Fr. Tom Washburn, OFM
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time,
July 17, 2011
A business man was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners of the last century. When he boarded the vessel, he found out that another passenger was sharing his cabin with him. After checking out the accommodations and meeting his cabin-mate, he went the purser’s desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship’s safe. He explained that ordinarily he never felt a need to do that, but after meeting the man who was to occupy the other berth, he felt it was a wise move. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person. The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, “No problem at all, sir. I’ll be very glad to take care of them for you. In fact, the other man in your cabin has already been here and left his valuables with me for the same reason!'”
We heard in our Gospel passage today, “His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest.”
Jesus gives us, through parable, these two images to consider: wheat and weeds. What is the Lord trying to tell us today about the nature of goodness and evil in our world? And, how does Jesus want us to respond to that evil? Jesus today is addressing the sometimes unfortunate side-effect of following Him. When we have been blessed enough to truly come to know God in our lives and at last give ourselves totally to Him; it also can make us aware of the sin that still surrounds us in our communities and in our world. The unfortunate side-effect comes in the form of the stereotypical “holier-than-thou” person who takes on, as a personal responsibility, to pull up the sinful weeds in the world.
History is filled with attempts by people to create the perfect society. We seem to have a natural human desire to root out and destroy all that is different. We seem to sense that those who are different pose some kind of threat to our way of life. Even those who have come to love and follow the Lord can fall prey to this mind set with the best of intentions. After all, don’t we all desire to be part of a society where sin is absent and everyone lives in unity of mind and heart and faith, dedicated to Jesus and His teachings? Isn’t this the promised Kingdom of God?
But, Jesus warns us today against just such behavior. When we become aware of all the weeds around us, we can be tempted to become warriors of the Lord intent on rooting out the evil in our midst. But, Jesus offers a different response. He says, “Let them grow together until the harvest.” Why does Jesus tell us to do this?
Jesus recognized – especially in the Pharisees – that even our holiness can become a temptation to sin. Our own experience of God’s goodness can become a temptation to judge others. We all know the type – we’ve all probably been like this at one point or another in our lives – we decide that we can condemn people to the eternal flames. Whether it is someone whose had an abortion, someone who committed adultery, someone who is just mean and hateful, someone who is gay or lesbian, someone who has stolen or even committed a horrible crime – we decide they’ve been consigned to Hell; we become the Judge and Jury; and that’s that. But, where is God’s mercy in that type of response? Where is God’s opportunity for reconciliation and forgiveness and healing in that type of response?
You see, we are not meant to be Warriors of the Sword, but just take away the “s” and you’ll know what we are called to – we are called to be Warriors of the Word; of God’s Word. It isn’t our task to cut down the weeds in our midst. Our job is to take that time until harvest to share God’s Word; to more importantly live God’s Word, giving good and holy example – all in the hopes that the weeds will want to become wheat too. Trust that God is in charge; that evil will not prevail. That in the end, only good will endure and it is God’s job, not ours, to take care of the weeds. Our job is to be holy and kind and loving and compassionate and giving.
Examples of overzealous servants trying to get rid of people they perceive as evil but who ended up doing more evil themselves abound. Just think of the young Saul. Before becoming St. Paul, he undertook a personal crusade to root out Christianity itself because he believed it was a bad idea and he committed many evil acts himself in the meantime in the name of this holy crusade.
The message of today’s gospel is loud and clear: If we want to be faithful servants of God we must be ready to live alongside those we perceive as weeds and pray for them. Judge not lest you be judged. “Let both of them grow together until the harvest.”
God’s Kingdom will always bear the imprint of God’s patient desire that everyone repent and turn back to Him. God is both patient and lenient with all of us. He doesn’t seek to condemn anyone, but rather gives everyone the time to repent and be forgiven. And we should do the same.
Jesus reminds us that if we become too concerned with rooting out the weeds, in the end, we might just become one of them. Jesus reminds us that everyone – wheat or weed – has a chance at salvation; so let’s not short circuit that chance. Oh, there’s a deadline – you’ve only got until the harvest, but until then, there is always a chance for conversion, renewal and holiness – even for the biggest sinner among us.
