Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Lectionary: 106

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.

Gardeners tell me they must tend their garden plots often. Weeds appear in a matter of days, within a week of sunshine and rain they smother vegetables and flowers. True hobbyists enjoy weeding despite the hot sun, kneeling on all fours, stiffness in the back and the effort to stand up again. It’s a necessary part of the process and if you don’t want to weed you’d best take up another hobby. The joy of gardening absorbs its challenges; we call that virtue patience.
Today’s gospel offers three parables about God’s divine patience. First there is the farmer whose fields suffered an invasive species; then the tiny, unpretentious mustard seed; and finally the yeast that disappears into dough. The farmer might have been frustrated by the appearance of weeds; someone might expect nothing of so small a seed, and the ignorant would ask, “What’s the point of adding yeast?”

In all three cases the wise know to wait patiently while the ignorant rush to judgment and wasteful, ineffective action.
These later chapters of Saint Matthew’s gospel concern the mission of the disciples and the life of the Church. The new disciple, eager to announce the Gospel and more eager to get results, will suffer endless frustration. He might go to war with certain elements of the Church when they disagree with him. They represent evil to him. Even baptized and fully engaged members with impeccable credentials suffer his interdict when they present obstacles to his success. He would weed them out of his church.

The same tyro will regard the small stuff, the mustard seed, as unimportant and unworthy of attention. The little birds – children, elderly, disabled, poor – will not find shelter in his presence; he is out there doing Great Work.
Finally, he’ll take short cuts as he kneads the community and bakes it into a communion.  He might ask, “What difference does the yeast of personal prayer make anyway? If the bread fails to rise it’s the fault of those people who shouldn’t be in my church to start with!”

These parables teach us about Divine Patience. Unlike the annual cycle of planting and harvesting, God has all the time in the world. “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” His Kingdom of Heaven will appear, but not in the foreseeable future, nor within the time I have left.
No one can know yet which members of the church are wheat and which are weeds. The wise tell us, “Call no one happy before she dies.” Likewise, call no one saved and no marriage successful before they have ended in grace. Those judgments belong to the Lord who planted the Seed of Justice in a garden just outside Jerusalem.

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.