Homily: Weeds or Wheat

     Gospel Summary

   In today’s Gospel, Jesus uses three parables, fictitious but believable stories, to illustrate a spiritual reality and to get across His point.

   Most of those who heard Jesus were farmers and they could very easily understand that you cannot easily distinguish weeds from wheat when the plants are very small. It’s only when they’ve grown taller that the difference becomes apparent.

   But by that time, the roots are so intertwined that you can’t pull out the weeds without severely damaging the wheat. Only at the harvest can the separation be made safely.

   The spiritual reality that is being illustrated here is like the world in front of us. For Jesus, He was referring to the group of believers they knew. He was saying that it is often impossible to know for sure who may be the true and faithful followers of Jesus since we can usually judge only by appearances.

   In Jesus’ day, the Scribes and Pharisees seemed to be the most religious of all religious people, yet he rejected them for their lack of interior conversion. In particular, they thought they knew for sure who were the ‘weeds’ and who were the ‘wheat’. And they were sure that those whom they rejected were rejected by God as well. The gospels tell us that Jesus thought otherwise.

   Life Implications

   Nothing is more hazardous for us human beings than to pass judgment on the relationship of any individual with God. Even in cases of fairly obvious wrongdoing we can’t always know about special circumstances that may affect final judgment on that person’s behavior. Since you cannot sin without freedom, the degree of their culpability may be very greatly reduced.

   Many of us prefer not to listen to such reasoning like this because we want a simplistic solution to crime and to the reasons for the seemingly wrong behavior of others. We want solutions which ignore the deeper questions about who have been free enough to accept full responsibility for their actions.

   As a consequence, it is very likely that many of us more or less free and privileged people will be judged harshly because we did not sufficiently love and help those who are living in psychological or spiritual bondage.

   No doubt, Jesus has the judgmental tendencies of the Scribes and Pharisees of his time in mind when he uses this parable. Such smugly “orthodox” people are often very impatient with church authorities who do not condemn and reject less ‘virtuous’ people. They want the “weeds” torn out of the ground…and the sooner, the better.

   In fact, however, it’s not all so clear who are the “wheat” and who are the “weeds.” And those who are sure they know the difference may, like the Scribes and Pharisees, discover at harvest-time that they are totally mistaken.

   The conclusion is clear: rash judgment is a very dangerous spiritual disease. If you want to not be judged harshly yourself, don’t judge others. If you choose to disregard this spiritual warning, you may be very sadly surprised when the time of personal judgment for ourselves arrives. So, why take the chance? Give everybody the benefit of the doubt, and you can be sure that God will do the same for you when that time comes.

   And don’t worry about whether not condemning the weeds will affect the ‘harvest’. Leave it to God to tell the good from the bad, and you can be sure He will get the best from the harvest he expects. That is not up to you and me, though we are expected to help bring it about. God will save the harvest, you can be sure. He doesn’t have to depend on us to make it come out all right.

   The short parables about the mustard seed and the leaven are used to illustrate this very point about the surprising growth of goodness in the world in spite of small and unpromising beginnings. The point is that God can work through small and ordinary agents like ourselves to achieve surprising and significant results.

   We should find this truth encouraging and allow it to free us from a sense of helplessness when we look at all the problems in our world, and even in our own lives. Do what you can. And, with God, we can do more than we could ever imagine.    (Demetrius R. Dumm. O.S.B.)

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