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Homily – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Wheat…or Weeds?

July 20, 2008

Today’s Gospel is unusual, brothers and sisters. Jesus does NOT often take time to explain himself to anyone, at least, not in the pages of Scripture. Almost always, it’s left to us, in posterity, to figure out how what Jesus said applies to us.

But today, Jesus was explicit with his disciples. When they asked, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field”, Jesus told them exactly what He meant. He, the Son of Man, is the sower of good seed. The devil is his enemy sowing weeds, and the weeds themselves are the children of the evil one. At the end of the age, the harvest, God’s angels will collect “all who cause others to sin and all evildoers”, and they’ll go to Hell. He finishes the explanation off with a warning: “Whoever has ears ought to hear.”

How much more explicit could He have been? Pretty straightforward, right? The evil, and those who cause others to sin, will go to Hell; the righteous will be with the Father.

Problem is though: Which pile do we end up in? Are we wheat, or are we weeds? And what do we do if we find ourselves…weeds?

Jesus used this model for His disciples, first, because He knew they would understand. In ancient Israel, Herbi-systems had not yet taken off. There were no herbicide resistant strains of crops that could be planted; the farmer and his workers had to carefully prepare the soil, excluding as many weeds as he could see from the tilled earth. Then, as the crops sprouted and grew, he had to carefully identify the weeds, and painstakingly remove them from the soil, being careful not to disturb the sprouting food crops.

The problem with having an enemy come and sow weeds throughout the field is that it would make it almost impossible for a human farmer to salvage much of the crop. In pulling all those multiple weeds from the ground, the farmer would damage his crop, making it almost worthless. The only alternative was to just let it all grow, harvest it, and then sort it out by hand, hoping to save some of the good crop while throwing out the weeds. Can you imagine the labor involved in that? It would break most farmers!

But Jesus, in naming his supernatural workers for the harvest, demonstrated that God was capable of easily telling the difference when it would count. And He issued a warning: it pays to be wheat, and not weeds, at the end of the age, ‘cuz the weeds weren’t going to do well!

It would be easy to oversimplify Jesus’ words, and His warning, y’all. But in our world, in our time, we have so many more hazards, so many more things that can bump us into the “weeds” category. The obvious ones are almost not worth rehashing: don’t commit murder; don’t steal; don’t covet thy neighbor’s stuff. The vast majority of us know that those things are wrong. Don’t commit adultery, don’t lie; honor your father and mother, go to church; these too are all pretty simple yes-no propositions.

But there is an entire realm of moral trouble that gets ignored in our day, and it is every bit as dangerous to our souls, and to our status as “wheat” vs. “weeds”. Our culture is saturated in sexuality, and usually not in healthy expressions of it. The vast majority of us American Catholics reject the Church’s teachings on sexuality. And it is here that we run into trouble. It’s here that others lead us into doing what is objectively evil.

Next Friday, July 25th, is the 40th anniversary of the encyclical Humanae Vitae, written by Pope Paul VI. It’s a pretty interesting read; and it talks about much more than a prohibition on artificial contraception. Pope Paul made four predictions in Humanae Vitae about the impact on society of unrestricted access to birth control. They were: a general lowering of moral standards throughout society; a rise in infidelity; a lessening of respect for women by men; and the coercive use of reproductive technologies by governments. I won’t go into depth, but it would be hard to ignore that all of these things are a problem for our society forty years after they were predicted.

But what possible application could all that have to us? What could we possibly need to change?

Brothers and sisters, the misuse of sexuality pervades our society. What can we do about it? Refuse to be fooled. If we reject the Church’s teaching on the body out of hand, without educating our consciences, then we are allowing others to lead us to evil. Contracepting? That’s “weed” behavior. Talk to your pastor and find a way to accommodate the Church’s teaching. Sexually active outside of marriage? Weedy. Stop. Using the internet to access pornography? Weed behavior. Stop. Allowing our children, or ourselves, to watch programming on cable that tears them down spiritually? Weed behavior. Stop!

And after we stop all the weed-like things we’re doing, we can access the sacraments to rip out the weeds that have been sown in us. Receive Christ in the Eucharist. Regularly. Go to confession. Rip Satan’s influences out by their roots. Pray, sincerely, to God for the grace to do His will in our lives. And open ourselves to the influence of the Holy Spirit, who is always ready to lend a hand in helping us change our lives.

The reality, brothers and sisters, is that we live our lives in a constant state of flux, between being wheat, and salt, and light, children of God doing God’s will, and being weeds, children of the Evil One, doers of evil. It’s our wounded nature as humans; we will always be tempted by the world, the devil, and our own flesh.

But the good news is that, no matter where we find ourselves, no matter if we are the thorniest weed in the garden, we can be wheat through the grace of God. We have examples in our midst of people who are striving to live holy lives. We have the lives of people like Mary Cinquegrani, the mother of the former pastor at my parish of St. Ann Bartlett, whose love and faithfulness produced not one, but two priest sons! We have the examples of the saints, who though surrounded by a world that wanted to pull them down, succeeded in overcoming the lure of evil in their lives, and are now with God.

Wheat…or weeds? What are we right now? What do we want to be? God has a plan for us…whichever we choose to be.

As Jesus said in the Gospel:  “Whoever has ears ought to hear…”

From → Homilies

One Comment
  1. Adrienne Nalan permalink

    Just beautiful…beautifully written and perfectly to straight to the point! I love reading your homilies…I can’t wait to read some more! Keep up the good work!


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