There is no god besides you who have the care of all, that you need show you have not unjustly condemned. For your might is the source of justice; your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all. For you show your might when the perfection of your power is disbelieved; and in those who know you, you rebuke temerity. But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.
1) You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.
Hearken, O Lord, to my prayer and attend to the sound of my pleading. (Refrain:)
2) All the nations you have made shall come and worship you, O Lord, and glorify your name.
For you are great, and you do wondrous deeds; you alone are God. (Refrain:)
3) You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.
Turn toward me, and have pity on me; give your strength to your servant. (Refrain:)
Brothers and sisters: The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. And the one who searches hearts knows what is the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will.
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: "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."
(Copyright 1970, 1986, 1992, 1998, 2001 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
Copyright 1970, 1997, 1998 Contraternity of Christian Doctrine, Inc. Washington, D.C. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by an information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
The English translation of some Psalm responses, some Alleluia and Gospel verses and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, some Summaries, and the Titles and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass copyright 1968, 1981, 1997, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc., Washington D.C. All rights reserved.
The poetic English translation of the sequences of the Roman Missal are taken from the Roman Missal approved by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of the United States, copyright 1964 by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with permission of ICEL.)
Some years ago, there was a movie called The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I think that might be an apt description of what our Lord is telling us in today's gospel. But before we deal with today's gospel, we need to put it in its proper place in Matthew's gospel. This is the second of three consecutive passages in our lectionary which focus on the parables of Jesus. Last week we heard the parable of the sower and the seed. I believe that one of the lessons in that parable is that we need to be the good soil in which the seed of God's word can grow and mature in our hearts into good works of charity. And we mustn't let those good works be choked off by the allurements of this world, like wealth, or riches, or something like "not wanting to get involved".
In today's gospel, our Lord talks about the weeds and the wheat, which are representative of good and evil. On a grander scale, the farmer could well represent Christ himself sowing good seed on earth in his creation, while the "enemy" is the devil himself sowing the evil seed. But on a more practical level, I believe that Christ uses this parable to demonstrate two things: 1) the pervasiveness of evil and 2) just how prevalent it is, and difficult to eradicate, in our world.
But in order to more clearly understand the parable, we need to better understand the weeds to which Jesus was referring and some of their attributes, or characteristics. These weeds were not just your ordinary, garden-variety dandelions growing amidst the grass on our lawns. They don't resemble one another at all. Rather, the weeds, or tares, to which our Lord referred were called bearded darnel or zizania. In its early stages, "the tares so closely resembled the wheat that it was impossible to distinguish the one from the other. When both had grown a while, it was easy to distinguish them; but by that time their roots were so intertwined that the tares could not be weeded out without tearing the wheat out with them.
Although "the wheat and tares could not be safely separated when both were growing, in the end they had to be separated, because the grain of the bearded darnel is slightly poisonous. It causes dizziness and [nausea], and even a small amount has a bitter and unpleasant taste." So if the grains were not separated at some point, the consequences could be serious.
Now lastly, "the picture of someone deliberately sowing darnel in someone else's field is by no means only imagination. That was actually sometimes done. To this day in India one of the direst threats which someone can make to his enemy is 'I will sow bad seed in your field.' And in codified Roman law, this crime was forbidden and its punishment laid down...So the whole series of pictures within this parable was familiar to the people of Galilee who heard it for the first time." (1)
So this parable tells us, in no uncertain terms, that there will always be the good wheat, the bad weeds and the rather uncomfortable situation of letting the bad grow along with the good. Yes, evil will always be with us. A quick look at any newspaper will bring far more news about evil in the world around us than it will of the good things that people have done for one another. But if evil is always around us, and even if we can't eradicate it completely from this vast world of ours, we have an obligation to overcome it, to overcome the ugly, every chance we get. And the place to start is in our own homes and in our communities. This past week, I read the following story which I believe addresses the ugly situation of evil in the world and what we can do about it. A mother wrote:
- When my son, Mark, was in the third grade he saved all his allowance for over two months to buy holiday presents for those he loved. He had saved twenty dollars. The third Saturday in December Mark announced that he had made his list and had his money in his pocket. I drove him to a local drug store, the modern version of what we used to call the "Five and Dime." Mark picked up a hand basket and went off on his own while I waited patiently reading a book at the front of the store.
It took Mark over 45 minutes to pick out his presents. The smile on his face as he approached the checkout counter was truly joyful. The clerk rang up his purchases as I politely looked the other way. Mark kept within his budget and reached into his pocket for his money. It was not there. There was a hole in his pocket, but no money. Mark stood in the middle of the store holding his basket, tears rolling down his cheeks. His whole body was shaking with his sobs.
Then an amazing thing happened. A customer in the store came up to Mark. She knelt down to his level and took him in her arms and said, "You would do me the greatest favor if you let me replace your money. It would be the most wonderful present you could ever give me. I only ask that one day, you pass it on. One day, when you are grown, I would like you to find someone you can help. When you do help this other person, I know you will feel as good about it as I do now."
