'Let Them Grow Together until Harvest' by Rev. John De Celles
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."
Sometimes Catholics wonder why Church authorities delay in correcting or disciplining Catholics who publicly oppose Church teaching. Sometimes this delay is based on misplaced caution. Sometimes it is based on cowardice. And in the case of some Church officials unfortunately, it may even be based on irresponsible cooperation with dissenters. But sometimes this type of delay is necessary, and part of God's will.
In this week's Gospel text Jesus tells us: "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed. . . .(His) enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat . . . When the crop grew . . . the weeds appeared as well." And when the man's servants wanted to pull up the weeds he replied simply: "No . . . Let them grow together until harvest."
How can it ever be acceptable to patiently let weeds grow with the wheat? St. Mathew's text gives two good reasons. First, Jesus says: "if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them." How many times do we try to accomplish something good only to have the unintended negative consequences overwhelmingly offset the good we sought to achieve?
Think back to the reaction to then-Cardinal Ratzinger's letter in June of 2003, condemning legalization of so-called "gay marriage," and reminding Catholic politicians that voting for this legalization would be "gravely immoral." The letter was intended to protect people from being misled about the Church's teaching, and ultimately to lead these politicians to repentance. But many people reacted as if Ratzinger wanted to burn people at the stake, and then take over the U.S. government.
Now, as Pope Benedict XVI, he has to overcome the effects of being slanderously labeled as a "hateful bigot." So, while this intervention by Cardinal Ratzinger was absolutely necessary - a weed that needed to be pulled immediately - we can see the importance of "prudence" in carefully discerning when, where and how to pull each particular weed.
But there is also a second reason for not immediately pulling every weed: "The kingdom of heaven is like yeast . . . mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened." In many problem cases Church officials refrain from intervention because they are waiting for us to act: while we may have to live like wheat surrounded by weeds, we also need to live as leaven in society. Think of all the papal encyclicals and homilies that have exhorted us to action, to work with our own families, friends and communities to root out the weeds around us. Is it Rome and the bishops, or is it we, who fail to act?
Some would say: but what can I do, what difference can tiny-little-me make? Again, Jesus addresses this: "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed . . . It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants." The analogies of leaven and the mustard seed are complementary: only a tiny bit of leaven is needed to raise a large loaf of bread. And every single faithful Christian, no matter how prominent or seemingly insignificant he is, can work to build up the kingdom where he is.
Finally, whenever we consider forbearance versus action, we must remember that the Lord also warns us: "(at) the end of the age . . (the) weeds are collected and . . . throw(n) into the fiery furnace." We should never confuse cowardice and timidity with prudence and charity. And in charity, guided by prudence, we must do whatever we can to be like leaven to raise up those who have fallen.
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