Fr. Roger J. Landry
Catholic Online Homily Series for the Year of Faith
July 30, 2013
In the living out of the faith, there’s always a tension over how to handle those who set themselves in opposition to Christ, his teachings, his Church and his kingdom.
Today, in his explanation of the Parable of the Weeds and Wheat, Jesus describes for us his approach to this situation and in doing so gives us indications for both the Year of Faith and the New Evangelization.
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field,” the disciples asked Jesus after he had dismissed the crowds and entered with his closest followers into a home. Jesus’ explication of this Parable that was considered on Saturday provides a clear key deciphering the symbolism of the parable, but Jesus left much of the more important work of interpretation and application to the first Christians and to us.
“He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom,” Jesus said. “The weeds are the children of the Evil One, and the enemy who sows them is the Devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his Kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
We can ponder several points.
Throughout the globe, Jesus sows good seed, which he defines as children of the kingdom, the true sons and daughters of his Father. Each of us is called to be that good seed planted in the midst the world, which is meant to be transformed into his kingdom.
At the deepest level, Jesus is himself the good seed planted in a fallen world by God the Father. He is the grain of wheat that fell to the ground and died in order to bear that good fruit. And we are supposed to be that seed-bearing fruit that he can in turn plant elsewhere continuing that same mission.
Next, alongside the seeds, there are also weeds. These are those under the sway of the evil one, who live by principles opposed or antithetical to the Gospel, whose evil scandalously causes others to imitate it. Some of these weeds may even be in the Church, since seeds and weeds grow up side by side.
Any farmer today might ask why in the parable Jesus didn’t let them take out all of the weeds. The reason given was because we might also lose the good seed.
In ancient Palestine, the weed and the wheat early were indistinguishable. Not even expert farmers could tell the difference. When they grow enough to tell the difference, their roots are so intertwined that you can’t separate them without ripping out the wheat by the roots as well. So you need to let them grow, take them all out and then separate them on sifting tables.
Jesus says that the same thing happens with the proclamation of the Gospel. The good seed and the bad seed, the children living according to the kingdom and those living outside the kingdom, grow up side by side. We really can’t tell the difference between them and therefore we can’t judge by appearances. We need to wait until the end when Jesus himself will judge.
This is a truth that should give us great hope. We shouldn’t be surprised or become totally despondent when we find “bad seed” in the Church or in our communities, those who, for example, live contrary to the Gospel. Jesus told us quite clearly in the Gospel that we would find them there, growing up besides us.
It’s also true that we never know whether those who seem to be weeds may, in the final analysis, turn out to be wheat. We need only to think of St. Paul who as Saul opposed the kingdom but after his conversion became one of that kingdom’s greatest apostles of all time. We can also think of great St. Augustine, who when he was young fathered a child out of wedlock, cohabitated with his girlfriend, lived in a morally dissolute way, but then, after the prayers of his mother for so long, converted and became one of the greatest teachers of the faith. Even someone we know who is passionately living contrary to the kingdom may be given the grace of conversion and become one of the great saints.
The third point is that Jesus tells us that the weeds can’t stop the growth of the good seed. This should fill us with confidence, but also cause us to examine our consciences. Jesus didn’t plant the children of the kingdom across the world to remain as seeds. He intended the seeds to grow, just as much as the weeds continue to grow. The question for us in this Year of Faith is whether we are in fact growing, whether our growth is noticeable, whether the growth of the good seed is keeping pace with the growth of the weeds.
The fact that you’re reading this homily online is likely evidence that at least you are seeking to grow in faith so that, like Christ, you can grow to full stature and bear fruit that will plant seeds of faith in the soil of other hearts in your families, neighborhoods, schools and beyond.
The way we grow, the Parable implies, is through a deepening of our divine filiation manifested through righteous deeds, since Jesus implies at the end of his explanation that the children of the kingdom will in fact turn out to be the righteous who will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father.
It begins with our awareness of being beloved sons and daughters of God, chips off the old divine block. Then that awareness overflows into action, as we behave “like Father like son” and act together with Christ the Son.
This is one of the main goals of the Year of Faith, to grow not merely in our consciousness of the truths of the faith, but to grow in our deep relationship of trust with God in life. The more we do this, the more others will see our good deeds and give glory to our Father in heaven, as Jesus called us to do in the Sermon on the Mount — precisely because our deeds will remind them of the loving deeds of God.
That’s when they’ll come not only to hear the New Evangelization, but to see the Gospel enfleshed.
We grow in that needed awareness through prayer. In today’s first reading, the Jews marveled because the Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as one man speaks to another. That is the privilege now accorded to every son and daughter of God born in baptism.
Like Moses at the end of the passage, each of us ought to invite the Lord, the Father who loves us so much he didn’t even spare his Son Jesus to save us, to “come along in our company” as we join up anew with a “stiff-necked people” in need of his mercy, begging him to “receive us as your own.”
That’s the way the growth begun in prayer continues throughout life.