16 Sunday of the Year A
Wis 12: 13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43
Introduction: This is a homily/Scripture reflection in a book, titled: ‘Every Week God Speaks We Respond’, Cycle A, intended to be published in the future by Reverend John Tran Binh Trong.
It was published in Vietnamese in the US 2007 and republished in Viet Nam 2010. To keep the author’s writing style, this homily has not been edited and may not be by a hired hand. However, if readers would like to point out mistake(s) in spelling and grammar and/or to suggest English phrases and expressions, it would be greatly appreciated by the author, whose English is not his mother tongue and who did not live in the US until his adulthood. Passive sentences are used intentionally in this context as to avoid using the first personal pronoun ‘I’ when applicable. That might be associated with any idea of egotism, in accord with the French saying, known as: ‘Le moi est haissable’ (The ego is detestable).
In order to help us understand the growth of the kingdom of God, Jesus used three parables to convey the idea. The parable of the mustard seed signifies small beginnings of the kingdom of God with the selection of only twelve apostles. The growth of the kingdom also starts from slow beginnings like the fermented leaven. The kingdom of God is likened to a field, in which good seed was sown: While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off (Mt 13:25).
Wheat and weeds look alike and grow side by side, but symbolize good and evil. The Bible tells us there is evil in the world, and how evil has influence on our life. Catholic faith and Catholic theology also tell us about evil spirits. Evil is the product of man's freedom given by God to his creatures: angel as well as man.
Lucifer, due to his sin of rebellion against God, was banished to the netherworld. Adam and Eve, because of their sin of disobedience, let evil to enter the world. Therefore, as long as we continue our lives on earth, we have to face both good and evil in the world and in our lives. The enemy of the heavenly kingdom is waiting for the children of light to sleep, not to be watchful as to sow weeds of sin and all kinds of vices in our lives. Under the pretext of freedom: freedom of press, freedom of speech, freedom of thought and respect for individual view, people have sown all kinds of weeds in the human society. They have spread debauched books, newspapers, magazines, motion pictures, music, video and internet as to stifle the word of God, to monopolize the vineyard of God and to corrupt the human mind and heart. Crimes against God and neighbors occur every minute, every second around the world.
Human beings have a tendency to blame the devil. When we see something bad, ugly, or sinful, we blame the devil for it. Today we must realize that not every temptation is instigated by Satan. Temptation can come from the evil tendency of our human character. That is what Saint Paul recognized when he wrote: My inner self agrees with the law of God, but I see in my body’s members, another law at war with the law of my mind (Rom 7:22-23). Saint Paul meant there are two tendencies or two laws opposing to each other in each human being.
The spirit wants to rise above, yet the flesh wants to pull us down. Evil in the world is like weeds in the field. It can cause bad influence on our lives and can harm us any time.
The effect of evil can have influence on everyone, good and bad. In order to guarantee a good harvest, the servants in today's Gospel suggest that the master allow them to pull up the weeds. Yet the master tells the servants to let the wheat and weeds grow together until harvest time when it would be easier to separate the two. The idea to let the wheat grow together with weeds until harvest time tells us something about God's patience and his tolerance of evil, which we need to learn. Perhaps sinners may have opportunity to repent and turn away from sins as the Book of Wisdom suggests today: You gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins (Wis 12:19). Some people might object to this solution of postponement. Their reason is if the Church is the means of salvation, it should root out evil. However, the time to separate good from evil thoroughly and effectively has not yet come.
The second lesson we need to learn is the time of judgment belongs to God. The third lesson we can derive from the Gospel message today is good deeds and evil ones have small beginnings. The practice of virtues must begin with easy and small ones. We need to fight small temptations first before we can expect to fight big ones. Thus, we have to be on guard against temptations.
We need to be watchful, to be vigilant, to be prayerful like the good and faithful servant waiting for his master to return, or the wise bride-maids waiting for the coming of the groom. As long as we still live in the world, we have to coexist with weeds and the wheat, with good and evil. In the Our Father, we pray today at mass, let us pray with meaning and understanding, asking the Lord to lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
A prayer for the grace to stand firm amidst weeds:
O Lord, everything you created is good.
Yet the sin of Satan, Adam and Eve turned it bad.
May I realize that as long as I am in the world
I have to coexist with weeds among the wheat
in our human society and in myself.
May those who are sowing weeds in the world
have the spirit of fear of you.
Help me to stand firm, lest I succumb to the weeds. Amen.
John Tran Binh Trong