Father Cantalamessa on True Patience

Pontifical Household Preacher on Sunday’s Gospel

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ROME, JULY 15, 2005 (Zenit.org).- In his commentary on this Sunday’s Gospel, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, the preacher of the Pontifical Household, comments on the parable of the weeds and the good seed.

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Matthew 13:24-43
The Seed and the Weed

The kingdom of Heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; the kingdom of Heaven is like a grain of mustard seed; the kingdom of Heaven is like leaven. These three initial phrases of the parables are enough to make us understand that Jesus is talking to us about a kingdom «of Heaven» which, however, is found «on earth.»

Indeed, only on earth is there a place for weeds and growth; only on earth is there dough that needs leaven. In the final kingdom, there is nothing of all this, but only God, who will be all in all. The parable of the mustard seed that is transformed into a tree indicates the growth of the kingdom of God in history.

The parable of the leaven also indicates the growth of the kingdom, but a growth not so much in extension as in intensity; it indicates the transforming force that he possesses which can renew everything. These two last parables were easily understood by the disciples. But the first wasn’t as easily understood, the one about the weeds.

Having left the crowds, and once they went into the house, the disciples asked Jesus about it. «Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field,» they said. Jesus explained the parable. He said he was the sower, the good seed was the son of the kingdom, the weeds were the sons of the evil one, and the field was the world and the harvest was the end of the world.

The field is the world. In Christian antiquity, the Donatists resolved the matter in a simplistic manner saying that the Church was all the good, and the world was full of the sons of the evil one, who had no hope of salvation. But St. Augustine’s thought prevailed, which is that of the universal Church.

The Church herself is a field, within which seeds and weeds, the good and the wicked, grow together, a place where there is room to grow, to be converted and above all to imitate God’s patience. «The wicked exist in this world either to be converted or that through them the good may exercise patience» (St. Augustine).

The first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, also speaks of God’s patience, with the hymn to God’s strength: «But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; … And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.»

God’s patience, moreover, is not a simple patience, that is, to wait for Judgment Day and then punish with greater satisfaction. It is long-suffering, mercy and the will to save. In the kingdom of God, therefore, there is no place for impatient servants, for people who do no more than invoke God’s punishments and point out to him, every now and then, whom he must strike.

One day Jesus reproached two of his disciples who wanted fire to rain down from heaven on those who had rejected them (Luke 9:55). The same reproach might be made, perhaps, to some people who are too diligent in exacting justice, punishments and vengeance against those who keep the weeds of the world.

To us also the patience of the owner of the field is indicated as a model. We must wait for the harvest, but not like those servants who could hardly be restrained, gripping the sickle, as if anxious to see the faces of the wicked on Judgment Day. Instead, we must wait as men who make their own God’s desire that «all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth» (1 Timothy 2:4).

A call to humility and mercy, therefore, is what is gleaned from the parable of the seeds and the weeds. There is only one field from which it is licit and necessary to pull out the weeds immediately, and it is from one’s own heart!

[Italian original published in Famiglia Cristiana. Translation by ZENIT]

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