By Archbishop Francesco Follo

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A – July 19, 2020

Roman rite

Wis 12,13.16-19; Ps 86; Rom 8,26-27; Mt 13.24-43

Ambrosian rite

6th Sunday after Pentecost

Ex 33.18-34.10; Ps 76 (77); 1Cor 3,5-11; Lk 6,20-31

1) The Kingdom governed by the love of God, powerful and provident.

The passage taken from the book of Wisdom (12,13.16-19) and proposed as the first reading of today’s Mass recalls the providential power of God-Love. He exercises his power with patient gentleness combining it with indulgent, gentle, and slow to anger clemency. Thanks to this “slowness”, God distinguishes himself from all the other ancient divinities and also from the powerful of this world who exercise their power without the “moderation” of love but with the violence of strength and not of true love, which is always delicate. Furthermore, according to the author of the book of Wisdom, the people of God should behave like his God being friend of men. Furthermore, it should always remember that, however sinful, one always can count on divine mercy.

In the Second Reading taken from the letter of St. Paul the Apostle to the Romans (8,26-27), we are reminded that alone and without prayer we are unable to achieve the salvation offered to us by mercy. The Spirit, who is in us through baptism, helps us to formulate the right prayer, which is according to God, that is, according to his plan of salvation and has as its object our own salvation.

The parable of the good wheat and the weeds[1], as well as that of the mustard seed and that of the yeast in the dough, that we read in today’s Gospel (Mt 13.24-43), speak to us of the Kingdom governed by the patient and loving power of God. The Kingdom of Heaven means the lordship of God, and this implies that his will must be taken as the guiding criterion of our existence.

The red thread of today’s three parables is the Kingdom of Heaven. Here, as in the other moments in which Christ uses the word “heavens”, this word not only indicates the height above us, but indicates those infinite spaces typical of man’s interiority. In addition, the Redeemer speaks of the Kingdom of Heaven as a field of wheat to make us teach that something small and hidden is sown within us that, however, possesses an irrepressible life force. If received with love, the seed will develop despite the difficulties and will bear much fruit.

This fruit will be good only if the soil of life has been cultivated according to the divine will. For this reason, in the parable of the good wheat and the weeds (Mt 13,24-30), Jesus warns us that, after the sowing done by the master “while everyone slept”, “his enemy” intervened and sowed the weeds. This means that we must be ready to keep the grace received on the day of Baptism, continuing to nourish our faith in the Lord that prevents evil from taking root. St. Augustine, commenting on this parable, observes that ” many are at first tares but then become good grain” and adds “if these, when they are wicked, are not endured with patience, they would not attain their praiseworthy transformation” ( Quaest. Septend. In Ev. Sec. Matth., 12, 4: PL 35, 1371).

The presence of the weeds in the wheat field – even if the servants show that they are surprised – is still not actually the most unexpected and surprising feature of the parable. So much so that to the servants who ask for explanations, the master simply replies: “The enemy has done this.” Nor unexpected is the claim that at the time of the harvest wheat and weeds will be carefully separated: the wheat collected in the barn and the weeds thrown into the fire. The amazement of the listener – amazement which, as often happens, indicates the point on which to focus – lies in the fact that now the weeds should not be torn, but rather left to grow together with the wheat until the time of the harvest, otherwise there is a risk – the owner adds ironically – to rip the grain and leave the weeds.

Jesus does not separate himself from sinners but goes to them (to us); he does not abandon them but forgives them. Let us welcome Him, infinite goodness, and before trying to eradicate the weeds in others, let us strive to remove them from our hearts “taking advantage” of the patience of God.

Indeed, in the parable of the wheat and the weeds, Jesus denounces our purging haste. Good wheat and weeds grow together. What should the farmer do? Separate wheat from weeds before the harvest? No, the Lord replies. When the opportune time comes (the kairòs), the good wheat will be separated from the weeds. The fact is, we struggle to accept God’s patient wisdom. We are impatient. We would immediately like to put the good guys on one side and the bad guys on the other, our place being – in our opinion evidently – among the first.

2) Patience, loyalty, trust.

The center of the parable is here, in this merciful patience of God, in this – strange for us – waiting policy. But this passage of the Gospel is not only an invitation to patience, it is also an invitation to faithfulness. Christ clearly explains that true justice will come at the end of time. Until then we must live with the weeds, avoiding for the good wheat to be damaged in some way. If this indicates loyalty to the good grain that feeds us, patience is indicated by the fact that whoever represents the weeds must be tolerated to the end, hoping that he will convert. We leave it up to God to judge. It is not for us to do justice, but to testify in charity, praying that our faith may be increased.

It is our faith that must continually be confirmed and grow. Any indecision can be risky and allows the enemy to throw the bad seeds even in the best cultivated field. The Lord himself warns us: “while all men slept (…)”. This is a warning for everyone and not just for those who must watch over the integrity of the field. Watch must be done even when there it seems to be no danger. The weeds, in fact, appear only after they have grown and when uprooting them can be dangerous for the grain itself. It is a clear invitation to provident wisdom.

Furthermore, the parable of the weeds is a message of trust for the disciples of then and today. Even if there is the presence of evil in the world, God is already carrying out his work of salvation. Through the preaching of Jesus, God spreads and makes the good seed grow in the hearts of all men until the end of the world when God will separate the righteous from the wicked. The time when the Word seems to suffocate because of the action of the enemy is the time of God’s saving patience.

