The Parable of the weeds and the wheat teaches us that God's wisdom is always beyond our human expectations. When we see weeds (evil) would think that they should be uprooted instantly as we see it. But God sees that when weeds are pulled out sometimes they take with them the wheat, weeds can be a source of strength for the wheat, evil can make the good in us stand out. It is when we are tried that we become humble and dependent in His graces. St. Paul would say, "it is in weakness that power reaches perfection," so we have to be joyful when evil seems to triumph for God's grace and presence is in us. The devil tries only those who are God's, those who are his own are always at peace with themselves and for themselves alone.
Wis 12:13. 16-19
Ps 86:5-6. 9-10. 15-16
Last Sunday we focused on planting seeds while this Sunday we will be talking about pulling weeds. The two go together. As a gardener, I know so well that it is much easier to plant seeds than pulling the weeds—and much more time-consuming and a harder work. It is difficult to distinguish between the wheat and the weeds. They look so much alike. To make things easier someone suggests a stress-free way: “To distinguish valuable plants from weeds, simply pull up everything. What grows back is weeds.”
The Gospel reading also reminds me of what an unknown homemaker once shared: “I don’t clean windows because . . . I love birds and don’t want one to run into a clean window and get hurt. I don’t wax floors because . . . I am terrified a guest will slip and get hurt then I’ll feel terrible (plus they may sue me.) I don’t disturb cobwebs because . . . I want every creature to have a home of their own. I don’t Spring Clean because . . . I love all the seasons and don’t want the others to get jealous. I don’t put things away because . . . my husband will never be able to find them again. I don’t do gourmet meals when I entertain because . . . I don’t want my guests to stress out over what to make when they invite me over for dinner. I don’t iron because . . . I choose to believe them when they say “Permanent Press.” And finally: I don’t pull weeds in the garden because . . . I don’t want to get in God’s way, He is an excellent designer!”
The parable is addressed to those who are scandalized today because the Church contains so many bad weeds, hypocrites, people who are with us in the church, in our workplaces, in our homes and even in religious houses whose lives are not consistent with their Christian values and religious life.
The servants who went to the master to report the presence of bad and evil weeds growing among the wheat would have expected that the master would complement them for being so vigilant as to notice the weeds. And at times, too, you would expect the master to support you in your plan to root out the weeds--the bad guys. You would expect signs of approval. But wait!
The master shocked and disappointed the servants when the master told them to let the weeds grow along side with the weeds. As any good farmer knows, it makes sense to root out the weeds in order to increase the yield and maximize profit. Why then does the master restrained the farmers to pull out the weeds?
Why he does that? The last verse of the first reading gives us two reasons why God acts this way. In the first place, He does it to teach us that we have to love all people, not just the good ones. In the second place, He wants to give sinners the possibility and the chance to be converted. God is patient with the sinner. And in the Gospel He restrains them "lest gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them" (Mt 13:29).
The message of today’s gospel is loud and clear: If you want to be a faithful servant of Christ, you must be prepared be patient with those you perceive as evil persons. To God alone belongs judgment. Let them grow together until the harvest, the Lord tells us in the gospel.
In effect, Jesus is teaching us that when God (personified by the owner) allows the weeds and the wheat to grow together, he is not saying that he cannot do anything about evil. Rather, he wants both the weeds and the wheat—the bad and the good—because he wants the conversion of sinners and not their death. He does not love only the just and the good; he loves all, even the wicked, because they too are his creatures AND THE ONLY THING HE WANTS IS THAT THEY CHANGE THEIR LIVES!
We might find this hard to accept since we often think that we are the good guys and others are the bad guys. But all we have to do is to look deep in our hearts to discover how wrong we are. In our hearts, as in the hearts of others, we also find anger, resentment, pride, envy, revenge, ill-feelings… and more!
Reading 1 — Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalm — Psalm 65:10-15
Reading 2 — Romans 8:-18-23
Gospel — Matthew 13:1-23
Today's scripture readings can give us a real sense of hope, because in a very powerful way, they proclaim that the power of the word of God will be fulfilled.
In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah speaks about the power of God's word when everything seemed hopeless. He proclaimed those words to a nation that had been destroyed. Everything was demolished. Speaking in God's name about the word of God, he said: "It will not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish my will, the purpose for which it has been sent." Isaiah has this strong hope and confidence because God has spoken. Isaiah is telling us, reminding us, that God has spoken his word and it will happen. There is no doubt about that--the word of God will be accomplished. God's words will not return void or empty.
