July 17, 2005 - Pentecost +9
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
• 24 Jesus told them another parable, "The kingdom of heaven can be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and left.
26 When the plants sprouted and produced grain, the weeds also appeared. 27 Then the servants of the owner came to him and said: 'Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? Where did the weeds come from?'
28 He answered them: 'This is the work of an enemy.' They asked him: 'Do you want us to go and pull up the weeds?' 29 He told them: 'No, when you pull up the weeds, you might uproot the wheat with them. 30 Let them just grow together until harvest; and at harvest time I will say to the workers: Pull up the weeds first, tie them in bundles and burn them; then gather the wheat into my barn."
. . .
• 36 Then he sent the crowds away and went into the house. And his disciples came to him saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." 37 Jesus answered them, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. 38 The field is the world; the good seed are the people of the Kingdom; the weeds are those who follow the evil one. 39 The enemy who sows them is the devil; the harvest is the end of time and the workers are the angels.
40 Just as the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so will it be at the end of time. 41 The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom all that is scandalous and all who do evil. 42 And these will be thrown in the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the just will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. If you have ears, then hear.
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• 24. With the parable of the weeds, Jesus answers those who are scandalized at seeing evil everywhere. Good and bad will be mixed till the end of the world. Good and evil will always be found together in persons and institutions.
God respects people. He knows that temptation is often stronger than their good intentions and they need time to find and to choose steadily what is good.
God is patient. The reconciliation of so many contradictory groups, forces and cultural currents active in the world will be attained only at the end of time. In the meantime we are not to label any of them as "the" good ones and "the" bad ones.
Jesus himself commented on this parable: see v. 36.
• 36. The field is the world. This parable does not refer to what happens within each of us, or only in the Church, as described in the net (13:47). Rather it teaches that the kingdom of God exists and grows in the world, in all dimensions of the secular world. Sacred history is more than an ancient history in the land of Jesus; it is the entire human story of which the risen Christ is Lord.
So will it be at the end of time. Jesus speaks to us of a judgment. The expectation of God's judgment on the world was an essential element of prophetic teaching. Let us not only see in it a desire for vengeance on the part of honest people who suffered. To know for certain that our life will be judged by one who knows us through and through is one of the bases of the Christian vision of existence. This enables us to understand the tragic character of the decisions we make from day to day directing us either to the truth or a refusal of the light.
This certitude shocks many of our contemporaries just as in the past it terrified the majority of people. It is for that reason they have often taken refuge in metempsychosis a series of existences. The faults of the present life could be rectified in the one that followed. The importance of our choices is doubted, and the sense of sin is blurred just as is the sense of the presence of God. Before long we could doubt the unique value of our life and of the human person.
While reaffirming the judgment, this short parable contains an extremely revolutionary element: the judgment is God's secret and up to the end of the world, both good and evil are in each of us, as well as in institutions. When we read the Bible, we are perhaps shocked to see that not only in the Old Testament but also even in the New, the world is constantly divided between the good and the wicked. It seems to us that it should not be: the inner being of a human is a deep mystery. There isn't a group of the good (we, of course, and those who believe in God, and those who observe the same morality that we observe…) and then the others. Why then does Jesus divide humans?
Our quick reply is that Jesus has spoken as the prophets spoke. To speak of the good and the wicked was a simple way, suitable to the mentality of people less developed than ourselves, to show that each one of us, in each of our acts, takes a step in one of two opposed directions. For centuries women and men have felt themselves interpreted by this way of speaking: it is still effective and pedagogic for us on many occasions. It is very important to understand that Jesus is not duped by images. For the majority of us, the separation is not made, even if after a conversion or two, until we have taken decisive steps.
The servants represent the believers, but especially the "supervisors" of the Church. Their zeal for repressing those they judge as straying in order to preserve what seems good to them may well be tainted interiorly. They would like to suppress all the errors. Rather they rely too much on force, or on authority. If the "masters" of the faith were not to give the faithful the possibility to think for themselves and make mistakes, the Church would be without life.
God prefers to let matters clarify: he wants people to learn from experience. Evil is part of the mystery of the cross; in doing what is good and living in the light we defeat evil (Rom 12:21).
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1. Inquiring minds want to know -- where do the weeds of life come from? A part of us wants to have a preemptive strike against weeds (defined as a plant that is not valued where it is). An herbicide and a war both reveal to us our biases about ourselves, our neighbors, and creation. Do we want what is behind Door Number 1 or 2 or 3? How will we know until we give our final answer. So we go through all manner of mechanisms and rules-of-thumb and magic formulas to choose what cannot be known.
2. A logical outcome of choosing to know the good from the bad is that we need to know more and more and more. This valuable human/divine trait has brought us comfort after comfort. At the same time we find ourselves choosing on the basis of partial information and then solidifying it into an eternal truth.
3. We have certainly spent a lot of energy battling one another. We have pulled up our own values, morals, and intentions as we try to eradicate another point of view. This is part of the warning of the parable. The destruction you intend for another will come back to bite you at the same place your focused your attention. What goes around will come around. Far better it is to live well. It is difficult enough to live up to our own expectation and far more difficult to get someone else to live up to our expectations. Though our lives are intimately intertwined living our best is what is actually best for another.
An application of this is in a family system the love between spouses/partners/etc is the key element for other parts of the family to be healthy. Want the kids to know they are loved? Love your spouse/partner/etc well. Then the mixture of good and evil in the family will be bent toward a good harvest.
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