LAW OF GRADUALNESS: A HOMILY ON WEDNESDAY, 6TH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR II
Pope Francis, in 2013 convoked an extraordinary synod on the family in the context of evangelization. This synod took place in October 2014. During this synod, the Pope used a very controversial term, speaking about how certain moral issues within the family can be considered. He spoke about the law of gradualness. This is a principle used in catholic moral and pastoral theology, according to which people should be encouraged to grow closer to God and his plan for our lives in a step-by-step manner rather than expecting a jump from an initial conversion to perfection in a single step.
This idea can also be seen in our readings today. After the flood, Noah sent the raven who went to and fro, until the water was dried up. Then he sent the dove who found no place to set her foot and she returned to him. After another seven days, he sent the dove again and this time, she came back with an olive leaf, showing that the water had subsided. After another seven days, the dove is sent again and the dove did not return, showing that all is now well. This is the law of gradualness, where things get better in stages until it reaches a stage of perfection. The same image of gradualness is seen in the Gospel, where Jesus cures the blind man in stages. First Jesus used spittle and then Jesus laid hands upon him and asked what he saw. At this stage, he saw people, but they looked like trees, walking. It was after the second laying on of hands that the man regained full sight.
The law of gradualness should not be confused with the gradualness of the law. The Law of gradualness would mean that conversion happens in stages. First a person will experience an initial conversion. Then the person will gradually move towards perfection. It is different from a person refusing or delaying to be converted. God at the end of the first reading saw that the heart of humans was evil from youth and promised never to destroy every living creature as He did. God knows how weak we are and He continues to wait for us. Even when we continue to confess the same sin over and over again, God continues to give us another chance. But we should not confuse the law of gradualness with the gradualness of the law. If eventually we refuse to repent, we will be punished. There are conversions and miracles in the bible which were immediate. Others are slower. But what is important is to get to that destination. In our ministry, we will be listening to confessions. It is good to be clear about good and evil. But when people are struggling, it is important to make them know that there is still hope in God, and that no matter how terrible their conditions may be, they are not beyond redemption. Even the disciples of Jesus were slow to understand Jesus on many issues.
These readings invite us not to expect every healing, conversion, and miracle to happen immediately. The slow method is the ordinary way, and the dramatic method is the extraordinary way. We are to also understand, that God has chosen in most cases not to intervene directly, but to use the sacraments, symbolized by the laying on of hands, oil from the olive, water, bread and wine and we see most of these images in our readings. God uses these things to bring healing, sanctification, salvation to us. Growth in the spiritual and moral life happens stage by stage, like we hear of the purgative stage, illuminative stage, and unitive stage. What the law of gradualness means is that nobody jumps into the unitive stage. What it is not encouraging is that people refuse to repent under the guise of law of gradualness. No matter how terrible our conditions are, there is hope of plentiful redemption, but we have to wait for it to happen stage by stage. If we confuse the law of gradualness with the gradualness of the law, then we stand a high risk of dying in our sins. Let us repent and accept Jesus into our lives and let us allow God to gradually mould us into the image of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.