Shining like the Sun in the Kingdom of our Father, 17th Tuesday (I), August 1, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Tuesday of the 17th Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
Memorial of St. Alphonsus Liguori
August 1, 2017
Ex 33:7-11.34:5-9.28, Ps 103, Mt 13:36-43

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • There’s been a progression among the eight Parables Jesus has been preaching to us as recorded in the 13th Chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel. They’ve gone from focusing on the power of the seed of the Word of God to bear 30, 60, 0r 100 fold fruit in those with good soil, to showing how the growth of the Kingdom happens, as a mustard seed or leaven, once someone really begins to bear that fruit. Today Jesus says that once we receive Him as the Seed sown in us, once we become united with him, he seeks in turn to sow us together with him in the field of the world, as “children of the kingdom.” At the same time, however, he describes in today’s Parable of the Weeds and Wheat (the first part of which was supposed to be given on Saturday, but we had the proper Gospel for the Feast of St. Martha, so we include it today) that while God the Father sows us like wheat as children of the kingdom of the world (united with Christ), so the “Enemy” sows like weeds the “children of the Evil One.” How are we supposed to relate to this reality as wheat and weeds, of children of the kingdom versus those of the evil one?
  • The first thing we should ponder is what it means to be in a relationship of filiation, because at the end of the Parable Jesus gives us the key, about the righteous’ “shining like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” and earlier that the weeds are “children of the evil one.”  At first glance, it might seem that this parable points to an almost Calvinist notion of predestination, that we’re born either of God or of the devil. But in the spiritual case, what we’re talking about is a relationship of adoption. Through baptism, we become adopted children of God (Rom 8:15; Gal 4:5; Eph 1:5). There’s a choice on God’s part to extend to us this supreme gift and there’s an acceptance of it on our part and a desire to live as chips off the old divine block. Similarly with the devil, there’s an offer on his part — seldom explicit, but through temptation — and an acceptance on the part of free men and women to live according to the world and the flesh. This is something we can see. In the middle of the field of the world there are Missionaries of Charity, pious prayerful grandmothers and many innocent children on the one hand and Porn makers, abortion doctors, and drug cartel leaders on the other. Today is an opportunity for us to examine the principle on the basis of which we’re living, whether we’re seeking to live as children of the Father, righteous and shining like the sun, or whether, rather than good wheat that nourishes others, we’re growing more like weeds under the influence of evil.
  • The main point of the parable is about what to do with the weeds. The slaves ask their Master, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” And he shouts, “No!,” lest “you pull up the weeds [and] uproot the wheat along with them.” Out of concern for the wheat, for the children of the kingdom, he urges patience until the harvest. In order to understand better Jesus’ message, it helps to know something about wheat and weeds (called lolium) in the Holy Land. The wheat and the weeds Jesus was likely pointing to are indistinguishable during the early phases of growth. Not even expert farmers can tell the difference between them. When they grow enough to distinguish between them, their roots are so intertwined that you can’t separate them without ripping out the wheat by the roots as well. So one needs to let them grow, take them all out and then separate them on sifting tables, lest the good wheat be contaminated by the toxic fruit of the weeds. By this parable Jesus is saying that the same patience and prudence have to be exercised with the proclamation of the kingdom. 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, especially early in life. We can’t judge by present appearances. We need to wait until the end when Jesus himself will judge. But there’s a bigger point. Jesus is telling them not to worry so much about the weeds, but about growing as seeds of the kingdom, as children of God, bearing fruit.
  • This is an important corrective for many faithful people today. Many think that the Lord wants them to go out and pull up all all the weeds, to find all of the children of the evil one, expose and in some fashion eradicate them, lest they poison the wheat, the children of the kingdom. But Jesus is teaching us another way today. Without minimizing the evil being done, Jesus wants us to prioritize the growth of the wheat more than seeking to eliminate the weeds. There are some people who spend more time trying to out and oppose heretics, for example, than they do making converts. They obsess about opposing malefactors than doing good. They want to purify the Church of those who aren’t fully faithful rather than focusing on inspiring others by the example of their own merciful fidelity. The judgment will come, but we’ve got to grasp that we need to wait for the judgment: if we try to separate the wheat from the weeds now, we’ll end up losing some of the wheat, especially those who really are or will become wheat who right now would appear to be weeds. If the harvest were done too quickly, there would have been a time when the future St. Paul would have been thrown into the fire, the future St. Mary Magdalene, the future St. Augustine, not to mention wretches like us who have been saved by God’s amazing grace. Jesus is also saying that we shouldn’t be surprised or overly discouraged when we find “bad seed” in the Church, those who, for example, live contrary to the Gospel, even those among the Catholics of our family and neighborhood, even those who teach, even those who, as clergy and religious, are supposed to be living by the highest standards of all. Jesus tells us in this parable that there is going to be some bad seed. But he also tells us that while such weeds can provide frustration for the farmer or for the Christian, they ultimately can’t stop the growth of the good seed! He tells us that we need simply to keep growing until harvest time, to keep living our faith with zeal until the end, asking him to help us bring about much more good seed.
  • In order truly to be wheat, truly to be sons and daughters of the kingdom, children of God, we need to strive to behave like him. He describes his own character in today’s first reading when he passed Moses on Mount Sinai and said, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity, continuing his kindness for a thousand generations, and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin, yet not declaring the guilty guiltless.” His mercy is what allows him to be patient. It’s what will allow us to be patient. To live in the image of God, we need to be merciful and gracious, slow to anger, rich in kindness, faith and loyalty, beginning God to forgive our and others’ wickedness. He’s just, and for that reason won’t declare the guilt guiltless, but he’s also trying to bring the guilty to repentance. That’s one of the reasons why he waits until harvest time. Again, we need to think about the great saintly converts and our own spiritual biographies to be grateful for that mercy and patience! But how do we become patient in that way like God? The first step is by worshipping him. In today’s first reading, we see how Moses would adore the Lord in the Meeting Tent and all the Israelites would do so from the doors of their own tents. We eventually become more and more like the One or what we worship, and when we worship God in spirit and in truth, we not only begin to aspire but are helped by him to become similar to him in various of his attributes. Obviously the Meeting Tent in which Moses spoke to God face to face is a type pointing first toward the privilege we have of Adoration, in which we, too, behold God and speak to him personally. But it points to something even greater: our becoming God’s tent, God’s Meeting Place! St. John, describing the Incarnation, says that the Word of God was “tabernacled” or “tented” among us: that’s why the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth is built in the form of a tent. God seeks to dwell within us and keep a conversation of life going. That leads us to the second means by which we become more like God our Father in Christ his Son by the working of the Holy Spirit: it’s through this communion of life and love according to God’s word. Moses says at the end of today’s passage, “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company.” Moses did find favor and God continued to accompany him and the Israelites. God accompanies us in an even more mind-blowing way, from the inside, through grace and the Sacraments. Moses came down with the Tablets of the Law precisely to indicate that God is with us as we keep his word. Jesus will say during the Last Supper, “Remain in me, as I remain in you. … If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you.  … If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (Jn 15). It’s through keeping his word, that we remain in God and God in us.
  • Today we celebrate a saint who enfleshed these mysteries, St. Alphonsus Liguori, the founder of the Redemptorists.  After a brilliantly precocious career as a lawyer, he perceived a vocation as a priest and, after ordination, eventually discerned a call within a call to found an order dedicated to the Redeemer and his redeeming work. The Redemptorists preached parish and diocesan missions, spent a long time in the confessional, and sought by God’s power to change weeds into wheat and wheat into fruit. St. Alphonsus became a patron of confessors and wrote a manual to help confessors after him learn how to be both just and merciful, so that the penitent will be able to unit his or her whole life to God. He was able himself to be a minister of mercy because he pondered in prayer, particularly adoration, the Lord, writing so many books to help ordinary people pray. He likewise was able to do it because he prayed often to the Mother of Mercy, to pray for him and us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Among her greatest glories, he said, was her maternal mercy toward and prayer for us. Today is a day in which we pray, as we asked God the Father in today’s Collect to grant that “we may follow so closely in the footsteps of the Bishop Saint Alphonsus in his zeal for souls,” his merciful fire for the weeds and the wheat, “so as to attain the same rewards that are his in heaven.”
  • Today as we come to Mass on his feasts we focus on how the Lord Jesus anew plants himself in us, tabernacles himself within us, talks to his person-to-person, and strives to help us become in him children of the Father as he seeks to plant us as mustard seeds and leaven in the midst of a world with many weeds. He seeks to transform us to be kind and merciful, slow to anger, and full of grace. May we receive this gift on good soil, bear fruit 30, 60, and 100 fold, and go out with him as workers in his harvest, not so much worried about separating wheat from weeds, but making as much wheat as possible grow.

