XVI Sunday of Ordinary Time – Year A – July 23, 2017
Wis 12: 13, 16-19; Ps 86; Rm 8: 26-27; Mt 13: 24-43
Gen 4, 1-9; Rm 3 29-31; Lk 13, 22-30
VII Sunday after Pentecost
1) The growth of the Kingdom.
This Sunday’s Gospel makes us meditate on three parables: that of the wheat and the weeds, that of the mustard grain, and that of the yeast.
These three parables tell of the love with which God cares for all things, and of the amazing Divine initiative that with “justice” and “mildness” holds the life of man in the palm of its hand. The Kingdom of Heaven always comes, wins, and establishes itself if, humbly , man allows to be led by God who gives his children the “good hope” that makes the human heart, albeit small, able to contain all Grace and to tend to the heavenly Kingdom.
To describe the Kingdom of Heaven, Jesus presents us with three stories that share the word “grow”: the good grain and the weeds “grown” together to be separate at a later time, the mustard grain “grows” to become a great tree, and the yeast in the flour makes the mass of the dough “grow”.
Therefore, one of the characteristics of the Kingdom of Heaven is not to be static but dynamic, destined to “grow” every day and in every circumstance.
The parable of the mustard grain that becomes a tree indicates the “growth” of the Kingdom of God on earth. On the mouth of Jesus this was also a daring prophecy. Who could imagine, less than two thousand years ago, that the gospel preached in villages unknown to the rest of the world to a poor, uneducated and employed in humble jobs people, would soon have conquered the world? Even the parable of the yeast in the flour indicates the “growth” of the Kingdom, intended not as becoming bigger but as becoming more intense. It shows the transforming force of the Gospel that, as yeast, makes the flour “grow” and prepares it to become bread.
These two parables were easily understood by the disciples, not so the third one. Jesus was compelled to explain the parable of the wheat and the weeds. The sower – the Messiah said – was himself, the children of the kingdom are the good seed, the children of evil are the weeds, the field is the world and the Church, the part of the saved world, and the harvest is the end of the world when “the righteous will shine like the sun in the Kingdom of their Father”. Gregory Palamas comments: “The servants of the Father realized that there were weeds in the field, and that the ungodly and the bad were mixed with the good and lived with them, even in the Church of Christ. They said to the Lord, ‘Do you want us to go to collect the weeds?’, In other words, ‘that we remove these people from the earth by making them die?’ … Over time, many ungodly and sinners, living together with pious and just men, arrive to the point of repenting and converting; they put themselves in the school of piety and virtue, stop being weeds and become grain. So the angels, grasping such men before they could repent, could have had the chance to eradicate the grain while picking the weeds. Moreover, there have often been men of good will among the children and the offspring of the bad ones. For this reason, the one who knows everything before it happens does not allow the weeds to be eradicated before the appropriate time “(Homily 27, PG 151, 345-353). Therefore, if we want to be saved from punishment at the end of the world and inherit the eternal Kingdom of God, we must be grain and not weed, refraining from any vain or bad word, practicing the various virtues and producing real fruits of penance. In this way, we will become worthy of the heavenly granary and we will be called the children of the Father, the Most High. Then, happy and glorious of divine glory, we will enter as heirs into the heavenly Kingdom.
2) The Patience of God.
I believe that the most important theme of the parable is the patience of God. The liturgy of this Sunday emphasizes it with the choice of the first reading that is a hymn to the power of God, manifested in the form of patience: “You are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. 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 “(Wis 12: 16-19).
God’s patience is not a mere waiting, it is longing, mercy, will to save. “Do you not know that God’s patience drives you to conversion?” (Rm 2, 4). He is really “A God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity ” (Ps 86, the psalm of today’s Mass).
Therefore, in the Kingdom of God there is no place for impatient servants who know only to invoke the punishments of God and to point out those to strike. Jesus one day rebuked two disciples asking him to bring fire from the sky on those who refused them.
Imitating God’s patience does imply that we must wait for the harvest and not be like those servant, who must be retained because they are ready to act with the sickle in their fist, as if we were anxious to see the face of the wicked on the Day of Judgment.
This patience does not even imply that we must fold our arms and do nothing, but that we must work with the commitment to change ourselves and, as far as possible the others, from weeds into good grain. This world, then, will hear the beginning prayer of today’s Mass:” Father, always let the strength and patience of your love support us; let your word, seed and yeast of the Church, be fruitful in us so that the hope of seeing grow the new humanity, that the Lord upon his return will make shine like the sun in your kingdom, may be rekindled.”(Collect of the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A).
3) Virginity and patience.
We are all fruit of God’s merciful patience. In it we were born, guarded, accompanied. In his patience we have come to know our deceived heart’s unfathomable possibilities of evil, and the infinite possibilities of love of the same heart filled with the Holy Spirit.
Christ is the “highest sign” of the patience of God, who first is patient, constant, and faithful to his love for us. He is the real patient “farmer” of the history.
From the tower of Babel on, too many times men have tried to build the world alone, without or against God. The result was always against man.
Patient perseverance in the construction of history, both at personal and community level, does not identify with the traditional virtue of prudence, which we certainly need, but it is something bigger and more complex and, at the same time, something humble and simple.
With persevering fidelity to their “wows”, the consecrated virgins testify that, being constant and patient in living the vocation to virginity, they contribute to build the history of the world. Only building on Him and with Him the construction is well founded, not exploited for ideological purposes but truly worthy of man.
The simple life of these consecrated women is a response to the call to humility and mercy that emerges from the parable of the wheat and weeds, and a testimony that we all can put it into practice every day. Consecrated virginity makes these women the brides of Christ, whose patient and merciful love is reflected in their persons and in their lives. They are the fertile ground that welcomes Jesus Christ, who was grain without weeds. He is the grain of wheat that one day fell to the ground, died and was buried. In the Eucharist, that grain, which has become bread, comes to us to make us virginally consecrated” wheat of God”.
Saint John Chrysostome (344/354 – 407)
Homily XLVI on Mt 13
“Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field. But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares. So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it tares? He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. Let both therefore grow together until the harvest.”1
What is the difference between this, and the parable before it? There He speaks of them that have not at all holden with Him, but have started aside, and have thrown away the seed; but here He means the societies of the heretics. For in order that not even this might disturb His disciples, He foretells it also, after having taught them why He speaks in parables. The former parable then means their not receiving Him; this, their receiving corrupters. For indeed this also is a part of the devil’s craft, by the side of the truth always to bring in error, painting thereon many resemblances, so as easily to cheat the deceivable. Therefore He calls it not any other seed, but tares; which in appearance are somewhat like wheat. Then He mentions also the manner of his device. For “while men slept,” saith He. It is no small danger, which He hereby suspends over our rulers, to whom especially is entrusted the keeping of the field; and not the rulers only, but the subjects too. And He signifies also that the error comes after the truth, which the actual event testifies. For so after the prophets, were the false prophets; and after the apostles, the false apostles; and after Christ, Antichrist For unless the devil see what to imitate, or against whom to plot, he neither attempts, nor knows how. Now then also, having seen that “one brought forth a hundred, another sixty, another thirty,” he proceeds after that another way. That is, not having been able to carry away what had taken root, nor to choke, nor to scorch it up, he conspires against it by another craft, privily casting in his own inventions. And what difference is there, one may say, between them that sleep, and them that resemble the wayside? That in the latter case he immediately caught it away; yea, he suffered it not even to take root; but here more of his craft was needed. And these things Christ saith, instructing us to be always wakeful. For, saith He, though thou quite escape those harms, there is yet another harm. For as in those instances “the wayside,” and “the rock,” and “the thorns,” so here again sleep occasions our ruin; so that there is need of continual watchfulness. Wherefore He also said, “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.”2 Something like this took place even at the beginning. Many of the prelates, I mean, bringing into the churches wicked men, disguised heresiarchs, gave great facility to the laying that kind of snare. For the devil needs not even to take any trouble, when he hath once planted them among us. And how is it possible not to sleep? One may say. Indeed, as to natural sleep, it is not possible; but as to that of our moral faculty, it is possible. Wherefore Paul also said, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith.”3 After this He points out the thing to be superfluous too, not hurtful only; in that, after the land hath been tilled, and these is no need of anything, then this enemy sows again; as the heretics also do, who for no other cause than vainglory inject their proper venom. And not by this only, but by what follows likewise, He depicts exactly all their acting. For, “When the blade was sprung up, saith He, “and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also;” which kind of thing these men also do. For at the beginning they disguise themselves; but when they have gained much confidence, and some one imparts to them the teaching of the word, then they pour out their poison. But wherefore doth He bring in the servants, telling what hath been done? That He may pronounce it wrong to slay them. And He calls him “an enemy,” because of his harm done to men. For although the despite is against us, in its origin it sprang from his enmity, not to us, but to God. Whence it is manifest, that God loves us more than we love ourselves. And see from another thing also, the malicious craft of the devil. For he did not sow before this, because he had nothing to destroy, but when all had been fulfilled, that he might defeat the diligence of the Husbandman; in such enmity against Him did he constantly act. And mark also the affection of the servants. I mean, what haste they are in at once to root up the tares, even though they do it indiscreetly; which shows their anxiety for the crop, and that they are looking to one thing only, not to the punishment of that enemy, but to the preservation of the seed sown. For of course this other is not the urgent consideration. Wherefore how they may for the present extirpate the mischief, this is their object. And not even this do they seek absolutely, for they trust not themselves with it, but await the Master’s decision, saying, “Wilt Thou?” What then doth the Master? He forbids them, saying, “Lest haply ye root up the wheat with them.” And this He said, to hinder wars from arising, and blood and slaughter. For it is not right to put a heretic to death, since an implacable war would be brought into the world. By these two reasons then He restrains them; one, that the wheat be not hurt; another, that punishment will surely overtake them, if incurably diseased. Wherefore, if thou wouldest have them punished, yet without harm to the wheat, I bid thee wait for the proper season. But what means, “Lest ye root up the wheat with them?” Either He means this, If ye are to take up arms, and to kill the heretics, many of the saints also must needs be overthrown with them; or that of the very tares it is likely that many may change and become wheat. If therefore ye root them up beforehand, ye injure that which is to become wheat, slaying some, in whom there is yet room for change and improvement. He doth not therefore forbid our checking heretics, and stopping their mouths, and taking away their freedom of speech, and breaking up their assemblies and confederacies, but our killing and slaying them. But mark thou His gentleness, how He not only gives sentence and forbids, but sets down reasons. What then, if the tares should remain until the end? “Then I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them.”4 He again reminds them of John’s words,5 introducing Him as judge; and He saith, So long as they stand by the wheat, we must spare them, for it is possible for them even to become wheat but when they have departed, having profiled nothing, then of necessity the inexorable punishment will overtake them. “For I will say to the reapers,” saith He, “Gather ye together first the tares.” Why, “first?” That these may not be alarmed, as though the wheat were carried off with them. “And bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”6 2. “Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The Kingdom of Heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed.”7 That is, since He had said, that of the crop three parts are lost, and but one saved, and in the very part again which is saved so great damage ensues; lest they should say, “And who, and how many will be the faithful?” this fear again He removes, by the parable of the mustard seed leading them on to belief, and signifying that in any case the gospel8 shall be spread abroad. Therefore He brought forward the similitude of this herb, which has a very strong resemblance to the subject in hand; “Which indeed is the least,” He saith, “of all seeds, but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.”9 Thus He meant to set forth the most decisive sign of its greatness. “Even so then shall it be with respect to the gospel too,” saith He. Yea, for His disciples were weakest of all, and least of all; but nevertheless, because of the great power that was in them, It hath been unfolded10 in every part of the world. After this He adds the leaven to this similitude, saying, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures ofmeal, until the whole was leavened.”11 For as this converts the large quantity of meal into its own quality,12 even so shall ye convert the whole world. 1 [The citation agrees exactly with the Received text; ou`n is however inserted in verse 30, against nearly all our New Testament authorities. In several minor variations the text differs from that of Tischendorf and other recent editors.—R.] 2 Mt 10,22. 3 1Co 16,13. 4 Mt 13,30. 5 Mt 3,12. 6 [mou is omitted from the text of the Homily.—R.] 7 Mt 13,31. [R. V., “set he before them,” etc.] 8 khvrugma). 9 Mt 13,31-32. [R V., “is less than all,” “is greaterthan.”] 10 ejxhplwvqh). 11 Mt 13,33. [e[kruyen (see (Luke xiii. 21) is the reading here, and in the comment. Our best New Testament Mss. read ejnevkruyen.—R.] 12 ijscu;n).