Parable of the weeds among the wheat
Matthew 13:24-43 Homily:
(Second draft–Sunday’s homily was shortened, the blog version I want to be fuller)
Upon reflection upon the parables in Matthew 13 this Sunday and past Sunday, I suppose that our Catholic journey to God is a mixed experience of being around saints and sinners, of being holy but also of being somewhat stubborn and contrary with God ourselves. We live in a world where the tempter and ruiner of lives has been allowed in, and he has done all he can to mess everything up. With the parable Jesus says (of a field with many weeds grown around the crop): “I see an enemy’s hand has done this.” (So true, the enemy has been around!) But we also know that we people have made awful choices and taken actions that have made the world’s field weedy rather than fully fruitful. We are guilty here, too. We can’t just pin it all on the devil. We have let ourselves become duped by lies and deceptions of a selfish, closed heart and mind. (v. 43)
When I review this Parable, I think upon the fact that most of us can see another person’s weeds much easier than our own.
But, let’s start there, and then we can proceed to our own weeds.
We would more easily see the bad, the weeds of life in the field of others, and all the trouble with the world, and of some things that we would know which would be offensive to God from others. It’s easier to dodge our own problems by shifting attention on others problems and faults. God gave us this ability to judge or evaluate others, but this ‘ability’ to see the wrong was not ever meant for some satisfaction of superiority of self or getting jollies on the ridicule of others, nor was it an “out” for shifting or pointing the blame on others. That’s just too easy to do. Notice in this parable and speaking section of His travels (Mt. 13)of to whom Jesus was addressing–that He was upset over the troubling behavior of some Pharisees, scribes, some hostile hometown people, and others among the rich or powerful who did not want to admit to their great sins, their weeds, their waste of life. So they acted to entangle and choke off Jesus’ message and ministry. As I read the gospel, I am given to say: Yeah, you bad ol’ Pharisees, you! Why can’t you get it right? But the plank might be in my own eye, when as part of the Catholic priesthood today, people may think we are a little too bossy (as a group) or maybe too cautious and diplomatic (in our pastoring) or maybe a bit distant and uninvolved with our people (as far as people skills are given): So–the Pharisees had their issues. Maybe Catholic priests have ours today, nearly as bad. I don’t know.
Maybe the laity Catholics have some issues too. As members of Christ’ Body, should they be mostly occupied in pointing out problems but remaining indifferent in changing them out in the field of the Lord? Lots of advice, little action sometimes. Some resort to despair, or give up and walk away–as if their part of the Church they weren’t responsible for. How does that help? Others will remain but like to point fingers in blame, but where’s their passion for serving God and living life for better recognizing of what pleases Him– isn’t that where our energies should be going? God has directed us in some things the Church ought to be doing. The clergy give much of their life work to be in service to the Church the Lord, and whether they are good or not so good at it, they are called by God and responding to Him. Inaction is not their issue. Yet it can be in the laity. It can drive the pastors and pastoral staff crazy. So can selfishness and everybody wanting to do it their own way, and be the chief. Servanthood is out; being served is in.
So these are some of our weeds growing alongside the wheat in the Lord’s field, the Church. We all have some work to be done in us, so that God may have His will be done in us. It is HIS Church, HIS world. We are all HIS creation. So you have a field with wheat and weeds. In the parable, Jesus uses this “sitz im leben” (the “situation in life”) to paint what should be the behavior of people “in the kingdom of God,” that is, as governed by the will of God. You have saints and sinners, you have godly acts and some quite un-godly acts going on together in this world. God sees it like a field with good crops coming over here and with nothing worthwhile coming from other there. But it is all His field.
God sees how a harvest still can come through the Church and her people(!); He will not pull the above-mentioned weeds out and cancel the Salvation Operation (weeds pulling the wheat out). The Lord reminds us in this parable that He has plans that will still work, even with our past resistance to Him, and God can grow something good upon the ground of our lives and even get us a harvest for eternity. There is a Saving Plan of God to deliver us all from evil and disharmony and to save us in the end of all things. We need to focus on that. God has decided that He will work among us, even with all the discord and selfishness and pettiness and laziness going on among His own. We should just do all we can to encourage one another to be trusting souls to God, to bear Christ in our lives, and to let Him deal with our lives right now, and let Him use us.
We know that the many people who will not obey the Lord nor love Him nor open themselves up, but rather just keep going along in the rebellion of the world versus God (in the “I want to be God, I don’t want God to be God” world)– we know that God says that a major judgment awaits such persons. Sin will be dealt with. But we need to keep cooperating with the Lord and be led by His Spirit to things that matter eternally and spiritually and in the application of our living the Kingdom of God example in our human journey. We are to reveal the hope of Heaven. God has called us to be witnesses of it.
