Last Sunday we had the parable of the Sower, this
Sunday we have the parable of the Man Sowing Good Seed, next Sunday Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a treasure hidden in a field.
These agricultural images are obviously very appropriate to his listeners who were much closer to the land than most of us are. Jesus uses many other easily understandable images in his parables; for example, today we also have the mustard seed and the yeast in the flour. But there are many, many more images recorded in the Gospels.
This is a completely different approach from the scribes and the Pharisees who tended to work from the Law. Religion being for them a matter of following sets of laid down instructions: “keep these rules and God will be happy with you!” is what they seem to be saying. And: “if you don?t understand them just ask us?the experts!”
But if we take a closer look at these parables of Jesus we find that some of them are very odd indeed. Because we don’t know the background or the actual situation we tend to take them at face value and believe that what Jesus says is true but they wouldn?t have sounded like that to his listeners.
There is something wrong with each of these three parables. To start with the people would have been very puzzled with the behaviour of the farmer in the story about the darnel. No one in their right mind would leave the darnel growing in the field till harvest time. It would soon multiply and choke the wheat.
The mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed and neither does it become the biggest shrub. Although it grows to about eight feet there are certainly plenty of bigger bushes than that.
And then the story about the woman with the yeast would also sound very odd because the quantities Jesus uses would make bread for over a hundred people and no woman could knead that amount of dough on her own.
So although Jesus takes the figurative approach because all his listeners, from the most sophisticated to the simplest, can understand them, that doesn’t mean they don’t find something odd about them.
It is this very oddness that helps the people to see that Jesus is not conveying literal truth but spiritual truth. In the first case it is about the problem of evil in the world and how God gives even the worst of us plenty of time to convert.
In the second and third parables it is about the smallness of the community of believers and yet the greatness of their influence in the world.
By using parables with images that the people are familiar with does not mean that Jesus is making things easier for them. By making things understandable for them Jesus is actually clarifying the moral choices that life lays before them. He is forcing them to choose which direction to take.
The parable about the good seed and the darnel certainly presents a very stark comparison between those who do good and those who do evil. Jesus seems to be suggesting that you are either a) virtuous and will shine like the sun or b) are evil and will be thrown into the blazing furnace. He presents no middle way.
That sounds rather unfortunate to us. If you are anything like me you have a bit of good and a bit of bad in you. Not completely bad! But then not completely good either!
This puts us all in a bit of a quandary. We want to be good but we find ourselves badmouthing our neighbours; we want to be holy but we don’t say our prayers very often; we want to be trustworthy but, well, if nobody?s looking?!
This is the very human dilemma most of us are in. We want to get to heaven but we are a little nervous of that big book and what St. Peter has been writing about us over all these years.
We might not like what we find when we get to those pearly gates. Will we gain admission or not? It could be a bit of a moot point! There might be a lot of humming and hawing!
What Jesus is doing is highlighting the fundamental choice all of us must make in our life. Naturally he wants us to choose the good, to follow the way he outlines for us.
But, of course, it must be our absolutely free choice and that leaves open the possibility that we might make a fundamental choice for evil, a choice not to go the way he sets before us.
Jesus does not do this to be difficult. He does it so that we see clearly the way we are going in life. He does it to help us make the right choices without ever restricting our freedom. This is, in fact, the most loving and caring thing he can do for us.
And he gives us time to convert, time to turn our lives around; but this time is not without limit for there certainly is a day of reckoning. The parable is warning us to start making those changes now because one day the reaper will surely come to gather in the harvest.
In the Screwtape Letters, a little book by CS Lewis, the devils are having a meeting and trying to work out better ways to tempt man. It is the smallest devil who comes up with the best temptation of all. He says to the others, “Let us tell man there is no hurry.”
This really is one of the most insidious of all temptations and we must guard ourselves against it. We so easily think that we can do evil today and seek forgiveness tomorrow only to find that tomorrow never comes.
What happens is that with constant repetition we discover that we have grown so used to the sin that we have forgotten that it is a sin at all. The truth of the matter is that the longer we leave it to correct our faults the harder it is to do so.
These parables may have sounded odd to their first listeners but they contain profound spiritual truths and there is enough in them to meditate on for a whole lifetime. And if we learn the lessons they contain they will last us much longer than a lifetime, they will last us for all eternity.
Digest of Articles from Catholic Blogs and Websites
July 20, 2014
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)—July 20, 2014
Gospel (Read Mt 13:24-43)
In this chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus uses parables to teach the large crowd gathered to hear Him at the seashore. In the first one, He says, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.” However, during the cover of night, “while everyone was asleep,” an enemy came and sowed weeds all through his field. The weed, sometimes called “darnel,” looks very much like wheat in its early growth. If it gets ground up later with the wheat and made into flour, it can cause sickness. In Jesus’ day, personal vengeance sometimes took the form of sowing this weed in an enemy’s wheat field, a punishable crime in Roman law.
Sixteenth Sunday: Weeds among the Wheat – The Price of Freedom
If, along with me, you watch the news every evening, or read the paper every day, you experience a non stop barrage of terrible things that happen in the world. A young lady testifies what her life was like after being attacked. Doctors detail numerous beatings a little boy received before his death. Earthquakes and other occurrences of nature kill thousands. Perhaps tragedy may strike our own families. Or we may read about corruption within the government, or even Churchmen behaving immorally. When these situations take place, we sometimes are tempted to ask, “Why didn’t God do a better job in creating the world. Why is there so much evil around us? Why does God allow terrible things to happen?”
