St. Joseph Catholic Church - Toledo, OH

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November 6, 2016 - Homily of Fr. Cassian Folsom, O.S.B

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[Extraordinary Form - 25th Sunday after Pentecost (5th Resumed)]

The parable of the weeds among the wheat[1] poses a fundamental question: Why is there evil in the world?  If God is all-powerful, why didn't he arrange things so that there was only good? If we take a cursory look around us, if we reflect on life, it’s obvious that there’s a complex mixture of good and evil, the just and the wicked, the beautiful and the ugly.  Why?

Obviously, the householder allows things to be that way.  He says: “Let both grow together until the harvest” (Mt 13:30).  Why? If God as a plan to control the damage caused by the Enemy, what is his strategy?  There is a strategy, in fact, a three-pronged tactic which has to do with the world, the Church, and the human heart.

 

I. The World

In the world, the just and the wicked grow together.  The terrible freedom that the Lord has given us allows [us] to choose what is evil - and alas! we choose it frequently.  For the sake of argument, let’s count ourselves among the just and then ask ourselves: why does God allow the wicked to grow up alongside us?   There are various possible answers to this question.

  1. For example, the presence of the wicked provides the material we need to fulfill the Gospel command: “Love your enemies. With this commandment, we’re at the heart of the Gospel, and if we don’t take that seriously, our faith is still immature. The presence of the enemy, then, increases our capacity to love, to pardon, to suffer with it.
  2. Another reason God allows the just and the wicked to grow together has to do with persecutions.  When the good are persecuted for righteousness sake (as the sermon on the Mount puts it) then they are blessed; they learn to endure trials with patience.
  3. Yet again, the presence of the wicked can stimulate the just to good works, convinced as they are that love is stronger than hate.
  4. Finally, the fact that the good and the wicked grow together can be a great service to the wicked.  Perhaps because of the good example of the just the wicked will be converted.  After all, the LOrd says through the prophet ezekiel” “Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, says the LOrd God, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?” (Ez 18:23)

Concerning the world, then, the parable teaches us: “Let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest.”

 

II. The Church

Concerning the Church  - here also we can see that the true faith and varis heresies grow together.  Already in the New Testament there are examples of this conflict.  IN the so-called “golden age” of the Fathers, the great saints and doctors of the Church were constantly involved in the struggle against heresy.  And that struggle continues in our own day.  Why does the Lord permit this?

  1. Heresies often take one aspect of the truth and exaggerate it.  OR a heresy may genuinely try to grapple with some disputed question and arrive at a wrong conclusion. The presence of heresies in the Church can help to clarify the way we speak about the truths of the faith.  The Creed that we will sing shortly, was formulated in the Councils of Nicea and Constantinople precisely to affirm the orthodox faith against the Arian heresy.  If it weren’t for heresy, we wouldn’t have the creed, not the doctrinal clarity expressed in the Creed.
  2. Heresies can be corrected in two ways: by argument and by example.  Error can be refuted by logical argument, by reason, by the use of dialectic, by correct scriptural exegesis.  St. Augustine was converted from the Manichean heresy because of the way St.. Ambrose interpreted the Bible in his preaching.  The example of the faithful is a powerful tool.  OUr Lord says in the Gospel: “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:35).  In the story of the martyrs, we see that many pagan persecutors were converted by the example of the courage and unshakeable faith of the Christians.

Concerning the Church, then, the parable teaches us: “Let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest.”

 

III. Human Heart

The parable refers not only to the world, and to the Church, but also to the human heart, where vices and virtues grow together.  How is it, that so many good qualities and so many defects can co-exist in the same person?  Of Course, all of us need to fight to uproot our vices and cultivate virtues.  But the struggle is arduous, and progress seems so slow.  Why does the Lord permit this?

  1. First of all, the experience of our own sins can give us compassion for the weakness of others.  AS the Lord says: “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone …” (Jn 8:7).  Or as St. Paul says: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rm 3:23).  Or again, in the Letter to the Hebrews, the high priest is described as one who”has himself suffered and been tempted, and so is able to help those who are also tempted” (Heb 2:18).
  2. But there’s another reason why the Lord allows vices and virtues to grow together in our hearts.  St. John Cassian explains that the continued presence of our vices keeps us to the royal road, and forces us to stay on the narrow path between the two extremes of the flesh and the spirit.  For example, someone guilty of sexual sin can hardly become proud, because his sin forces him to be humble.  Or someone who is generous in almsgiving can’t get too puffed up and consider himself holy, when in fact his character defects make him hard to live with.  St. Paul, for example, could have boasted of his own greatness.  But the Lord gave him a thorn in his flesh to keep him from being too elated by the abundance of revelations (2 Cor 12:7-9).

Concerning the human heart, then, the parable teaches us: “Let the weeds and the wheat grow together until the harvest.”

 

Conclusion

We have repeatedly cited the householder’s words: “Let them both grow together until the harvest.”  But the text goes onto say: “At the harvest time I will tell the reapers, ‘Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’” (Mt 13:30).  The strange fellowship of good and evil in the world, in the Church and in our hearts - has the purpose of purifying the good and converting the wicked.  And in his patience, the Lord waits for our conversion.  But the day of the harvest will surely come - the day of our death - and in that moment, there will be a settling of accounts.  On that day, may the just judge find more wheat than weeds in the field of our heart!


[1] Mt 13:24-30 (Gospel of the 5th Resumed Sunday of Epiphany)

 

Last Updated on Monday, 07 November 2016 23:34  

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