It can be a little hard for us to get up and go with God’s plan. We do see the troubles in our own lives. Who are we? We are just sinners right?
Well yes, There are weeds in our lives. Yet Christ says, but look at the wheat growing there, too. We are sinners on the way to becoming saints. This wheat is the good salvation happening in us. This is The Christ happening in us. No wonder that Christ comes as wheat or bread to us. He is saying that holiness is happening to our lives, with a good end of our lives in view.
If we see all the weeds going on around us in others who are fellow Christians or in the ungodly, then the Lord says: If I can live with the mix of saints and sinners, of love and hate, of hope and fear, of goodness in people and awful greediness and deadliness and such— then we all shall live with it. We will need His eyes, His love, His purpose and direction, His wisdom— but we can do it. Rather than just despise the sinners and sin around us, as with disgust, we could learn a thing or two from a Savior who came from a Perfect Heaven and lived among us in a fallen divided and nearly ruined world, and loved us and mixed in with us rather than mocked us or laughed at us or left us in utter oblivion–rather, He became our Way to the Father.
As for sin, God still doesn’t like it. He calls it weeds to be collected and burned. So there will be rooted out all that offends God, but first His Mercy is here so that what and who can be saved–will be saved.
As for what God likes, He likes people who want to pleasing Him in the end and sum of things. From such a life, He will be able to save and treasure much, for they will be things sown for eternity, rather than for temporal vanity.
So perhaps this teaching came after the Lord and His disciples had walked through a field that had many problems. We heard last Sunday in the first part of Matthew 13, the Parable of the Four Soils, that the field was only about 25% ready to yield a crop and harvest. Jesus’ example is one again of nature in this follow-up parable.
Matthew 13’s parable of the wheat and the weeds is rooted in nature and in the behavior of people. The word “weeds” refers to darnel, a poisonous plant often found in wheat fields, as in the time and place of this gospel. As I read this teaching of Jesus, I reckon that there were many people more familiar with farming terms and principles back then in the “original Church,” than compared to our time and Church today. They “got” this farm-growing image rather quickly. Still, we may not have much of farming know how, yet can apply these lessons spiritually to our modern living. Socially we know of “darnel.” We know what a weed is. It is often some kind of sin and the effect of it. People do things to one another that are not good. We hurt one another. Why? Are you really sorry about it? Oh yeah?! How so? How have you shown your interest in the Lord of this Field helping us fix things, and making this ground around us fertile and tilled and ready for His Seed?
The “enemy” who sows darnel may be a jealous neighbour who tells stories on us (behind our back) so to wound our reputation while simultaneously elevating their own position and feeding their ego (that’s weedy stuff); or “we get it” how it could be referring to a disagreeable and unsupportive person who just won’t help us, or help some others–due to their myopic and narrow scope of nearly always preferring their own prideful point of view. That’s some ‘weediness’ to deal with–socially. And “we get it” that it could represent a person around us who is just quite sinful, in choosing immorality or deceit or cheating or gross immodesty or anti-religious activity—and we are stuck right there in that situation as a believing Catholic needing to keep to our Faith, and be un-apologizing or compromising about it to them, while also trying to find the way of loving these offending sinners and to even regular pray for them, all the while not loving their sin. Some weeds of the enemy are awful. We can be aghast by them. But they are right there in our lives.
Have we been on the receiving end of the bad stuff of the world?
From that vantage, we do need to understand, that, however hurt bu it, how Jesus still wants us to be faithful to Him, and to trust that He will deal with separating things out in the end, of the good and bad. While He may seem like He has been too delayed on His judgment and in dealing with unfair things affecting us, we will just have to trust Him and His Ways on the matter. Yes, we see a lot of weeds when we look out at the world. Imagine how many God sees. He will have a lot of weed-wacking to do ahead.
That is the easy view, though, as to look at other people’s problems upon us. What about the opposite view, of having a look at ourselves, and not the sins of others? We have done wrong. Yes, we also have our own weeds of sin within. We need to take the inside look at ourselves, in the Truth and Light of Christ’ point of view. We need to see what sins and weeds of ours are hurting ourselves or others. Subjectively speaking, Christ Jesus is the measure of a person. We are each accountable to Him, so says today’s parable, and when we are standing before Him in all honesty—we will see how weeds have grown all around our own good areas: Weeds amidst the wheat. Personal sins committed or not so nice sins of omitted cooperation with God— right besides our acts of faith, hope and love. These not so good things are right next to the good that we have done. What is to be done about it? These weeds among the wheat. Jesus says: He will deal with it all in the end. All the “good” that is sown in Good Soil will last and harvest into eternity—so He says. He says all the “good” will be so obvious that even the angels will recognize it, as they are sent to cut and divide, or collect and save the good wheat from the weeds.. That Day of Reckoning will come. We shall be seen for who we are and Who we loved. So our aim to please God everyday and worship and praise Him will make a great difference. God desires it. God rewards it.
