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We’d best wait

First slide

Gospel commentary for Sunday, July 23

 MT 13:24-43

How patient do we want God to be with us? Perhaps each person must answer such a question for himself. But it would seem best to ask for as much patience as possible for ourselves and for everyone else.

The parables of this Sunday’s Gospel speak of some characteristics of the Kingdom of God, and therefore, they speak about God Himself. The Kingdom starts small but becomes big, welcoming people from every time and place. The Kingdom is built up by the gifts and contributions of each individual. The characteristic of the Kingdom most emphasized this Sunday, though, is the fact that God is willing to be very patient with the presence of evil in the Kingdom here on earth before, finally, He exercises His righteous justice against it.

Of the three parables we pray this week, the disciples themselves ask specifically for Jesus to explain the one about the weeds growing beside the wheat. Their curiosity has provided us with a helpful and plain explanation by Jesus the Master Teacher of this perplexing circumstance, the reality of evil and the best way to respond. It is important to note that this parable doesn’t teach everything that we might do when we find evil around us. Instead, Jesus is teaching when God will do what He will do about it.

The parable describes the unhappy discovery of large amounts of weeds in the wheat field. It is expected that there would be some weeds but the great number of them indicates to the farmer the intervention of an enemy. While the laborers were asleep someone else came to sow bad seed in the field. One can imagine the discouragement of the ones who worked hard sowing the good seeds — and their anger. How did this happen? Who would do such a thing? Come to think of it, where does one get seeds for weeds? Clearly a dedicated and devious enemy has been hard at work to undermine and diminish the fruitfulness of the crop.

Applying just this part of the story to our world is a challenge. When do we ever see a place or a situation that is totally good? We would like to, but we rarely do. We are accustomed, maybe too accustomed, to expecting to find a mixture of evil in things and in people. A worthwhile prayer opening could be to pray about the response in the parable of the ones who discover weeds where only wheat was planted.

The slaves in the parable want to uproot the weeds right away. The Master counsels patience. The weeds and wheat are already growing in the same soil with roots intertwined in such a way that pulling up one might pull up the other. The weeds and the wheat are either indistinguishable at this stage or they are too close to one another. The only thing to do is to wait. Did the slaves welcome this decision? Even if not, they would have understood the truth of it.

Back in the house after dismissing the crowds, Jesus responds to His disciples’ questions, the same ones, no doubt, the slaves had. Who are you talking about? Shouldn’t we attack and conquer what is evil? Will the evil ones be punished? In His explanation Jesus says something very interesting that needs to be noticed to understand the parable: in this parable (unlike the one we heard last Sunday) the seeds are an allegory for people. If we can imagine a field of good people growing up when suddenly there appears among them evil people, evil people who are willing to lead the good ones astray too. Knowing what we know about our ability to judge the hearts, minds, and motives of other people helps us understand that it would certainly not be our place to begin the harvest prematurely. The parable doesn’t give us any responsibility for accomplishing the harvest. Instead, angels are sent, when it is time, to do the work for the Master. At that time, whenever that time comes, the separation will take place and the evil ones will be punished, the good rewarded.

All things considered, it is consoling to think of God’s patience. After all, He knows how to accomplish what no farmer or farmhand at Kingdom Farms could do. He is actively and always at work to bring about the transformation of weeds into wheat — and to prevent the sadness of wheat becoming weeds. May His harvest be abundant.

Fr. Zuberbueler is pastor of St. Anthony of Padua Church in Falls Church.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2017