16th Sunday (A)

Our Lord was an educator par excellence, who could use simple metaphors and parables to teach and make it easy for His listeners to understand the core of His message. Last Sunday we did listen to the parable of the sower, which highlighted the quality of the seed and fertility of the land. Today’s parable is about the seed that is already sprouted and weeds that have been sown by the enemy. The Gospel is speaking very emphatically about the world in which are living now. The Kingdom represents the kind of world that God, through Jesus, wants to see realized among us here on earth. We pray for it daily in the Lord’s Prayer – “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven…” And it will only come about in so far as we co-operate, work together with Jesus.

Nature of the ‘Kingdom’: is primarily an environment, it is a set of relationships; it is a situation where God’s values prevail. And what are God’s values? In practice, they are the deepest human values and aspirations as mirrored in the life of Jesus, who is himself the revelation of God to us in accessible human form. These values include truth, love, compassion, justice, a sense of solidarity with all other human beings, a sense of trust in other, a deep respect for the dignity of every other human person, a holistic concept of human growth and development. And, of course, all these are seen in the light of God, who is their Ultimate Source. It is to be like him and with him that we live according to these values. People who, individually and collectively, try to live these values belong, with Jesus, to the Kingdom of God. They are united with the rule of God in trying to build a world; we would all like to see happen. It is basically the vocation of the Church, and therefore the vocation of every parish community and of every member of that community.

Weeds and wheat: In today’s Gospel reading we have three images or parables of the Kingdom at work among us. The first is the parable of the weeds among the wheat. The Kingdom of God clearly calls for people of the highest ideals and great generosity. It also calls for a great measure of tolerance, patience and understanding in seeing the Kingdom become a reality. The conversion of our societies into Kingdom-like communities is a very gradual process. The world in which we live there is good and evil, saints and sinners, rich and poor, success and failures, joy and sorrows. I do not think of any place here on earth where there are only good people, but the ratio makes a lot of difference of one influencing the other. What is conspicuous and favorable is the compassion, mercy and the patience of God, who eagerly wait for the conversion of sinners rather than condemning them. There is great joy in heaven over one repentant sinner than the ninety nine virtuous. The parable of the lost sheep is a clear indication of the love and care the Lord has for the lost ones. I have come to call the sinners to repentance and not the just. The healthy do not need a doctor, but the sick do need.

Living side by side: The parable is saying that people who are filled with the vision and values of God and Jesus; must learn to live side by side with a whole spectrum of people who, in varying degrees, do not yet share or live this vision and these values. This applies to differences between Christians and non-Christians but also within Christian communities themselves. We are – and always will be – a sinful Church. To pretend that we are anything else is a lie. It is not the healthy who need the physician Jesus but the sinners and tax collectors. Paul recognized that struggle within himself (cf. Romans 7:21-25). So we need to learn how to be tolerant with our own weaknesses. God told Paul that it was precisely through his weaknesses that he could reveal his glory. “My power is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). The coming of the Kingdom then is not going to be a neat and tidy process. And experience again and again confirms that fact, whenever we try to bring out change and reforms in any community.

Small beginnings: The next two parables point to two other characteristics of the Kingdom. The parable of the mustard seed shows that the work of the Kingdom has tiny beginnings, whether we are talking of the fledgling Church, which Christ established or any newly established Kingdom-inspired movement today. And wherever the vision of the Kingdom becomes truly rooted, it will experience certain and inevitable growth. At its beginnings the Church, as the instrument for the building of the Kingdom, must have felt it faced a daunting task. Its tiny communities were scattered all over Asia Minor, Greece and Italy. Waves of persecution and hostility followed each other in a determined effort to wipe them out. But they prevailed as Truth, Love and Justice must in the end always prevail. Even so, the “weeds” of opposition will always be present.

An element of growth: In the third parable, the Kingdom is compared to a small amount of yeast in a large batch of dough. Its presence cannot be easily detected for it is totally blended with and part of its environment, as a good Kingdom community should be. At the same time, it has an energy of its own, which produces a remarkable influence of growth in the whole. Perhaps part of our Christian problem is that we are too exclusively concerned with the growth (or even the survival) of the Church in general or of our little corner of the Church and not sufficiently with the growth and wellbeing of the whole community to which we belong.

Opportunity for conversion and the need to possess the mind of Christ: 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). The Lord says “judge not and you shall not be judged, condemn not and you shall not be condemned,” 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.  Then we need to start treating the so called “evil ones” as Christ did. Why did he not weed out Judas who betrayed him, or Peter, who denied him? Jesus saw the “weeds” in their lives, but he saw also saw the wheat. He knew that with encouragement the wheat could prevail. It is said that patience with family is live, patience with others is respect, patience with self is confidence and patience with God is faith.