Saturday, July 22, 2017

Separating the Wheat from the Weeds - A Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Portland Peninsula and Island Parishes

Homily for the
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Cycle A

Reverend Kyle L. Doustou
July 23, 2017

Have you ever formed a poor opinion of someone only to later discover that you were dead wrong? Have you ever judged someone harshly only to later find out that your judgment was way off? Have you ever jumped to a conclusion about a person or a situation only to fall flat on your face? The answer, of course, is yes...we have all done these things. It’s easy for us to see and focus on the imperfections of others, to zero in on their misdeeds, and to presume that we, in our own “perfection” have all the answers. And so we judge, we nitpick, we come to rash conclusions, all based usually on a mere impression or appearance. Let’s be honest with ourselves...we can be pretty terrible with our thoughts sometimes: what we think about the young mother at the grocery store buying ‘non-essentials’ with food stamps, or the over-weight man in line for ice cream, or the beggar on the street who reeks of alcohol, or our grumpy and red-faced Republican neighbor, or our open-minded but empty-headed and liberal aunt, and on and on. How we just love to point out what we think is ridiculous, unjust, or we love to malign each other and gossip about each other. How we love to cut each other down if only for a brief moment of pleasure that allows us to feel that we’re somehow better or more put together than someone else. But the sad reality is, at any given moment, we more often than not lack the full spectrum...we lack the facts...and we know it, and yet we still push forward, presuming the worst of others.

In our Gospel today, our Lord gives us a stern warning about this entire enterprise...and He does so by means of another parable. He invites us to consider a vast field of wheat in which the master has planted much good grain that is bearing good fruit. But after some time his servants notice that, alongside all this good wheat, there are many weeds...weeds that had been sown by the enemy while everyone was asleep. In their zeal and their enthusiasm, the servants ran to their master to report the problem and to ask if he’d like them to start pulling the weeds up. The master gave a quick and stern response: he warned them not to pull the weeds up because, if they did, they might uproot the wheat along with them.

For those of us who know a little bit about gardening and farming, we know that weeding – while necessary – is a delicate work. If we’re too quick and not careful, we can start pulling out or damaging our good plants. That’s why a good gardener knows his garden well...he knows what he planted and what he did not plant, he knows where he planted what he planted, and he knows when is the best time to weed and when it’s better to wait. And if this is true in a small garden, you better believe it’s even truer in a big wheat field. In a wheat field, not only is the task of weeding more daunting, it’s much more difficult because the weed that typically grows alongside wheat – called darnel or cockle – looks incredibly similar to fact, the wheat and the weeds are almost indiscernible from each other until right around harvest time, when the ripe wheat will appear brown and the darnel will appear black. Now it’s true, darnel is poisonous and can even kill you if you eat it, but if someone starts to zealously weed out the darnel before harvest time, before seeing the big picture, he runs the risk of doing huge damage to the field...he risks, because of his own ignorance and carelessness, destroying what’s good in an effort to eliminate what’s bad.

This is precisely what Jesus is warning us against. He wants us to stop ignorantly and carelessly judging the hearts of others because, without the full picture that He has, we run the risk of doing tremendous damage to them, to others, and to ourselves. Sometimes we’re so bent on the noble task of rooting out evil wherever it may be that we can start seeing it where it’s not. We presume it’s where it’s not and then we miss seeing it where it actually is. Our Lord has not recruited us to be weed-pullers...He has called us to work with Him to sow the grain and to harvest the wheat, but the weeding belongs to Him. Our lives must be spent cultivating and sowing and fertilizing and watering, but to trust that He alone is the master of the field. He is the Just Judge, Who in the end will separate the wheat from the weeds and the sheep from the goats. Our task is to make sure, in our own lives, that we are living as wheat and that we are inspiring others to do so by our witness.

So if you’re ever in the mood to start being a weed-puller, if you’ve got the urge to start pulling up weeds and eliminating evil, don’t go into town looking for your opportunity...look into the mirror, look into your own heart. What are we doing to remove the weeds, the darnel, the evil, from our own lives? And are we spending so much time looking for weeds ad extra that we are oblivious to the weeds ad intra? We have to spend more time – in God’s grace – examining our own consciences, taking our own spiritual inventories, and getting to know our own spiritual gardens well enough to know the wheat from weeds. One of the most tragic things in our world today is that so many people live unexamined lives...they don’t really think about their own thoughts, actions, and failings...and this is precisely what allows darnel to spread from our own hearts and lives into the hearts and lives of those around us. Confession lines are short...way too short...but there is no shortage of sin in each of our lives. This should tell us that we need to spend more time examining our own lives and less time examining the lives of others.

And so my friends, let us recommit ourselves to the robust living of the Christian life. Let each of us, today, here and now, make the graced-choice to be sowers of good seed. Let us rededicate ourselves to fruitful and examined living. Let us commit ourselves to going to the Sacrament of Confession regularly, to going to Mass each and every Sunday and Holy Day, to praying fervently in both thanksgiving and supplication, and to reaching out in mercy and service to those in need. We can never deny evil and we can never encourage another to pursue it, but we must know that the time and method of weeding it out is known only to the Lord of the harvest. Today we pray that He, our Christ and God, Who alone sees the field for what is truly is, will deem us worthy to be counted among his faithful stewards and among His good wheat.

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