(Saint John Fisher Church, Tarragindi: Saturday 6:00pm; Sunday 9:00am)
1/20 July 2014
(Readings: Wis 12:13, 16-19; Ps 85; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43)
As we gather in prayer [tonight] we can’t fail to recall the terrible tragedy and loss of life in the Malaysian airliner attack. We pray for the eternal repose of the souls of all who have lost their lives … and we pray for their families, loved ones and friends, and all who mourn following this dreadful event. We pray for resolutions to the conflicts in that part of the world – and indeed in any other places too – facing war and strife at this time. We think also of the continuing troubles in the Holy Land, and pray for peace there.
The first parable of Jesus that we hear in today’s Gospel has an important lesson: the wheat and the weeds grow up together. The darnel that Jesus speaks of was a weed that looked just like the wheat. I’m not a great gardener, but from the little bit of gardening I’ve done over the years, particularly when growing plants from seeds – I’ve always been amazed how certain weeds will appear that look just like what you’ve planted. You can’t tell at first, and you can’t pull them out straight away, because you’re not quite sure if it’s what you planted or if it’s a weed. You have to wait and see.
Jesus says that in this world we can expect that weeds will appear along with the plants that are meant to be growing. Alongside those who truly are trying to live the way God wants, there will be others who are blocking God’s grace. Wherever Christ makes advances, drawing souls to himself, the devil tries to thwart this goodness.
The Church herself is at once holy, and yet always in need of purification. The church never lacks problems and is wounded by the sins of her ministers and the failings of other members. Within our own hearts, even though we make progress in our human and Christian maturity, we can still suffer the weakness of sinful tendencies. —we know well that the wheat and the weeds grow up side by side.
In a sense, this situation is an example of God’s mercy. The book of wisdom in our first reading says that God is lenient to all, … governing us with great lenience … giving his sons and daughters the good hope that after sin He will grant repentance. The weeds aren’t ripped out straight away just in case they aren’t weeds at all. And while plants can’t change, people can. God grants the grace of repentance: someone might in fact be an enemy of Christ today, but after conversion and repentance, they can become one of his greatest followers. We think of Saint Paul.
There is a temptation to think that if we are following Christ, then everything in our lives should go smoothly. In fact, many people loose faith when troubles come, because they wonder how God could permit bad things to happen in the lives of good people. But to think that everything should go smoothly just because we believe in Jesus is to miss the point somewhat: and we need to hear Jesus’ words in today’s Gospel.
St Faustina, the Polish nun chosen by Jesus to promote devotion to the Divine Mercy described how her own prayer life was plagued by weeds among the wheat. She wrote in her diary: “In prayer I always find light and strength of spirit, although there are moments so trying and hurtful that it is sometimes difficult to imagine that these things can happen in a convent. Strangely, God sometimes allows them, but always in order to manifest or develop virtue in a soul. That is the reason for trials.”
It is part of life that we will experience things that are “trying and hurtful.” The wheat and the weeds co-exist. It’s good to be realistic about this.
So while it is trying and hurtful to see divisions in the church, we can realize that when we try to build unity and communion between people, the Evil One will try to damage that work. It can be very disheartening when we see priests and other leaders in the church fail, and cause great scandal by their actions. And yet, Jesus warns us that the wheat and weeds grow together. To have this realization doesn’t make the weeds any less weeds – but if we realize that the weeds will be there, we can be more realistic and courageous in facing up to challenges.
If we just think about ourselves: while we try to live good lives and do what God wants, we shouldn’t throw in the towel if we sin. We can’t just give up and say, “well clearly I’m not meant to do what’s right.” No, God permits the wheat and the weeds to co-exist for a time – so that it can be clear which are truly the wheat – and so that the wheat may triumph, and the darnel, the weeds, safely removed at the end and destroyed.
As St Faustina suggests, God allows these trying and hurtful things to show or develop virtue in a soul. When we see what appears to be weeds, when we see what appears to be wrong, we can choose all the more to live as God wants. And I think one very practical application of this is that if God is patient enough to allow the wheat and the weeds to co-exist, we need to show a certain leniency, mildness and mercy as well.
This means a certain patience to ourselves – not to be overwhelmed by disappointment when we sin and fail – but to open ourselves to God’s mercy and forgiveness, and to try again. And this patience needs to be extended to others too. If we grant to ourselves the possibility of repentance, we need to allow others this possibility too.
As we worship God today, and receive Jesus who brings us God’s mercy, may God turn and take pity on us, and may He help us to become more and more people of mercy and compassion, as He is.