16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
Primarily, today’s parable is Christ’s answer to the question so frequently asked: “Why does God permit evil to triumph so often in this world, why are the wicked allowed to prosper?” The triumph of the wicked is short-lived, the reward of the Christian who suffers from their wickedness is everlasting. The very wickedness and injustices of evil-doers are one of the ways that God uses to perfect his elect. It is only on a battlefield that a true soldier can be proved.
In the parable, the weed does not destroy the wheat. It only makes it more difficult for the wheat to grow to maturity. So it is with the Christian. No one can take his faith from him, but living up to it is made more difficult by the evil influence and bad example of sinners. If some succumb to this evil influence and give up the practice of their faith, the fault is theirs. God can force no man to serve him.
The patience of the farmer in letting the weed grow on until harvest time, exemplifies the infinite mercy of God toward sinners. The weed could not change its nature, but the sinner can change his ways and God gives him every chance and every help to do this, up to his last moment of life. No sinner will be excluded from heaven because of the sins he committed but because he did not repent of these sins while he had the opportunity.
Secondly, Today’s Scriptures are especially rich in giving us God’s Word for our nourishment and strength and encouragement, especially for any of us who may be suffering or weak or discouraged — which may well include all of us in some way right here, right now, today! The coronavirus gave us many challenges, but we will not be defeated! — God’s grace and divine assistance are available to us! So we want to be encouraged today, and we want to encourage everyone around us during this challenging time! Be not afraid! — we pray today for all family members or loved ones or neighbors, or friends we haven’t met yet, and for all who most need our encouragement. That’s right — there really are no “strangers”; there are only friends we haven’t met yet.
It is most helpful to remember in tough times that anything that is right now tempting us toward discouragement, is actually a grace and a blessing in our lives. Hard to believe, but that’s right — anything these past months or even this past week that got on your nerves or hurt your feelings or dragged you down, is actually a blessing; and anything that drags you down this coming week, will also be a blessing to you. The great eighteenth-century Jesuit spiritual writer Father Caussade used to say that anything which God permits is for your good and for God’s greater glory; I have found this to be true in my own life. St. John Vianney said that even life’s most painful moments — sickness, heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal — all these are actually moments of tremendous grace and blessing, if we will accept them in faith and pray for our persecutors. Not so easy, but definitely possible with God’s grace!
Jesus tells the parable of the weeds and the wheat. Let’s apply it to our own lives. It’s a real mystery when we think about God doing such great things in our lives, while at the same time we’re so aware of obstacles and roadblocks and imperfections that appear to hinder the good that God wants to do in us.
Once upon a time, there was a holy woman, Gloria the gardener, who loved her garden, but then dandelions came along, and so she dug and she picked and she sprayed, and she even prayed, yet apparently to no avail — the dandelions kept on growing. So finally she went down to the park district office and asked the official there how to get rid of dandelions, since the parks have so many dandelions, and the official there told her, “Ma’am, I suggest you learn to love your dandelions.” Sometimes the apparent imperfections in our lives have a beauty all their own, right?
The biblical lesson for us today is: Trust in God. Repeat: Trust in God. He loves you so much; He’s perfectly worthy of our trust; who has done more for you than God has, in creating you, sustaining you, sending His Son Jesus to die and rise to forgive you, sending you His Holy Spirit to be with you always, giving you His blessed Sacrament to nourish you with the medicine of immortality in the Body and Blood of Christ? No one loves you as God loves you! — “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for a friend,” says Jesus Christ, Who is your best friend, even if you don’t think about it every day. Jesus Christ is always, always there for you, so just ask His help and you’ll receive it. And don’t forget — He has laid down His life for you, for me, for the human race. If only you or only I needed forgiveness, He would have died and risen just for you, just for me — that’s how much He loves us. But how can I trust God when my own imperfect life is filled with weeds yet lacking in wheat? It is especially the Holy Spirit, the mysterious Third Person in God, Who will help us if we let him. St. Paul says today in Romans 8, “The [Holy] Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we know not how to pray.” That passage has helped me so many times over the years, to know that the Holy Spirit really helps us to pray and to flourish, even when we feel most weak. Receiving the help of God the Holy Spirit is as easy as A, B, C: Ask for help, Believe the help is available, and Commit to receiving and sharing God’s help. At this very moment, the Holy Spirit may be helping you to trust in God your heavenly Father, or helping you to feel forgiven or to forgive an enemy, or helping you to think better thoughts, or helping you to be changed inwardly so you can improve yourself and improve your marriage, your family, your neighborhood, your work-place, your society, your world. O yes, the Holy Spirit is alive and well — all He wants is an invitation into your heart and mine, and He can change things for the better, gradually perhaps, but sometimes immediately. God the Holy Spirit is alive and well and waiting for your invitation!
Today the Book of Wisdom in chapter 12 gives us great confidence in Almighty God who is rich in mercy. We can be supremely confident in God our Father, because, as the Scripture says, God allows us to repent — He gives us time to change for the better. How great it is to be human beings! — we are not angels, who cannot repent, since they exist in a sense beyond time, and they cannot convert from sins as we can — we humans as creatures in time and space are given by Almighty God the time we need in order to convert and repent and turn back to God! What a blessing that is! When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He entered into death in order to defeat death, because soon He would rise in the victory of the Resurrection. He defeated sin and death for you and for me, by His own dying and rising. So when you are tempted toward discouragement because the weeds in your life seem to be winning over the wheat, do not despair! — the Victory of Jesus Christ is right around the corner. Trust in God! God is perfectly capable of bringing forth wheat from your weeds and mine! — but we have to be open and ask for His help: “Ask and you will receive.” Amen.
Fr. A. Francis HGN