Building up god’s Kingdom requires time and has a rhythm all its own, as human hearts transform under God’s love just as yeast turns dough into bread. What it requires of all of us – wheat and weeds alike – is that our hearts be open and receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is where the seed of God’s Word can grow, ripen and blossom.
“His disciples approached him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’ Jesus said, ‘The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. The Son of Man will send his angels to collect the harvest…Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.’”
May God give you peace.
A Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
July 17, 2011
Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (“The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”)
At one time or another, we’ve all dreamed of a perfect world. Imagine a company where everyone is productive, a government full of honest politicians, a church where all are saints.
Dreaming about such things is natural; expecting such things is dangerous. Unrealistic expectations lead to discouragement, despair, even cynicism. That would be bad enough. But the expectation that the Church is only for the holy has led people to embark on some very misguided projects throughout history.
The Mustard Seed: Christ, the Church, and St. Lawrence
The parable of the mustard seed follows after two other seed-based parables which emphasize the tribulations which the Gospel must endure. The first, which was read by the Church last Sunday, is of the sower who went forth to sow – of the seed which he scattered, three parts were lost (for they fell upon the path, the rocky earth, and among thorns), and only one part was preserved (for it alone fell upon the good soil).
The Christian Farmer’s Almanac
The parable of the mustard seed. “And Jesus said, behold the mustard seed. It is the smallest of seeds yet it grows into a large bush.”
I want to begin this article with something you are doing right now, but might be taking for granted: reading. We all can pick up a newspaper or a magazine or a novel or whatever and in a few moments be brought into a world beyond our immediate surroundings. We can learn new things; we can develop our own intelligence; we can agree or disagree with someone we have never met and never will meet; we can be transported to the world of imagination, etc all due to our ability to read.
In our story the servants ask whether they should pull out the weeds that are woven in with the wheat.
“No,” the Master says. “If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest” (Gospel).
This parable tells us a lot.
Brown Scapular turn 760 years old today
Carmelite tradition states that our Christ our Lord and the Blessed Virgin Mary granted the Brown Scapular promise to St Simon Stock in Cambridge, England on July 16 1261.
This makes the Brown Scapular 760 years old today.
Our Choices Shape Our Eternity
In Muslim countries like Pakistan, many of the young men begin studying the Koran as soon as they can read. In fact, many of them learn to read using the Koran. They read and discuss the Koran every day, for hours each day, every day of the week until they know it by heart. Many of them can recite whole sections of the Koran without thinking. Little by little, like water dripping on a stone, it shapes their whole view of the world—what’s right and what’s wrong; what’s important and what’s not.
Don’t Like? Don’t Do!
Have you seen this dribble posted on FB or making the email rounds?
Don’t like gay marriages? Don’t get one. . . . . Don’t like cigarettes? Don’t smoke them. . . Don’t like abortions? Don’t get one. . . . . Don’t like sex? Don’t have it. . . . . Don’t like drugs? Don’t do them. . . . . Don’t like porn? Don’t watch it. . . . . Don’t like alcohol? Don’t drink it. . . . . Don’t like guns? Don’t buy one. . . . . Don’t like your rights taken away??? Don’t take away someone else’s.
Do Genesis Chapters 1 and 2 Contradict?
Have you ever heard that there are contradictions in the Bible? The biggest and most popular one that people suggest is the apparent contradiction between Genesis 1, and 2. What does the church say about such matters ?
Forgiveness Brings Healing Like Nothing Else
Your forgiveness costs nothing but the pain you’ve been holding on to and letting own you. In return, you get freedom.
About a year after my former husband filed for divorce, some friends invited me to go on a week-long retreat with them, and I went. I needed it. That year had been so difficult, and I had to get alone with God for some direction in my life.
On Overcoming the Sin of Human Respect through the Fear of the Lord
At one level “human respect” seems a good thing. After all we ought to respect, honor and appreciate one another. What then is meant by the “sin of human respect?” At its core, the sin of human respect is that sin wherein we fear man more than God; where we more concerned with what people think of us and what we do, than what God thinks. This is an unholy fear, a sinful fear which is at the root of a lot of sins we commit as well as of many sins of omission.
