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Weeds Among the Wheat: Reflection on the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Mustard seed tree surrounded by wheat. Gibraltar Catholic Youth.

This Sunday’s First Reading and Gospel Reading serve as two very poignant bookends in our Liturgy of the Word. In the First Reading, we have the book of Wisdom expounding the great mercies and forgiveness of God — followed by the Psalm doing the same thing — and at the end we have the Gospel where Jesus reveals something a little different.

What Jesus reveals is what will happen to those who are unrepentant; those who wish to eternally live in a self-serving manner at all costs. But in the Gospel, we see that this last paragraph of warning comes after a list of parables about what the Kingdom of God is like.

First, what is the Kingdom of God? As Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI pointed out, like hundreds of theologians before him spanning back the centuries all the way to the beginning of Christianity, the Kingdom of God is the Church; the Body of Christ.

The first parable, then, gives us a bucket of cold water in the face: The parable of the weeds among the wheat. This parable is all about how there are “weeds” or “darnel” i.e. unrepentant worldly sinners seeking to do evil, mixed with the people of God striving for holiness in the Church, called “wheat” by Jesus (notice the connection between “wheat” and the Body of Christ in the Eucharistic sense). So there are bad people in the Church that are seeking to destroy the Church? That’s what Jesus is saying. And He’s gonna remove them, right? “Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel (weeds) and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.” He will remove them, but not yet. Till then, we need to learn to watch out for the wolves in sheep’s clothing and avoid them as He says in other passages.

After this parable we have a few more parables in sequence about the Kingdom of God, the Church.

“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the biggest shrub of all and becomes a tree so that the birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.” This one echoes how the Church began as small as twelve Apostles and grew into the largest and oldest institution in existence.

“The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour till it was leavened all through.” The Church is the yeast of the world. We interact with it and make it grow. Think about how the Church is responsible for the inception of universities, hospitals, and many other humanitarian advances and how She even continues to be the leading source of aid to those in need. Not only through money (even though no institution on earth spends more money than the Catholic Church on the poor and needy) but also in man-power, time, and resources.

After reading this, however, you might feel a little concerned about being a “weed” or “darnel” instead of being the wheat, because, after all, we all sin. This is why we are first presented with God’s forgiveness in the First Reading. We must repent of the sins we commit. God knows our fallen nature and because of it has granted us the Holy Spirit, amazing grace as they say, to dwell in our hearts and make us His children. This is what St Paul speaks of in our Second Reading. If we choose to not avail ourselves of the advocate (the Holy Spirit) and commit a sin, we can always turn back in repentance through the Sacrament of Confession and come clean to the table of the Lord to receive the Sacrament of Sacraments: The Holy Eucharist.

“O Lord, you are good and forgiving.”

See you next week on Seeking the Word!


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