Gospel Reflection July 23 – Sr. Teresa
Sunday, July 23
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Matthew 13: 24-30
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”
Today, we have the parable of the wheat and the weeds. A word about parables: parables follow a pattern: something common or ordinary happening, a surprise, a decision, an open ending. You can be anything in the parable and actually we are, at various times in our lives, everything in the parable. In today’s parable we have the field, the owner who sows good seed, the enemy who sows bad seed, the good seed, the bad seed, the wheat, and the weeds. Taking time to look at this particular moment in your life, what or who do you most identify with?
The wheat and the weeds attracted me this time. As I look back at my formative years, I know I was encouraged to get rid of all the weeds. I was taught to really work hard at getting rid of any bad habits, faults, or sins I had. If I tried hard enough, if prayed hard enough, if I confessed them often enough then I would get rid of any “weeds” in me. That just does not work. As I have grown older, I know that we never will get rid of all the weeds but if we spend more time nourishing the good within us, of responding to the love and grace God showers us with every day – the wheat (the good) will flourish and have more power than the evil. Jesus tells us, “Let the weeds and the wheat both grow together.” Maybe Jesus was telling us that we will always have both within us and we have to decide which one we will nourish.
If we pick the parable up, we find that it contains many of the questions we have about good and evil. Questions that no answer ever satisfies. Where does evil (the weeds) come from? Who perpetuates it? Why do people do such harmful, evil things? How can people be so heartless, or merciless, so unkind and uncaring? Sometimes it feels like the world has forgotten how to care for each other; has forgotten the message of love that Jesus taught us. Evil is a mystery, and the truth is that good and evil do walk hand-in-hand with each other and it is not always easy to distinguish between the two.
That does not mean we can say it’s okay to be selfish, unkind, violent, or evil. It means that we have to have some realism and honesty about ourselves. We have to name the good in us but also own the evil in us. We can’t pretend that we are all goodness and light. We are not perfect, and we will never be perfect. Our country is not perfect and will never be perfect. Our Church is not perfect and will never be perfect. The people we love are not perfect and will never be perfect. No amount of praying will make us or others perfect. We all have that mixture of good and evil within us. I hate it when someone is always trying “to fix” me. On the other hand, I love it when my friends know my faults and my failings and love me anyway.
We still try to combat the evil in the world. We will continue to fight for justice, equity, and peace for everyone. We will continue to do all that we can to nurture the good in us, others, our world, and our Church. We will still try to leave this world a bit better than it was when we entered it.
I would like to leave you with an ancient legend that speaks to the very heart of the parable.
It is an ancient tale of two wolves and comes from the Cherokee or the Lenape people. A grandson asks his grandfather why there is evil in the world. The grandfather explains that there are two wolves fighting within us. Each of us has these two wolves fighting each other inside our heart. One is evil – it is anger, envy, greed, regret, hatred, lies, jealousy, gossip, superiority. These are all the things that turn our focus from good. The other wolf is joy, peace, love, hope, sincerity, truth, kindness, justice, compassion, generosity and all the good emotions and actions in our lives.” When he finished, he could tell his grandson was thinking. They sat in silence for a bit and then the wise Grandfather asked, “Do you understand, grandson?”
The grandson said he thought he did, but he had a question. “Grandfather, which wolf will win.” The old Cherokee did not hesitate with his answer. “The one you feed.”
Which one will you feed?
Perhaps, that is the lesson in the parable today. By giving too much attention to the weeds, we may unintentionally be feeding them. Maybe, we should spend less time always going to confess the evil things we do and spend more time using the power of grace and God’s love to feed the good within us and nurture the good in others.
ON A PERSONAL NOTE,
This is my last Gospel reflection for St. Brigid Parish. I want to thank you for the many comments you have sent over the years, and for Msgr. Hendricks’ and Deacon Frank’s occasional “shout outs” at Mass. I want to thank you for the opportunity to break open God’s word with you and my prayer is that the Gospel will continue to be a living word for you. May it always give you joy. May it always comfort you when you need comforting; challenge you when you need challenging; confront you when you need confronting. And above all may God’s Word always be a light for you in the darkness.
All for the Gospel,
Sister Teresa Tuite, OP