As a Christian, we just hope we are really living honestly to God right now. For we don’t want to live in such a way that much in our lives would be temporal and passing, like those actions of ungodly persons of the world, all too ready for the weed-wacker, but instead that we would be in the Holy Spirit’s disposal to live in “Imitation of Christ.” Thomas a’Kempis wrote that Catholic classic, “The Imitation of Christ” so for people to see by Whom and to Whom they are measured by. Our life is to show some mirroring of Jesus Christ, Whom we adore and follow. We must allow ourselves to be sought and found by Christ. When we meet Him, we are to try to become like Him. The goal is that we seek to imitate Christ enough that other people begin to recognize Jesus in us. (For He is the Savior within our hearts.)
In the Church, too, we take a collective look inside. We see weeds that have grown up alongside our faith. It is the bad with the good. We have the bad sins we have done before the world, even when we (The Body of Christ believers) have been supposed to be examples of a committed life to God and to one another as the Church. So while we have had good times of prayer, care and sacrifice; we have also had weedy scandals of hypocrisy, fear and irresponsibility, gross neglect to knowing the Faith or teaching it, and the lack of giving of our best time talent and treasure to this high enterprise of being Church and witnessing Jesus Christ to the world—these fore-mentioned weeds have frankly been an embarrassment to us all. As a priest, I am told by some sincere outside observers that too many professed Christians whom they know do not come across as any different or better off than some worldly persons who do not have a Love of God. They wonder about that. So do I, and I get a little mournful of hearing of it. The scandal of Christians all caught up in worldly concerns and anxieties and things are as so many weeds.
In the end I just say: It is Your Church, Lord, I am just a worker in the field, trying to plow the earth for a good crop to come at harvest. At each Sunday Mass I just try to join with you as we all go back to the start, with the praises of the original Christmas story. To pray or sing in what pleases the Lord, speaking: “Glory to God in the Highest, and Your Peace Come to all people of good will… we praise You, we bless You, we adore You, we glorify You, and we give You thanks! For all Your Great Glory.”
This is where we start with God— blessing Him for coming to our help. We welcome Jesus to the bosom of our belief, to our hearts.
We also bow down to God right before that in our Act of Contrition, saying “Lord Have Mercy” and “I am contrite(sorry) over what I have done (that was wrong) and in what I have failed to do (that was the right I should have acted upon).. “Lord Have Mercy. Christ Have Mercy. Lord Have Mercy.” And I pray that “Almighty God might have mercy upon us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life.” That is our hope. In this world with many weeds, with much “darnel”, there still will come a harvest of good, much good, is coming, and all of it will please the Lord that His Seed was received for such good life to come.
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I was looking for a farm joke for this homily end. I did not use it on Sunday at the pulpit, but with extra time in this blog, I will finish with it.
An Amish farm boy accidentally overturned his wagonload of corn, out of one of those roadways in Dutch Country. A local, a non-Amish, and non farmer, who noticed it all from a distance of his restaurant window, quickly called AAA for assistance and thene he rushed out and over to the roadway’s other side. This retired man shouted out to the boy: “Hey Son, are you alright?” The boy said: “I think I am, mister.” “Well, good!,” the man said, adding “”I just called for roadside assistance to come by. They will pick up the cart and the corn in about 20 to 25 minutes.” So now forget your troubles. Come in and visit with me. I will treat you to a dessert in the restaurant.”
“That’s mighty nice of you,” the Amish boy answered, “But I don’t think Pa would like me to.”
“Aw come on son,”the man insisted. “I can assure you I am nice and safe, and that you will like the restaurant.” The boy replied, “Oh, I like desserts and you do look safe and I know the restaurant, but—“ The man interrupted: I won’t accept any buts or no’s from you, I insist I treat you to a dessert and a nice break for 20 minutes until help arrives.”
“Well okay,” the boy finally agreed, and added, “But Pa won’t like it.”
After a hearty dessert of apple pie ala mode moonshine style, with a cold glass of milk, the boy thanked his host. “I feel great from the dessert and all, but I know Pa is going to be real upset.”
“Don’t be foolish!” the neighbor said with a smile. “By the way, where is he?”
The boy pointed out to across the street: “Under the wagon.”