 

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Ex 33:7-11; 34:5b-9, 28

The tent, which was called the meeting tent,
Moses used to pitch at some distance away, outside the camp.
Anyone who wished to consult the LORD
would go to this meeting tent outside the camp.
Whenever Moses went out to the tent, the people would all rise
and stand at the entrance of their own tents,
watching Moses until he entered the tent.
As Moses entered the tent, the column of cloud would come down
and stand at its entrance while the LORD spoke with Moses.
On seeing the column of cloud stand at the entrance of the tent,
all the people would rise and worship
at the entrance of their own tents.
The LORD used to speak to Moses face to face,
as one man speaks to another.
Moses would then return to the camp,
but his young assistant, Joshua, son of Nun,
would not move out of the tent.
Moses stood there with the LORD and proclaimed his name, “LORD.”
Thus the LORD passed before him and cried out,
“The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God,
slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity,
continuing his kindness for a thousand generations,
and forgiving wickedness and crime and sin;
yet not declaring the guilty guiltless,
but punishing children and grandchildren
to the third and fourth generation for their fathers’ wickedness!”
Moses at once bowed down to the ground in worship.
Then he said, “If I find favor with you, O LORD,
do come along in our company.
This is indeed a stiff-necked people;
yet pardon our wickedness and sins,
and receive us as your own.”
So Moses stayed there with the LORD for forty days and forty nights,
without eating any food or drinking any water,
and he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant,
the ten commandments.

Responsorial Psalm PS 103:6-7, 8-9, 10-11, 12-13

R. (8a) The Lord is kind and merciful.
The LORD secures justice
and the rights of all the oppressed.
He has made known his ways to Moses,
and his deeds to the children of Israel.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Merciful and gracious is the LORD,
slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
He will not always chide,
nor does he keep his wrath forever.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
Not according to our sins does he deal with us,
nor does he requite us according to our crimes.
For as the heavens are high above the earth,
so surpassing is his kindness toward those who fear him.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.
As far as the east is from the west,
so far has he put our transgressions from us.
As a father has compassion on his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.
R. The Lord is kind and merciful.

Alleluia

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The seed is the word of God, Christ is the sower;
all who come to him will live for ever.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel MT 13:24-30; 36-43

Jesus proposed a parable to the crowds.
“The Kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
Jesus dismissed the crowds and went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the Kingdom.
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.”