16th Sunday in O.T. (A); July 23, 2017
Wis 12:13,16-19 Ps 86 Rom 8:26-27 Mt 13:24-43
Deacon Jim McFadden; (New) Folsom Prison
The parable of the weeds among the wheat continues Jesus use of short stories to announce the Kingdom of God to the crowds. Among those in today’s Gospel, there is a rather perplexing one which Jesus explained to his disciples: in the field there are good grain and the weed, which deals with the problem of evil in the world and calls attention to God’s patience in dealing with it.
The story takes place in a field where the owner sows grain but during the night his enemy comes and sows weed. The wheat produces the stuff of life, but the weed, zazania in Greek is destructive and will not produce a good end. The sower of the weed is the enemy—of God and of ourselves—and that, of course is Satan who always seeks to sow division between individuals, families, nations, and peoples. Whenever you have discord, animosity, fragmentation, that is the work of the Prince of Darkness.
That being the case, why not tear the weed from the field, which is exactly what servants wanted to do immediately. But, the owner of the field, Who is God, stopped them, explaining that: “in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them” (Mt 13:29). The problem is that the zazania in its earlier stages closely resembles the wheat and cannot be readily distinguished from it. On the surface, it looks very enticing and alluring.
There are many layers to this parable. First, it teaches us that the evil in the world does not originate with God, but from his enemy, the evil one. And notice that the evil one goes at night to sow weed in the dark, where there is ambiguity, lack of clarity, which gives rise to confusion.
Satan is astute: he’s not going to sow the weed in broad daylight, where his lies, false promises, and seductions can be easily seen for what they are. Also, he doesn’t sow the weed in its own separate field where it could be isolated; no, he sows evil right in the middle of the good, thus it is impossible for us men to distinctly separate them. So, the Lord tells us to let the weeds grow amid the wheat! In time the wheat will take root and mature, then the weeds can be easily pulled out without destroying the now strong wheat.
This sounds very messy. But, brothers haven’t you found that the character of our personality is a messy interaction of darkness and light. This parable calls us to recognize the darkness that dwells within each one of us: to bring to light the negative influences, evil spirits, that negatively impact our relationship with God and others. That’s what Confession is supposed to do—to help us name our demons—those forces personal and collective, which can seem so overwhelming. Unless we name our evil spirits and identify their root causes, they’ll control us in very disguised ways. By naming these negative forces—by seeing how they influence our lives—does not take them away completely, but we can be delivered from their power to destroy us and other people if we cooperate with God’s grace.
This is where we arrive at the second theme of this parable: the juxtaposition of the impatience of the servants (“rip the weed from the field”!) and the patient waiting of the field owner, who is God. At times we are in a great hurry to judge—to judge ourselves and others. We’re quick to categorize, to put the good here, the bad there. In so doing, we’re a lot like the prayer of the self-righteous man: “God, I thank you that I am good, that I am not like other men, malicious” (cf. Lk 18:11-12).
God, however, knows how to wait. Rather than getting rid of the weeds right now, He sends his grace into the messiness of our life, where we are most vulnerable. Herein also lies the value of our relationships and our Christian community: others can hold up a mirror for us and help us see our shortcomings, and by their love, understanding, and support, they can also be the means of grace to help us deal with the negative influences that wreak havoc in our lives.
So, God knows how to wait. With patience and mercy he gazes into the “field” of every one of us; he sees much better than we do the filth and evil that dwells within and without. But, he also sees the seeds of good that have taken root in our heart and soul. He nurtures those seeds with his grace, trusting that we will cooperate with him for them to grow.
Brothers, there has never been a moment or situation in which God has not been loving you unconditionally. That is why he is so patient with you and I. Our God is a patient Father, whom Jesus invites to call Abba or Daddy, who will always wait for us and waits with his heart in hand to welcome us, to forgive us. He always forgives us if we go to him.
People of God at Folsom Prison, we know the outcome of the story. In the end, evil will be removed and eliminated: at the time of the harvest, that is of judgment, the harvesters will follow the orders of the field owner separating the weed to be burned (cf. Mt 13:30).
In the meantime, how should we live? The brief excerpt from Paul’s letter to the Romans offers a direction. Paul suggests that the Spirit is gradually unfolding within us. The Spirit identifies with our vulnerable human condition, takes it on, and comes to our assistance. The Spirit is our Advocate and intermediary between the Father and humankind. The Spirit knows what the Father’s will is and intercedes for us. The Spirit identifies with our struggle to carry the weed/wheat tension; the Spirit identifies with our inability to articulate our struggle and simply groans with signs too deep for words. We have the Holy Spirit within to be our rock and “giver of Life,” who will lead us ultimately to God. Let us ask Mary, our Blessed Mother, to help us grow in patience, in hope, and in mercy with all our brothers and sisters. Amen.