Fr Jordan presided and preached at the 10am Mass. Our Gospel reading was the telling of the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat taken from Matthew 13:24-30,36-43.
Read on for the sermon and a video of the service.
“Short Stories by Jesus” is the title of a book I read a few years ago. The subject is the parables of Jesus. It is written by a Jewish woman who seeks to elucidate what the parables meant to the first hearers who would have mostly been Jews. The book provides some interesting insights into the meaning of the parables. Unfortunately the book doesn’t deal with today’s parable. However, the writer begins with some comments about parables which are quite interesting.
One comment this writer makes is that often in the gospels there is an interpretation of a parable. She claims that any interpretation has come from another hand and would not have been spoken by Jesus. Parables were simply related and each person had to make up their own mind about the meaning for themselves. Sometimes ‘overexplaining’ something is not helpful.
She also suggests that parables were told to confront people in the hope of helping them to change their actions. This is quite different from what we often hear about parables. We have often been told parables are an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. This writer suggests they may have a heavenly meaning but they are more about how we are living now. So we have to keep the present day in mind.
Amongst the early church Fathers parables were often turned into allegories. This means that the people and things in the parable are treated as symbols of someone or something else. So in the parable of the wheat and the weeds the householder would be God, the enemy would be the devil, the farm workers would be the church and so on. This is a device often used but it can cloud the meaning of the parable and take it away from helping the hearers to change their behavior here and now.
So what are we to make of this parable of the wheat and the weeds? One way is to read it as allegory as the explanation does. Or we can look at it as a present reality, something we are dealing with in our midst.
Today’s readings keep telling us “God is patient in dealing with evil”. We however often become impatient with God’s patience. Surely the world would be a better place without evil. So why should we be patient with it?
The way God works is not the way we work, and there’s good reason for that.
Jesus probably told the parable of the wheat and the weeds in response to those who criticized his teaching. It is easy to criticize his teaching too. He talked about the Kingdom of God being in the midst of people. But if this kingdom is present, why was the world in such a sorry state?
In response to that sort of criticism Jesus told the parable of the wheat and the weeds. The particular weed in question is darnel. This weed looks exactly like wheat in the early stages of growth. It’s very hard to tell the difference between the two. The roots of the darnel interlace with those of the wheat so to disturb the darnel would be to displace the wheat as well. This was a problem beyond the ability of the farmer to control. The farmer had to be patient and at the right time he would be able to separate the wheat and the weeds.
This is one of a handful of parables that Jesus actually goes on to explain the meaning. There is however debate among scholars, as there always is, to whether these words are actually Jesus’ or the writer of Matthew’s Gospel. Whatever the answer, it is clear that Jesus told this parable and that is what is important.
The parable seems to suggest that the church should be forgiving because God was going to separate good from evil at the last judgment.
There was a need to keep offering forgiveness so people could turn from evil to good. That explanation is perhaps not satisfactory for us today.
One of the problems associated with this parable is that it is too easy to see wheat as good people and weeds as bad people. If we do that then we will have God throwing evil people into the fire.
That’s not consistent with the character of Jesus portrayed in the Gospels. Nor is it consistent with the patient forgiveness of God shown in this parable. The patient forgiveness of God is also a constant theme of the scriptures.
What we need to remember is that each one of us contains wheat and weeds. We all contain the capacity for good and evil. It exists side by side in our lives. When we are conscious of doing something wrong, most people don’t act in such an extreme way as to throw themselves on a fire.
We usually find excuses to lessen our guilt. We are quite lenient on ourselves and are ready to forgive. I fear this has been forgotten in our modern society. There is a rise in what the media call ‘cancel culture.’ This is the idea that if people find one thing wrong with you, usually an opinion or something you have said or done then they will do everything in their power to ruin your life. This is such a denial of human nature. We know that we are not perfect and we do slip up.
Thankfully we deal with most of our own wrongs with gentleness and patience. We hope. That’s how God acts. That’s what forgiveness is about. The way to oppose evil is not always to aggressively root it out, though that is sometimes necessary for things such as criminality. The way to deal with broken people is by gentle and patient forgiveness. That’s how we would want others to treat us after all. I know that for many this is not good enough. They want it now. Take for example the recent riots in France. protests and subsequent rioting and damage of property over a person being shot by the police.
We know this is wrong but often this message is lost in the chaos that is caused. For if we look at the most successful civil right movements in history they were slow, peaceful and focused on changing hearts and minds.
This is not to suggest that we should give up fighting against evil. Where there is wrong we are to continue to try and get rid of that wrong. Jesus whole ministry was built around getting rid of wrongs. The wrongs practiced by those who oppressed others, the wrongs of illness, the wrongs of guilt, the wrongs of death. We are not being asked to condone those things that spoil life, we are being asked to consider the way we treat those people who practice such things. We are also asked to be aware that evil will continue to co-exist with good. It co-exists in us as it does in others.
People have tried for years to create the perfect society without evil. Sometimes, like the communist regimes of the 20th century they shockingly do this by simply killing off all those who disagree with their principles. Sometimes people shut themselves away from outside contamination. There is no such thing as a perfect world just as there is not a perfect church.
I think the parable of the wheat and the weeds is encouraging us to go on living in the world, and in the church, where good and evil co-exist. And within that co-existence to do what we can to ensure the wheat comes to harvest.
The parable begins with the phrase The Kingdom of Heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed. If we are part of the Kingdom then we are the ones who are required to sow good seed. We are also to remember that there will always be bad seeds as well. Our task is to be the ones who seek to show forgiveness like the sower in the parable. We are to overcome evil with good. That is the challenge presented to us. How each of us works that out is our decision in the way we live, speak and act.