In the second reading, St. Paul says to a certain degree the same thing when he spoke about how the spirit is present in the world. Just as Paul spoke about the suffering of the present life, he insisted there is still hope. He went on to say about how the spirit is throughout all of creation, all of creation is groaning until it comes to that new birth, a fullness of life. St. Paul is confident that God's spirit is present and is changing, transforming our world into the reign of God.
In the Gospel, Jesus too, using a parable, was preaching about the word of God. He talked about how the farmer, the sower, goes out to sow the seed and throws it everywhere—some landed on the wayside and birds ate it; others fell on rocky ground; some fell on thin soil. So it sprouted but then there were no roots and so it was burned by the sun and died. Other seeds fell among the weeds and the thistles choked it as it grew up. But some fell on good ground. Jesus said that the seed that fell on good ground would produce 100, 60 or 30 fold. Jesus is here speaking about that same power of God's word that Isaiah was thinking about and Paul was speaking about. That must have surprised his listeners, because normally they would have expected seed to yield at the most seven fold. But Jesus said the word of God would produce fruit that is beyond our imagination.
The parable makes all of us ask where we are: Are we the seed that fell along the path? The seed that fell on the rocky ground? The seed that got choked by the thistles, the weeds? Or are we the seed that fell on the good ground where it can take root, grow, change us and then enable us to help change this world? If evil seems to have the upper hand in our world, it is because we have not been listening to God's word and putting it into practice.
Reading 1 — Isaiah 55:10-11
Psalm — Psalm 65:10-15
Reading 2 — Romans 8:-18-23
Gospel — Matthew 13:1-23
“Whoever has ears ought to hear,“ says our Lord to the crowd. And today, we listen to Him telling us the same. For Jesus, to listen is not just any activity but an important means to be constantly united with the Father. To listen means to be united. Within this ambit, we reflect on our readings today.
To Listen is to be Nourished
In our first reading today, God through Isaiah likens His word to rain and snow falling from heaven, making earth fertile and fruitful. And Jesus in our gospel speaks of the sower, the seed and the soil, a familiar scene to many. The word of God is Jesus and he has accomplished all that the Father wishes Him to do. He saved us and is continuously saving us. But the salvation we received needs our participation; God needs our response. And to listen to the Word is the first stage of our response. Only in listening that we get to see who we are and the kind of response we ought to make. When we listen to the Word of God, we do not just passively listen. To listen is to participate in the life of God, and being with God means being constantly nourished. Thus, we find ourselves fertile and fruitful in faith, virtue and charity.
To Listen is to be Healed
In our second reading, St. Paul gives us a stark picture of our current situation: we are in pain; we are struggling. This poses a great challenge to listening. It is easy to listen when we are not troubled by anything. And nobody is not troubled, even the minutest of all things is bothered in any way. Facing the truth of our current situation, St. Paul urges us to look at it with a positive heart. Yes, we are suffering but it is not all there is. Our suffering here and now is a test to strengthen us—not to break us—so that like a victorious athlete, we would be “set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.” St. Paul redirects the ears of our faith to the promise of redemption, a promise that is true, sure and eternal. All we need to do is to listen to the Word of God like true disciples. And like the soil that needs to be tilled and cultivated, we allow suffering to cultivate us as seedbeds of faith. In this way, we allow ourselves to be healed by God and nourish us like watered garden—fertile and fruitful.
To Listen is to be Challenged
Our Responsorial Psalm today speaks of God visiting His people and nourishing them. Here lies another challenge: to be visited is to be stirred. Our usual monotony is shaken and the status quo is challenged. Remember how God challenged our ancestors (Abraham, Moses and Elijah etc). By challenging them, God made them fruitful. Today, Jesus challenges us to be fruitful even in the midst of suffering. He himself is our example. In a society where morals and values once believed and understood as society’s building block are questioned—facing the danger of being obsolete. Jesus’s words redirect our mind and heart by challenging all these false values. He wants us to go forward bringing with us the unchangeable, unalienable and irreplaceable values. Values that have built and will continue to build our identity and uniting our society eternally to the Father.
However, no matter how lofty the message is if men close their ears to what is true, eternal and divine, we will never be nourished and our journey will lead us nowhere but to our own demise.
So we ask God for the grace to open our hearts that we may listen to Him and be nourished by His words. We also ask for the intercession of our mother, Our Lady of Consolation. Like her, may we listen to the Word of God and ponder Him in our hearts.
“Whoever has ears ought to hear.”