Only God judges: we believers must imitate the goodness of the Savior and pray for the sinner to convert. To pray means to ask in charity for the final harvest in which good will triumph over evil. To pray is to unite with God, rich in mercy, who tries to bring the lost sheep back into the fold. To pray to God is to trust in the proclamation of the Word that persists in the evil of the world. Finally, to pray is to let ourselves be penetrated by the Spirit “who comes to help our weaknesses” (Rom 8:26).

Even in today’s second parable of today’s Gospel (Mt 13: 31-32), Jesus strongly invites us to trust in his activity: He has overcome death and sin, and, establishing the kingdom with His preaching and His presence, makes us partakers of divine life.

The third parable (13.33) is similar to the second one. In it, Jesus underlines the disproportion between the pinch of yeast with which the woman kneads the flour, and the enormous quantity of leavened dough that derives from it. This comparison explains the activity of the Son of God that appears irrelevant to human eyes of that time as to those of today, and the silent and spectacular force with which God transforms the world and saves man. The yeast, therefore, represents the strength of the Gospel, which, although hidden and silent in the eyes of history, ferments in the hearts of the believers until the end of the centuries.

For the Word of Jesus to ferment in our hearts, we must be available to listen to him meditating on Sacred Scripture daily and assiduously participating in the sacraments. In conclusion in the “field” of our soul.

3) The soil of our heart.

Our heart is a small lump of earth, where the good seed has been sown, but that is besieged by the weeds.

With our unkind way towards others and towards ourselves, we would like to immediately tear away everything that is immature, wrong, childish, and bad. The Lord says: be patient, do not act violently, because your heart is capable of great things only if it is mild and humble and not if it has great immediate reactions.

Let us put ourselves on the road on which God acts and let us adopt his way of acting. To win the night He lights up the morning, to make the field bloom he throws infinite seeds of life, to let the still flour leaven he put a pinch of yeast in it. It is the Sower of love who takes upon himself the sin to transfigure the sinner and does not destroy the old man to build the new man but he redeems him.

The consecrated virgins in the world show that the important thing is to look at life as God looks at it. The servants see above all the weeds, the negative, the danger. Christ and the consecrated persons fix their gaze on the good wheat while the weeds are secondary. With their dedication to Christ they show that we are not created in the image of the Enemy and his night, but in the image of the Creator and his day. No human being coincides with his sin or his shadows. But if we do not see the light in us, we will not see it in anyone. These women do not concern themselves first of all with the weeds, the defects, and the weaknesses, but with the cultivation of a profound veneration for the strengths of kindness, generosity, attention, welcome, and freedom that God gives them through their vocation. In my opinion, they embody the message of today’s parable: they venerate the life that God has placed in them and they protect it in themselves and in others. With constant prayer they think of the good wheat, they love the germs of life given by God, they guard every good shoot, they are indulgent with all creatures and with themselves. Let us take them as an example and our whole being will flourish in the light.

Patristic Reading

From the beginning of a letter to the Magnesians by Saint Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr (Nn. 1, 1-5, 2: Funk 1, 191-195

We should be Christians in deeds, as well as in name

Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to the church at Magnesia on the Meander, a church blessed with the grace of God the Father in Christ Jesus, our Savior, in whom I salute you. I send you every good wish in God the Father and in Jesus Christ. I was delighted to hear of your love of God, so well-ordered and devout, and so I decided to address you in the faith of Jesus Christ. Honored as I am with a name of the greatest splendor, though I am still in chains I sing with the praises of the churches, and pray that they be united with the flesh and the spirit of Jesus Christ, who is our eternal life; a union in faith and love, to which nothing must be preferred; and above all a union with Jesus and the Father, for if in him we endure all the power of the prince of this world, and escape unharmed, we shall make our way to God. I have had the honor of seeing you in the person of Damas your bishop, a man of God, and in the persons of your worthy presbyters, Bassus and Apollonius, and my fellow-servant, the deacon Zotion; may I continue to take delight in him for he is obedient to the bishop as to the grace of God, and to the presbyters as to the law of Jesus Christ. Now it hardly becomes you to presume on your bishop’s youth, but rather, having regard to the power of God the Father, to show him every mark of respect. This, I understand, is what your holy presbyters do, not taking advantage of his youthful condition but deferring to him with the prudence which comes from God, or rather not to him but to the Father of Jesus Christ, to the bishop of all. So then, for the honor of him who loves us, it is proper to obey without hypocrisy; for a man does not so much deceive the bishop he can see as try to deceive the bishop he cannot see. In such a case he has to reckon not with a man, but with God who knows the secrets of the heart. We should then really live as Christians and not merely have the name; for many invoke the bishop’s name but do everything apart from him. Such men, I think, do not have a good conscience, for they do not assemble lawfully as commanded. All things have an end, and two things, life and death, are side by side set before us, and each man will go to his own place. Just as there are two coinages, one of God and the other of the world, each with its own image, so unbelievers bear the image of this world, and those who have faith with love bear the image of God the Father through Jesus Christ. Unless we are ready through his power to die in the likeness of his passion, his life is not in us.

[1] In the parable of the weeds we find substantially the same scheme as in the parable of the sower. It describes the fate of the seed (Word of Jesus, and Jesus who is the Word), whose growth in the world is bound by the action of the enemy who sows the weeds that cling to the wheat. For the good seed to be preserved, the weeds were not eradicated before the harvest was done. Only then, in fact, it was possible to divide the good seed from the weeds.

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