16th Sunday OTA

Wis 12:13, 16-19;     Rom 8:26-27;    Mt 13:24-43

A man in a supermarket was pushing a cart which contained, among other things, a screaming baby. As the man proceeded along the aisles, he kept repeating softly, “Keep calm, Thomas. Don’t get excited, Thomas. Don’t yell, Thomas.” A lady watched with admiration and then said, “You are certainly to be commended for your patience in trying to quiet little Thomas.” “Lady,” he declared, “I’M THOMAS!”

Today’s readings tell us about a very patient and compassionate God Who is hopeful that the so-called “weeds” among us will be converted, and that we should not be in a hurry to eliminate such elements from the Church or society or the family on the basis of unwarranted and hasty judgment.  The first reading gives us a picture of a merciful and patient God rather than the strict, angry and judging God presented in the book of Genesis.  The second reading reminds us that the Spirit of God goes on empowering us in our weakness, and, hence, we should be patient with ourselves.

The year was 1770, and in a small Italian church, two altar boys prepared for Benediction. Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni entered the sacristy, put on their albs, and grabbed the heavy brass candlesticks. And then they began to bicker. Arguing over who would stand on the priest’s right for the procession. Alarmed parishioners turned their heads to the back of the church to see the commotion, and that’s when it happened: Franceso cracked Della Genga over the head with his candlestick. Blood dripped out of Della Genga’s head, and both boys began pushing each other. Shocked parishioners screamed, “Throw them out! Throw them out!” So the embarrassed priest grabbed the boys, led them to the door, and tossed them out of the church. 55 years later after the candle incident these two boys who were thrown out became Popes. Della Genga who had become Pope Leo XII and  Castiglioni succeeded his friend and became Pope, taking the name Pius VIII.

Now if you told any of those pew sitters back in 1770 that they had two future-Popes in the back of their church, they’d have laughed you out of the building: “Those two boys? The ones shoving and whacking each other with candles?“ Today’s Gospel gives us the good news that God can change even weeds to wheat and that we should be patient.

Darnel seeds can’t become wheat in reality, but an evil person can become a living saint. Therefore this parable tells also why we should not treat others as “weeds,” i.e. evil or wicked. 1) Each one of us is a combination of wheat and weeds. In each of us there are elements of the Kingdom of God and elements that are deeply opposed to it. Relying on the power of God, we, too, must learn to be tolerant of the evil ones. 2) The time for judgment is not yet come because the Kingdom of God is still in the growing stage. Now is the time to expect conversion because with the help of God’s grace, sinners can change. 3) Another reason why we should avoid judgment is that we cannot draw a line which would neatly separate the good from the bad because everyone is a mixture of good and evil.

God calmly recognizes that there is evil in the world, but He sees that evil as no excuse for the good people not to do good with the power of God at their disposal.  Through the parable of the wheat and the weeds in today’s Gospel, Jesus calls us to be patient with those who fail to meet the high ethical standard expected of a Christian. The parable tries to teach the need for tolerance, patience and the acceptance of God’s judgment.

This parable indicates that there will be a separation of weeds from wheat, good from bad fish (13:47-50), and sheep from goats (25:31-46).  But this “harvest” will take place on God’s time-table not ours.  Hence, instead of asking why God allows evil to exist (terrorists, criminals, diseases, hurricanes, etc.), let us ask what God expects from us.  God wants us to take a good look into the field of our own lives to see what is growing there.  Let us work with Him to pull out the “weeds” in our own personalities.

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