Blessed Bartolo Longo: The Satanist On the Path to Sainthood
Angelo Stagnaro visits the resting place of Blessed Bartolo Longo, the turbulent occultist who become a champion of the rosary
He consecrated the world, entrusting it to Mary’s hands, offering the Blessed Virgin a golden rose. In his homily, Benedict XVI likened Bartolo Longo to St Paul of Tarsus, who also initially persecuted the Church, described Bartolo as being “militantly anticlerical and engaging in spiritualist and superstitious practices”.
Early Church Fathers On The Church
With all of the controversy these past days stemming from one particular priest ending and beginning new eras in his ministry, I have personally found reading from the Early Church fathers a bit calming.
In my opinion the following quotes help to remind us as Catholics what the Catholic Church should mean to us and how we should view Her.
Controversy over Heaven
The Red Hook section of Brooklyn recently renamed a street “Seven in Heaven Way” to honor seven firefighters who died trying to rescue victims of the September 11, 2001 attacks at the World Trade Center. The street was given this new name because the men who died — Joseph Gullickson, Brian Cannizzaro, Salvatore Calabro, Thomas Kennedy, Patrick Byrne, Joseph Maffeo, and Terence McShane — have long been known as “Seven in Heaven.” This simple act has provoked substantial debate over the public use of religious language and the afterlife.
Tinkering with the Lives of Children
There are many Americans who define themselves as human rights advocates yet who are, at the same time, wary of those of us who take great care when defining the meaning of human personhood. We are suspected of being over-zealous because we point out the killing of preborn embryonic children in IVF labs or the deaths caused by chemical birth control in addition to exposing the heinous acts of medical and surgical abortion.
Eclectic Convert: Amanda Rose
My mother likes to say that we were catholic with a small “c” meaning that our religious interests were varied. Although my mother and father were both baptized Christians, my mother converted to Judaism when I was about three years old. My earliest religious memories are of the reverence shown to the Torah as the velvet-covered scrolls were carried through the assembly in the Temple and of the poetic cadence of the Sabbath blessing my mother recited in Hebrew as candles glowed from our dining table. We didn’t remain Jewish more than a year or two, but those memories became an anchor in my soul.
Do You Pray in Public?
A while back my husband and I were at a dinner party where most of the other people in attendance were not religious. When the food was served, we faced an awkward moment: Do we say our usual prayer?
In the Service of the Mother
I only started taking my Catholicism seriously when I was thirty years old. And in my wanderings since then, I noticed three distinct types of Marian devotion, which I’ll call “superstitious,” “apocalyptic,” and “mystical.” This classification is mine alone, and is not based on any sort of scientific study. It’s more something you pick up on at a Legion of Mary meeting, or on an airplane bound for Medjugorje. And although the term “superstitious” sounds pejorative, I don’t mean to disparage any type of Marian devotion. The only bad Marian devotion is no devotion at all.
Getting Rid of the Body
As any devoted fan of gangster shows like The Sopranos can tell you, one of the biggest problems for the killer is how to get rid of the body. What to do? Dump it in the river? Bury it out in the country? Burn it in a furnace?
We have a similar problem in contemporary American society. What to do with the bodies of our dead? Increasingly, the cry of Oswald in King Lear: “Bury my body!” is heard less and less, and the alternative option “Burn, baby, burn,” is heard more and more.
Ways out of the Christian ghetto
A Jewish scholar reflects on what can reverse the retreat of Christians before militant secularism.
And what does the LORD require of you But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)
Et quid Dominus requirat a te: Utique facere iudicium, et diligere misericordiam, et sollicitum ambulare cum Deo tuo (Michea 6:8)
It is with fear and trembling that I write these words. A lion in a den of Daniels, a Jew, who ontologically remains faithful to the Old Testament as the Only Testament and must refuse the invitation of all others, is invited to reflect on how Christians may break out of their self imposed Ghetto in today’s Europe.