Homily August 1st, 2023 

Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time – Mt 13:36-43

Today’s Gospel presents us with the meaning of the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat. The world is filled not only with the children of the kingdom, the good, but also with people who do bad things, evil things; yet, for some reason, even though God is good, He permits this to go on. Finally, at the harvest, they will be separated, and the good will go to heaven, and the evil, to the fiery furnace. This mystery of the co-existence of good and evil and of God’s patient waiting becomes clearer if we consider what it is God does, and what it is we should do to imitate Him.

What really stands out for us here is the sort of weeds that Jesus is referring to; He uses a very specific word, ζιζάνιον (dziz-an’-ee-on). It refers to a certain sort of weed that in English we usually call tares or darnel. Those in Jesus’ time, though, had another name for it: they called it “false wheat,”[1] because, as it’s growing, there’s no way to distinguish it, to tell it apart, from the real wheat. The growing plants look almost exactly the same; even experienced farmers can’t tell them apart. It’s only when it’s fully grown that the two can be distinguished, and at that point, the difference is very clear: the wheat produces a brown grain, and the tares, a black one that’s poisonous. It’s only at the end that the truth of the plant is revealed: did it bear good fruit, or something deadly? That’s what really reveals its nature.

This leads us to our second point: how do we deal with others? There are people who do bad things in this world; there are people who do horrible things, awful thing, evil things. God knows this, and yet, He is patient and waits until the final harvest, until the decisive moment of the end of life. This can be hard to take, and, for this, we can think of the parable, and of all the work that the slaves of the household poured into that field. It’s not like they just saw the weeds and said, “Well, what’s the point? Let’s just give it up.” No: they would’ve had to care for that field, water it, chase away the animals, clean it up as best they could, in short, work, and work, not just for the good of the wheat, but also for the weeds. Earlier in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus tells us that this is the way the Father loves everyone, not just those who do good. He says, “Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust” (Mt 5:44-45). All people receive His blessings and His love, and this is the way that we have to treat even those people who do horrible things, with love and patience.

Make no mistake: we can’t approve of sin, or say that it’s ok or not sinful. However, we can love the sinner, and the best way to love them is to pray for their conversion, that, in the end, they might be wheat, and not tares. One of the greatest acts of mercy that we can perform is to show others that God loves them and wants for them to be happy, but the key to that happiness won’t be found in sin. It can’t be. That is what we must hope and pray for: the conversion of sinners. We can never give up hope for their conversion, since only in the end will the fruit be revealed. Someone who seems to be a weed might, in the end, bear wheat.

We know that God wants the conversion of everyone: “God our savior . . . wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1 Tm 2:3-4). In his biography of Saint John Vianney, the Abbe Trochu recounts the following story of the saint. “A certain Abbe Guillaumet met a lady on a train who was in deep mourning and when he said that he was going to Ars she asked, ‘Monsieur l’Abbe, will you allow me to accompany you to Ars? I may as well go there, as elsewhere. . . .  I am travelling to distract my thoughts.’ When they reached the village, the priest led the lady to a place near the church and suddenly, [John Vianney] appeared. He stopped in front of the lady in black who, following the example of the crowd, had gone down on her knees. He bent over her and whispered into her ear: ‘He is saved!’ The woman was startled and M. Vianney repeated: ‘He is saved!’ A gesture of disbelief was the only reply of the stranger. Whereupon the saint, stressing each word, repeated, ‘I tell you he is saved. He is in Purgatory, and you must pray for him. Between the parapet of the bridge and the water he had time to make an act of contrition. Our Blessed Lady obtained that grace for him. Remember the shrine that you put up in your room during the month of May? Though your husband professed to have no religion, he sometimes joined in your prayers; this merited for him the grace of repentance and pardon at the last moment.’

The next day, the lady explained to Abbe Guillaumet that she had been in black despair because of the tragic death of her husband: ‘He was an unbeliever, and my one object in life was to bring him back to God. I did not get the time. He committed suicide by drowning himself. I could only think of him as lost. Oh! Were we never again to meet? Now you hear that the Cure d’Ars told me more than once: ‘He is saved!’ So I shall meet him again in heaven. Monsieur L’Abbe, I am cured!’”

Through the intercession of Mary, Mother of Faith, let us ask for the grace of conversion of sinners, and for the grace to be patient with them, and work towards becoming perfect ourselves, just as our heavenly Father is perfect, so that we can shine like the sun for all eternity in the kingdom of our Father.

[1] Or bastard wheat. Cf. Keener, 387.



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