16th Ordinary – Year C – July 20, 2008 – There Are Hope For Sinners!
Bottom line:It’s not only the young people who are targeted in today’s gospel. All of us are vulnerable because our modern society is encouraging us to make our own judgments. As a result we see what is happening: divorce, broken families, gambling, pornography and all sorts of “bad seeds” are being planted all around us.
Father Martino Nguyễn Bá Thông (St. Anne Catholic Church – Columbus, GA)
16th Ordinary – Year A (2008) – firstname.lastname@example.org
|Wisdom 12:13, 16-19||Romans 8:26-27||Matthew 13:24-43|
There Are Hope for Sinners!
I’d don’t know about you, but I find today’s readings comforting. Not comforting in the sense of relaxing, but that they give hope. The Psalms describes God as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.” In the first reading, Solomon says that God has given his children good ground to hope that he would permit repentance – a change of life. And St. Paul speaks about how God comes to the aid of our weakness because “we do not know how to pray as we ought.” But his Spirit prays within us. Remember that when you feel like you are spinning your wheels. Your prayer time is never wasted – the Spirit prays within you.
In the Gospel Jesus gives further grounds for hope. Sometimes people get discouraged because, as they say, “the church is full of hypocrites.” Wouldn’t it be better if we could get rid of certain people. When we start thinking that way, Jesus says, “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat. Let them grow together until harvest.” To mix metaphors a bit: There is a difference between protecting the flock from wolves and growing a weed-free garden. I’m glad – relieved – that I don’t have the job of pulling out weeds.
Today’s parable is the kind can leave many of us with the thought, “So, what does that have to do with me? I don’t sow weeds or wheat, so I’m not included in the message. Well, that’s not really true because when we examine this parable it is easy to determine that Jesus is not only talking about seeds of grain, but he also talks about the seeds of doubt, seeds of evil, seeds of sin and on and on. In our society, are others sowing seeds of doubt in our minds? Is Jesus speaking to us, this morning? I think of the young people. You come to Mass and, possibly, when you hear a gospel like this one, the little dial goes off in your head that says, “This is not for me. I don’t plant seeds and nobody is going to ruin my crop.” What if we change the setting from a farmer’s field to the field of behavior? Are we being bombarded with seeds of drugs and alcohol, of sins against the 6th and 9th commandments, of gossip and self center? As you listen to the modern rock music, MTV, see the modern movies and television shows, are you hearing messages encouraging you to forget about the Commandments and, possibly, the advice of your parents, your Church and for many times what Fr. Martino have to say at every Sunday mass! I bet you can repeatedly listen to a song or watch a movie many times and remember the words, but you get sick when hearing the same homily for two weeks and cannot remember what I said in the homily a day later. (Story about a priest preached the same homily and people went to the Bishop. The Bishop asked them what the priest said, and they cannot remember! The Bishop then said “Let the priest preach one more time!) You will forget that your Mom and Dad tell you to avoid drugs and alcohol but others may be encouraging you to “follow the crowd, have fun.” Yes, my dear brothers and sisters, there may be others who are sowing “bad seeds” in your life and you allow them to sow those bad seeds.It’s not only the young people who are targeted in today’s gospel.
All of us are vulnerable because our modern society is encouraging us to make our own judgments. As a result we see what is happening: divorce, broken families, gambling, pornography and all sorts of “bad seeds” are being planted all around us.
Those of us who are older also face problems by allowing the “weeds” to creep into our lives and our marriages. Again, alcohol, drugs, pornography and gambling are “weeds’ that can ruin one’s life. Whether we are a teenager, a young adult, middle aged or a senior citizen, we have to make up our own minds. No one can live our lives for us. But for the thousands of years that mankind has been on this earth, nothing has really changed. We all can recognize the “weeds” in our behavior. And, if we are to be truly happy, we have to get rid of them or our personal “harvest” will not be that fruitful as we want it to be.
In conversation recently with a young man, I learned that he was indifferent about fulfilling the commandments, by, for example, worshipping at Mass on Sundays, or shunning fornication because, as he said, “I believe that God takes you anyway.” He believes that everyone goes to heaven, and so also believes that he can do as he pleases. The Catechism teaches: “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.” (CCC 1033)
In today’s Gospel according to St. Matthew, Christ teaches us about the eternal effect of our choices. The farmer lets the weeds and the wheat grow together until harvest, “then at harvest time I will order the harvesters, First collect the weeds and bundle them up to burn, then gather the wheat into my barn.” The young man I spoke to is sadly mistaken. The life he is leading ends in death. Among the good seeds sown by a farmer, “his enemy” sowed some weeds. Only at harvest time could the good and the bad be separated. That is our hope! That God does not KILL our evil immediate, but give us time to change! To be better! As we live in the midst of good and bad, we are to sow love; to mix the yeast with the flour; to build up the kingdom of heaven we spread love until love touches everyone. And, like the smallest of seeds, our love grows, multiplies, and spreads. Until everyone can come and rest in the branches made of love.
Fr. Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong