by Rev. Jack Peterson, YA
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"
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Matthew wrote to show that Christ
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.
He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "first collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the 'birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.'"
He spoke to them another parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened." All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables. He spoke to them only in parables, to fulfill what had been said through the prophet: "I will open my mouth in parables, I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation of the world."
Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field." He said in reply, "He who sows good seed is the Son of Man, the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear."
When the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, the kingdom of God burst into our world. The first words out of Jesus’ mouth in Mark’s Gospel are: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand.” Jesus inaugurated, proclaimed and taught often about the kingdom of God.
It is true that Our Lord spoke boldly about the kingdom, but He also spoke cautiously because He knew that the people had confused hopes about a Messiah who would establish a political and military reign. Jesus had no intention of establishing an earthly kingdom. The kingdom of God that Jesus came to establish would be marked principally by His abiding presence among us, His profound love poured into our lives (thus setting us free from sin and self-absorption) and His reign over our hearts. Jesus is the king of hearts.
All three parables about the kingdom of heaven in today’s Gospel from Matthew use images from nature to speak of the growth of the kingdom. In the first parable, the kingdom is compared to good seed that a man sows in his field. In time, the crop grows and bears fruit as it was intended. However, the evil one sneaks in and plants weeds as well. Consequently, weeds grow in the field alongside the wheat. The master definitively decides not to pull up the weeds because they might pull up the wheat at the same time.
This parable addresses, if only briefly, the question of evil in this world. The presence and effects of evil are deeply frustrating to all of us, especially those who are seeking to sow good seed in our world. It is scary and disheartening to see the evil one and his helpers working hard to interfere with the work of the sower. Jesus in His great wisdom demonstrates unbounded patience, allowing wheat and weeds to grow together. The Lord does not want to tear out the smallest stalk of wheat in the effort to root out the weeds. He loves each one of us with an infinite love, and His patience with us is directed at our salvation. Jesus wants to give everyone as much time and as many chances as possible to repent. The wisdom and the patience of the Master are remarkable.
The Old Testament reading for this Sunday addresses this same issue. This passage from the book of Wisdom notes several times the power and might of God. However, because of His power and might, the Lord is patient with us wayward children: “Your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all … But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us.” Let us praise the Lord today that God is patient with us sinners and trust in the power of His grace to change our lives and make them like His own.
The second parable compares the kingdom of heaven to the mustard seed which is notably small yet grows into “the largest of plants” where the birds of the sky come to dwell in its branches. The king of hearts wants to draw all men to Himself in the church where they will find safe refuge in Him. Our efforts in the world to grow in faith and bear fruit, while living alongside the weeds, are exhausting. Like the birds of the air, we need to return often to Our Lord for refuge, to be fed and nourished, to be blessed with His very presence which is life-giving and joy-giving. We need to return regularly to the life of prayer, the grace of the sacraments, the nourishment of the Scriptures and the comfort of Christian fellowship.
The third parable given for reflection likens the kingdom of heaven to yeast which makes the whole batch of wheat flour rise. The Lord rose from the dead on the third day so that we might rise with Him. The gift of eternal life begins now for Jesus’ disciples. He sends us out into the world that we might be like leaven, raising the world up from within. We have been sent by the Lord to bring His life-giving and joy-giving truth and love into the field of the world filled with frustrating weeds. Jesus has entrusted His church with His mission to build the kingdom of heaven on earth.
Our mission of spreading the good seed is exciting and intimidating at the same time. We can find courage in knowing that He is always with us and has given us power in the Holy Spirit.
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