Sixteenth Sunday, Ordinary Time
Cycle “A” – 2017
The new farmer in town’s, parish priest stopped by, one day, to bless his fields, which were overrun with WEEDS! The priest prayed, “May you and God WORK TOGETHER to make this the farm of your dreams!”
A few months later, the priest came by again. He was amazed at the progress. The weeds were gone. “Amazing!” the priest exclaimed. “Look what God and you have accomplished working together!”
“Yes, Father, the proud farmer said, “but don’t forget what the farm looked like when God was working it all by himself!”
Those of you who are gardeners are, I’m sure, familiar with MURPHY’S FIRST LAW OF GARDENING: When weeding, the BEST WAY to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant!
And, of course, there is a COROLLARY to that law: To distinguish flowers from weeds, simply pull up everything. What grows back is weeds!
Last week we dealt with the parable of the sower and we learned that different kinds of soil produce differing levels of results. Today, we are confronted with the question voiced by the farmer’s servants: “WHERE DID THE WEEDS COME FROM? AND, WHAT DO WE DO WITH THEM?”
This is the same MYSTERY that we FACE when we look at ourselves, our kids, our spouses, and our friends, and ask: “HOW can such good people still ‘screw up’ so badly?” — And the SHORT ANSWER, of course, is: IT’S THE HUMAN CONDITION! — God made us GOOD, but we’re NOT DONE yet; we’re still finding our stride; and GOD hasn’t finished the masterpiece that he’s creating with our individual lives — NOT by a long shot!
And, while that might not, (at first), sound like very good news; — “IF” we can come to terms with the fact that: WE’RE ALL STILL WORKS IN PROGRESS; then, perhaps, we can FORGET THE WORD “PERFECT” FOREVER! — Because, there is no such “animal” as: a perfect husband, a perfect wife, a perfect child, a perfect friend, or a perfect golf pro! — There is no perfect wedding, no perfect family, NO PERFECT ANYTHING – and (with the exception of God – who we are NOT) – THERE NEVER WILL BE!
So, WHAT do we DO with all those rough edges – (ALL THOSE frustrating and embarrassing “WEEDS”) that we’ve discovered in our own lives and in the lives of those around us?
Well, in a word, we should “LOOK TO JESUS,” because Jesus spent his whole life “SHOWING US” WHAT TO DO! — For example: Jesus knew that PETER was a blowhard; prone to foot-in-mouth disease; but, he also saw “SOMETHING MORE” in Peter! — And Jesus knew that JUDAS was money-hungry and a fair-whether friend, at best; but, Jesus saw SOMETHING MORE in Judas, as well! — THAT’S WHY, for three years, Jesus gave Peter and Judas TIME TO GROW, while he FOCUSED on that “SOMETHING MORE”! — For three years, Jesus walked the dusty roads of Israel with his two friends! He taught them, and modeled “God-like behavior” for them: 24/7 – and he tried to DRAW OUT the “GOOD,” that He KNEW was there! — BUT, unfortunately, even Jesus couldn’t “bat a thousand!” — With Peter, he succeeded; but, with Judas, he failed!
Today’s GOSPEL PARABLE is simply Jesus’ INVITATION to “IMITATE HIM”; and to BE PATIENT WITH those who aren’t finished yet! — (And that means EVERYONE – from Pope Francis, on down the line!) Today’s PARABLE is Jesus’ PLEA FOR PATIENCE as we struggle with our OWN weaknesses and with the weaknesses of our: spouses, kids, friends and neighbors — trying, always, (as best we can), to FOCUS on the “SOMETHING MORE” – just like JESUS did!
When asked about his philosophy of life, the much beloved and now “SAINT” Pope John XXIII said: “OBSERVE everything. IGNORE much. CORRECT little!” — In other words, rather than rush into a “weeding rampage,” we NEED TO HONESTLY and DISPASSIONATLEY ASK OURSELVES: “What really MATTERS; and what DOESN’T?” — Which MEANS that before we reach for the can of “ROUNDUP,” we need to remember that: THERE IS A GOSPEL TO BE GROWN! — And (tonight’s/this morning’s) PARABLE is JESUS REMINDER that “WEED CONTROL” can sometimes destroy MORE WHEAT than weeds!
Easier said than done, of course, because it’s HUMAN NATURE to want a “WEED-FREE WORLD”! — a world in which all wrongs are righted; all cancers are cured; and all evil is eradicated, once and for all!
BUT, Jesus also KNEW that it’s IMPOSSIBLE, for YOU and ME, to tell the difference between a person who is weed-infested; and someone who is not – because we’re ALL a MIXTURE of BOTH! — (ALL OF US possess the ability to do compassionate and good things out of love; — BUT, at the same time, (within ALL OF US), there exists – an impulse to selfishness and fear, which often controls our actions and our thoughts. — YES, we can choose to take the moral and ethical high ground; (which we often do)! — BUT we are just as capable of justifying our sometimes less demanding; more personally profitable; and self-centered actions!
FORTUNATELY FOR US, Jesus was INFECTED WITH THE IDEALIST’S HOPE that EVEN A WEED (given enough time and encouragement) MIGHT EVOLVE into a stalk of wheat! — And so he told us to: “love our enemies,” because he wanted us to KNOW that LOVING “the ENEMY” GROWS THE GOSPEL! — And, Jesus told us that, “If someone strikes us on the right cheek, then we should offer them our left cheek, as well.” — (NOT because Jesus enjoyed the thought of his followers being knocked around; but because MORE OF CHRIST grows on a turned cheek than in a clinched fist); —– always has; always will!
That’s WHY, today, JESUS gives us a BETTER WAY – a much “HOLIER WAY” – to deal with the WEEDS of life! — And this “better way” is to leave the SEPARATION of the weeds from the wheat, TO GOD; and SPEND our lives NURTURING THE GOSPEL, instead! — BY: LOVING those whose lives seem choked by weeds; by COMFORTING the confused; by SITTING PATIENTLY with the grieving; and by REACHING OUT to those who seem forgotten by all, but God, alone!
And the REAL PAYOFF IS: that when we leave judgment to God, and concentrate on the “SOMETHING MORE” in people, INSTEAD; then, people begin to “get better” — (because we’re now trying to UNDERSTAND them; because we’re now looking for the “SOMETHING MORE” in them – instead of condemning them!) — And, the TRULY “MIRACULOUS” OUTCOME OF ALL THIS is: – that BY LEAVING JUDGMENT TO GOD, and looking for the BEST IN OTHERS, instead, we’ll find OURSELVES getting BETTER too!
We’re all familiar with JOHN 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” — But the very next verse is EQUALLY IMPORTANT: “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” —— In other words, JESUS CHRIST DID NOT COME TO CONDEMN PEOPLE, BUT TO SAVE THEM. AND SO IT SHOULD BE WITH YOU and ME! — Our task (YOURS and MINE), is to LOVE the weeds of this world into wheat!