16th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017 – Year A

23 July 2017

Wisdom 12.13, 16-19
Romans 8.26-27
Matthew 13.24-43

A certain boy started High School. He was quite intelligent as well as being good at sport. But he came from a disturbed family. The father had a drink problem and he and the wife were continually arguing and fighting. Before long this boy started to disturb the other boys in his class. At first he was warned to change his ways. But he didn’t seem to be able to do this. Then his parents were asked to see the principal of the school. As soon as he saw the parents he knew where the boy’s troublesome behaviour came from. Against the advice of a number of teachers who wanted to expel the boy for disturbing regularly, the principal who could see his great potential resisted. He took a personal interest in the boy who gradually because of the trust and concern of the principal began to improve his behaviour, eventually rewarding the principal’s patience and trust in him by graduating near the top of his class.

The opening parable of the gospel today is saying something similar. A farmer sowed good seed in his field but during the night his enemy came and sowed darnel or weeds among the wheat. When the wheat began to grow, the weeds appeared as well. The servants of the farmer felt the obvious thing to do was to pull out the weeds there and then. Amazingly the farmer said ‘no’. Rather, he told them to wait until harvest time and then they could gather the weeds in bundles and burn them.

The parable is telling us that the farmer is God. God sows only good seed in our lives. Yet he knows that in the world there are people who live good lives and some who act in an evil way. This is quite obvious to us these days when we hear or see on our TV screens all the terrorist attacks in our world, many civil wars, not to mention the sexual exploitation of women and children as well as so much injustice. Many people ask the question ‘why doesn’t God weed out this people now and destroy them?’ The parable gives the answer. Like the school principal in the story only much more so, God sees the possibility for change in each of us. He is the God of many chances. He keeps on giving us more and more opportunities to change our ways. Why? Well, because he is God and that is the way God acts if we are to believe what Jesus does and teaches in the gospels. So Jesus is saying that it is God alone who makes the separation and amazingly he will only do so at the end of time. Where would any of us stand if it were otherwise and God weeded us out now? Which of us is without fault?

The Good News is that the parable is underlining the incredible patience and longsuffering of God towards us. He knows that there is the potential for good and evil in each of us. We all know this from our daily experience. And aren’t we all very blessed that God sees the great potential for goodness in each of us and gives us time to change. St.Peter says ‘think of God’s patience as your opportunity to be saved’.

Another reason why God allows the weeds in our lives even if he doesn’t put them there, is that if we didn’t have any struggles or shortcomings we would most probably not feel our need for God. Experience tells us that it is when difficulties, suffering and trials come our way that we turn to God with greater focus and intensity. The terrorist attack of September 11 was a good example of this when many people who had lost interest in religion started praying and turning to God for strength and comfort.

In the parable the enemy came when everyone was asleep. By this we are reminded that in our lives as Christians we need to be vigilant. Isn’t it easy enough to get sucked into what is popular and to follow the present trends. For example we hear people saying ‘ I am living with my boy or girlfriend’. After all many people are doing it. Or, if many people, even public personalities take bribes why shouldn’t I? Or again many people tell lies, why should I suffer by telling the truth. Does that mean that by doing these we are just in God’s eyes? For sure God will not punish us for these things but we will certainly punish ourselves and others whether we are found out or not. This is why God is giving us the time to convert as he knows we will suffer if we allow the weeds to become part of our lives. Sadly they can choke the wheat of peace and joy in our lives if we are not vigilant. We need to call often on God for his Holy Spirit to help us.

The parables of this chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel are about the presence of God’s kingdom in history and this involves a process. The kingdom does not arrive suddenly. Nor does conversion take place all at once. For most of us it starts in a small way. This ought to encourage us. The parables of the yeast and the mustard seed in today’s gospel confirm this.   God is patient with us.

Finally, the parable about the wheat and weeds leaves no room for ambiguous or lukewarm positions. We cannot choose both as Christians. When we are confronted with our own dishonesty or violation of basic of human rights we cannot be spectators. We have to choose life or death. We are constantly being called to be life-giving wheat. God knows we are capable of this and gives us his Spirit to do so.

“Lord Jesus, help us to be more and more the life-giving wheat for others that you were. Amen”

Fr.Jim Kirstein, SMA