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Cycle A — Modern
Gospel Matthew 13 : 24 – 43
The Gospel today continues with some parables of Jesus. Parables are intended to cause the listener to think about them, and reflect on what Jesus meant in telling them. One can hear the same parable numerous times, and each time gain a different insight into its’ meaning. The three given to us today; the weeds among the wheat, the mustard seed, and the yeast, are about the Kingdom of Heaven. As I reflected on them the virtue that stands out is patience.
Reflections for Sunday, July 20, 2014
Yielding to the Work of the Holy Spirit in Our Lives
The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. (Romans 8:26)
If you remember nothing else about St. Paul, remember this: he loved to talk about the Holy Spirit! For just one example, take a look at chapter eight of his Letter to the Romans, and you’ll see:
Augustine’s two rules for reading the Bible
St. Augustine, whom most consider the greatest of all the Church Fathers, spends the last three “books” of his Confessions interpreting the spare outline of the Creation recorded in Genesis. The result is a moving tribute to Divine Love, and to the surpassing fulfillment each soul finds in God alone. But along the way he teaches us two important things about how to read Scripture. They are well worth passing along.
Novena to St. Anne begins July 17
Saint Anne’s feast day is on July 26th, so the St. Anne Novena is traditionally started on July 17th; however, you can pray it anytime. St. Anne (Hebrew, Hannah, grace; also spelled Ann, Anne, Anna) is the mother of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the grandmother of Jesus, and the wife of Joachim. She is mentioned in the Apocrypha, chiefly the Protoevangelium of James, which dates back to the second century. Devotion to St. Anne dates back to the sixth century in the Church of Constantinople and the eighth century in Rome.
Help! I need Practical Ideas for Living the Faith
For the last several years, there has been an increased interest in practical advice on how to practice their faith. Certainly, the uncertainty and growing chaos in the secular world have something to do with this. More recently, we have seen more obvious clashes between our culture and our Church. We can look back through Salvation History and see the pattern. The answer today, just like in times past, is the same — turn away from sin and towards God. The right path has always been surrender to the One who alone is good and loves you.
Build A Spiritual Defense
Most of us can sense when something is working against us as we persevere to grow in faith and strive to live the Gospel in communion with Christ. Sometimes, quite suddenly our peace of soul or joy in the Lord is oppressed by heaviness and negativity. Many people experience situations when strife arises, friendships abruptly break down, misunderstandings in families or groups cause division, odd accidents happen, strange twists occur and pathways are blocked. It is imprudent to always assume these are due to diabolical influences but often the devil is in mix. When a person becomes a threat to the demonic realm due to their love for God and/or some good work that builds up the Church, the devil reacts to the degree that God allows.
Finding Hope Through Grief
In May 2000, Christi and Mark Tripodi endured any parent’s most wrenching ordeal. Their 3-year-old son, Bobby, was stricken with bacterial meningitis and died within a day of the diagnosis.
Almost a year and a half later, Bobby’s distraught parents had not accepted his death. Counseling and support groups did not alleviate their sorrow.
Christ, Our Strength
I’m in Krakow, Poland at Mass in 1988. Poles pack the church to overflowing. This is not the Easter Vigil; it’s merely one Sunday Mass at one Catholic church in a city with over 100 churches and Mass schedules that read like an auctioneer’s call: 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, 8:30…
All the Masses I attend in Krakow are packed; people line the walls and fill the vestibule and even stand outside.
Reflecting on Our Lady of Mount Carmel
I think of Mary as a gardener throughout human history. Trouble in France? Here comes Mary with rosary in hand and a full dose of prayer. Something’s tough in Russia? Mary’s on her way, pulling a hose behind her for some special fertilizing. They need help in the United States? There’s Mother Mary, clad in gloves, trowel in hand.
There’s no weed in our lives that’s too big for her, no overgrown mess that’s too intimidating. She doesn’t look outside her heavenly window and exclaim in frustration, “Won’t they ever learn?” She just shows up with a smile and heavenly help.
Don’t Give in to Discouragement
Psychologists tell us that one of the chief evils of our age, an evil apparently less evident in earlier ages, is that of easy defeat. Be this as it may, most people who are honest with themselves would probably have to admit to indulging in despondency. They are fortunate if they have nothing worse to confess than despondency; there are many who labor under the weight of near-despair. Whether guilty of surrendering to the temptation or whether burdened with a sense of guilt that in fact is without foundation, a man can reduce his spiritual vitality so as virtually to close his soul to the operation of hope. When hope dies, there is very little chance for faith and charity.
Passing Along All that is Noble and Worthwhile
I was blessed to grow up with great parents. We didn’t have much, but my parents made sure my sister and I had love, discipline, faith, strong values, and an appreciation for the value of hard work. My mother played a vital role in our family, as all mothers do, but I find as I grow older that I am most like my father. I pass many of the lessons he taught me on to my own children and still look to him for wisdom and advice. Look back on your own upbringing. What role did your father play? Were there other role models? Just as many of us live out the lessons we learned in our youth, our children will someday emulate us. They are always watching and we have to decide if we will be their heroic role models who consistently set the right example or relinquish our fatherly responsibilities to a host of bad societal influences. Which will it be?