16th Sunday of the Year, 19 July 2020
You will not be surprised that today`s Gospel reading continues on from where last Sunday`s reading finished and continues the theme of seed and sowing and, at the end of his teaching to the crowds, and before his explanation of his teaching to the disciples, we find St. Matthew recording these words: “In all this Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. This was to fufill the prophecy: `I will speak to you in parables and expound things hidden since the foundation of the world.`”
It is very clear that in our Lord`s time there were people who were very anxious that he should separate the bad from the good. We see it too in our own society – people taking the moral high ground – the dangerously self-righteous. In our Lord`s time the most notable were the Pharisees and the very name Pharisees means “the separate ones” those who were a “cut above”. It seems that even John the Baptist, the Forerunner who prepared the way for Him, expected Jesus to separate the cream from the milk, having only holy people to surround him. In Matthew 3:12 we find John the Baptist fortelling that Jesus would separate the chaff from the wheat: “He will gather his wheat into his barn; but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.” And, of course, Jesus turns the idea on its head for, always, he attracted all sorts of people to him, Jews and Gentiles, the learned, the ignorant, the good-living, the bad-living, tax-collectors, who were despised by every one, prostitutes – the lot! His Kingdom is NOT of this world and then Son of God invites ALL. His critics took the line, “What in god`s name is he doing, why doesn`t he get down to business ? Why doesn`t he weed them out ?”
As any arable farmer or keen gardener knows, weeding can be the greatest of threats to the life of young seedlings. Initially the problem is that of identifying which is which and the weeds must be left until the seedling can be clearly recognised and, even then, removing the weeds might pose an even greater threat for it might sever the seedling`s root system and in digging up or pulling out the weed the seedling might come with it.
With us human beings weeding-out is a very dangerous business. In the last hundred years we have seen Hitler`s final solution, the horrendous weeding out of six million Jews in concentration camps, Stalin`s genocides in various parts of what was the Soviet Union, the so-called ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the less well-known genocides of parts of Africa, the Rohinjha people of Myanmar and so on.
Race, religion, colour, sexuality, politics are among the ready-reckoners for identifying society`s weeds and, it seems, increasing power over nature provides new and sinister instruments for weeding out. In the unborn child, the seed of life is threatened with abortion, and at the other end of life for the old, the maimed, the incurable or burdensome comes the temptation to weed out through euthanasia. All through life we can see a kind of weeding-out going on as the handicapped are institutionalised, the delinquent penalised, the deviant ostracised and the poor patronised.
We. too, may be tempted for we can be sharp at spotting the undesirables, the troublemakers, the misfits. If God did not intervene through His grace and mercy probably many more than we know of would have been weeded out including many of those who are Saints in the Calendar. Think of St. Peter, who denied his Lord three times in the Crucifixion Crises – surely he would have been weeded out for failing the leadership test. Instead, Our Lord re-habilitates him and makes him the chief apostle. Christ our Saviour never weeded out Judas!
If we ask the question, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” The answer that Jesus give is an emphatic “No”. It is the loving Creator-God alone who has eyes sufficiently discerning and hands gentle enough for this job. Weeding out is God`s prerogative and as Fr. Antonio Pagola says: “Life would be so much better for everyone, if only we would leave the weeding to Him”.
To continue with our Lord`s parables of today`s gospel reading, we find that of the mustard seed, smallest of all the seeds which grows into a great bush. God the Father`s project for humanity has such humble beginnings in Galilee but even ow we have not fully recognised how great is its transforming force because of Jesus. We human beings keep on, it seems, committing the same horrors over and over again as though we never learn. Our faith assures us that God`s Reign is growing.
The story of the woman mixing the leaven into a large mass of flour is a wonderful reflection of the way in which Almighty God works his project of humanizing people – for to be truly human is, indeed, also to be like God. Once we allow His grace into our hearts that grace quietly transforms human history. God doesn`t act by twisting our arms or imposing enormous pressure on us, but through His grace attracts our consciences to a more worthy life, one that is more just and outreaching.
When we really trust in the word of Jesus, then the Spirit of God will continue working in us and among us, promoting solidarity, a love for truth and justice and a yearning for a happier world and heling us to collaborate with God`s project for humanity by truly following Jesus our Lord.