagnosing our malaise and healing it. However, we can do more than wait until the end times, the big harvest to have God settle what we cannot. We can learn from our infirmities to better live with our weaknesses..
Najla Imad Lafta was 3 years old when she lost three limbs to a car bomb explosion in Iraq. She is now 14 and a champion table tennis player. She is on Iraq’s Paralympics Team and has won four silver medals, four bronze medals and one gold medal. She comes from a poor family, is one of eight children. She is a victim of the sinfulness of war and poverty. But she learned to be a champion using one arm, and returns the ball so fast that her opponents are hard put to send it back.
She is not waiting for the end of the world for God to separate what we cannot — the sifting of the evil from our hearts. She is playing this field of life and giving this game her best shot — and is teaching us who have four limbs the magic that can be done with just one.