16th Sunday Ordinary Time
A Homily - A Cycle - 2004-2005

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First Reading - Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Responsorial Psalm - Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Second Reading - Romans 8:26-27.
Gospel - Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30

Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

He proposed another parable to them.  "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."'"

He proposed another parable to them.  "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field.  It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.  It becomes a large bush, and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'"

He spoke to them another parable.  "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened."  All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.  He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:  "I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world."

Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.  His disciples approached him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field."  He said in reply, "He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.  The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.  Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age.  The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.  They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.  Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.  Whoever has ears ought to hear."

We might find it a bit unusual to hear a Gospel reading today that speaks of the the wheat and the weeds.  After all, such readings are more typically found in the later part of the liturgical year, closer to the Solemnity of Christ the King, right before Advent begins.  And yet, the Church gives us this gospel reading as a reminder during these summer months, when we can grow lax in our practice of the faith and prayer that we need to remain mindful of the realities that await all of us in the life of the world to come.  There are three points worth considering in our Gospel: first, the dynamic of Jesus using parables to explain the mysteries of the kingdom vis a vis His decision to explain the meaning of the parables in private to His disciples.  Second, there is the beautiful metaphor of the mustard seed and the yeast and its relationship to our personal apostolate.  And third, there is the powerful imagery of the wheat and the weeds, which forces us to consider the four last things - death, judgment, heaven and hell.

First, we consider our Lord's use of parables with His hearers and His decision to explain the parables in private to His disciples.  This image presents the Church, as represented by the disciples as the instrument for interpreting the Scriptures.  After all, Matthew tells us that our Lord spoke to the crowds in parables only but He gave the insights to the disciples, so that they could go forth to instruct the crowds about the meaning of the parables.  So, whenever, we read the Scriptures and attempt to better understand them, we must do so with reference to our Tradition.  If we do not, then we all risk becoming our own personal interpreters of the Scripture, devoid of any frame of reference or launching point.  If we participate in a Bible study that does not use the Tradition as the primary means of understanding God's word, then persons with opposing views could claim the truth and yet not both of them could be correct.  This is no way to go about living our faith.

Second, we have the imagery of the mustard seed and the yeast.  These metaphors should encourage us greatly, since they demonstrate that one need not be a well known or popular person in order to do positive apostolate in the world.  The small elements of the mustard seed and the yeast have devastatingly powerful effects.  The same can be true in our apostolate.  We may not be the most adept apologist or the most articulate individual, but we need not worry - never underestimate the power of the smallest among us.  We must also be mindful of the fact that while we should avoid all caustic and confrontational language when explaining the Faith, we cannot sit back and somehow expect people to ask about why we live the way we do.  There are those who treat the apostolate as a type of military operation, fully coordinated for a frontal assault.  On the other hand, there are those who are too passive and assume that eventually people will ask them about the secret of their happiness.  This is a very presumptuous position for it assumes that people actually find your life attractive and worthy of imitation.  So, while we must bring up the Faith wherever we are, we must do so in a way that can garner fruit.

Lastly, we are presented with the story of the wheat and the weeds.  This part of the Gospel passage forces us to consider the reality that each of us will die and be judged by God.  Clearly, not everyone goes to heaven.  In fact, the denial of hell makes Jesus into a liar!  So, in fact, persons do go to hell.  And yet, we avoid any thought of this.  How many funerals are more like canonization ceremonies?  How many eulogies somehow attempt to assure us that the deceased is somehow already in heaven and that there is little possibility that purgatory exists and that the deceased may be there and needs our prayers.  These are clear signs that we are uncomfortable with the truth and the reality of what awaits us all.  How often do we find ourselves justifying our sins to the point that we have lost all sense of sin and quickly assure grieving families that their loved one is in "a better place," in spite of the fact that they were a great sinner who probably is making reparation for those sins now.  How do we know that a person is in heaven for sure?  When truth is absent, compassion, in its truest sense, cannot be found.  Instead, we pacify ourselves with delusions and false compassion.  Thus, the parable of the wheat and the weeds reminds us that hell is a real place and people go there.  Only the perfect enter into heaven and for that reason alone, we need to pray that our beloved dead who may still languish in purgatory, receive the mercy and the compassion of God.

As we continue our journey through ordinary time, let us resolve to become better prepared for our death - that it may be a holy death, persevering to the very end.  May we not fear death but maintain a peaceful serenity, confident that as long as we live like the wheat in the landowner's field, we will be gathered into His barn on the last day.

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