Mark took the money, tried to dry his tears and ran to the checkout counter as fast as he could go. I think we all enjoyed our gifts that year almost as much as Mark enjoyed giving them to us. I would like to say "thank you" to that incredible woman. I would like to tell her that four years later Mark went house to house collecting blankets and coats for the people in the Oakland fire--and he thought of her. I would like to tell her every time I give food to a homeless family, I think of her. And I want to promise her that Mark will never forget to keep passing it on. (3)
Mark's life was all the better for the good will of this anonymous woman, and his mother's as well, for that matter. And they both passed on that good will in their generosity to others. Mark, his mother and the woman all overcame "the ugly" in the world in their own way.
But there is a second thing which this parable tells us, that evil is always mixed in with the good. Evil is not only "out there", but it is also "in here". The translation of the original Greek is that the enemy sows the weeds "in the midst of (ana meson) the wheat". In the parable, even though eventually the weeds and the wheat become very different plants, during much of their growth, it's very difficult to tell the difference between the two. When it comes right down to it, isn't it the same for us? People aren't just either good or bad. There is always some of both in each of us. Oh, yes, there are those who have let the evil predominate over the good in their lives, but there is always some good there. And perhaps it is our job to find that good.
- When I met Mr. Jim Lemon I was a seventeen-year-old freshman at Houston's Jackson Junior High and the chances of my finishing high school were slim. I was a troubled teenager with an attitude, living in a neighborhood that fostered troubled teenagers. Mr. Lemon taught American history and it was clear from the first day that his classroom was not going to be disrupted.
It was apparent very quickly that Mr. Lemon was quite different from the other teachers I had known. Not only was he a disciplinarian, he was a great teacher. He would never settle for my usual standard of classroom work. Mr. Lemon pushed and prodded and never tolerated the mediocrity that had become my standard.
On the occasion of our first semester report cards, Mr. Lemon called me aside and asked how it was possible that I was a B student in his class and a D and F student in the rest of my classes. I was ready for that question. I passionately told him about my divorced parents, the local gangs, the drugs, the fights, the police--all of the evils I had been subjected to. It was then that Mr. Lemon patiently explained that the only person responsible for my situation was me. And the only person with the potential to change my situation was me, and that when I personally accepted that responsibility I could make a significant change in my life. He convinced me that I was failing not because I was a failure, but because I was not accepting the responsibility for my results in those other classes. Mr. Lemon was the first teacher I had who made me believe in myself. He inspired me to become a better student and he changed my life.
Ten years later I was preparing to graduate from Chaminade University in Honolulu when I spoke to him again. It had taken weeks of telephone calls to find him but I knew what I had to say. When I finally did get him on the telephone I explained what his classroom toughness had meant to me, how I finally graduated from high school, and how I was a staff sergeant in the Army, married with a daughter. Most of all I wanted him to know that I was about to graduate magna cum laude after going to school for four hours a night, four nights a week for three years. I wanted him to know that I could never have done it if he had not been a part of my life. Finally, I told him that I had been saving money that I could invite he and his wife to come to Hawaii at my expense to be a part of my graduation. I'll never forget his response.
He said, "Who is this again?" I was just one of hundreds of students whose lives he had changed and he had no idea of his impact. Mr. Lemon never came to my graduation, but his absence taught me another valuable lesson. Mr. Lemon's final lesson for me was that we will probably never know or understand the impact we have on other people's lives. He taught me that we all have the opportunity to effect people's lives for the better.. or for the worse, beginning with our own. (3)
As our Lord has told us today, there will always be the good, the bad and the ugly situation of dealing with it on an daily basis. We cannot ever eradicate evil entirely as long as we live. But as Christians, we are called to do what we can to eliminate it to the best of our ability, in our families, in the community in which we live, and ultimately in ourselves. We are called to do as the woman in our first story did and be willing to get involved in the lives of others for their good. And before we point our finger at the evil in others, we need to get rid of the evil in ourselves. Like the author of our second story, we need to be able to accept the responsibility for our situation and not blame anything or anyone else. To put it in a slightly different version of a prayer with which we are all familiar: "God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the person I can, and the wisdom to know that that person is me."
1. From The Gospel of Matthew, copyright 1975 by William Barclay. St. Andrew Press, Edinburgh, Scotland. Used with permission.
2. A Very Belated Thank You, copyright 1996 by Laurie Pines. Reprinted in A Cup of Chicken Soup for the Soul, copyright 1996 by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Barry Spilchuk. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Used with the author's permission.
3. A Touch of Lemon, copyright 1998 by Rick Phillips. Reprinted in A Sixth Bowl of Chicken Soup for the Soul, copyright 1999 by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Health Communications, Inc., Deerfield Beach, FL. Used with the author's permission.
(Copyright 2014 by the Spirit through Deacon Sil Galvan, with a little help from the friends noted above. Permission is freely granted for oral use in whole or in part in local communities. For permission to use in written form, please contact the human intermediary at email@example.com )
by Steve Kelsey
<ul><li><a name="yeast">Now, if I were telling this parable to my friends for the first time,</a> I would probably tell them a story about a friend of mine named Judy. Judy was the kind of person for whom everything always seemed to go wrong.
<br>In any case, one day, Judy decided to bake bread. She took out the recipe and carefully gathered all the ingredients it called for; then she began to follow the recipe. Except that Judy made one little mistake. Instead of adding one cake of yeast to the mix as required, she added one whole box-several cakes of yeast.
<br>You can imagine what happened. The dough began to grow and grow and grow. She added more flour-and it kept growing and growing. She added more water, and it kept growing. More salt, more wheat germ, more oil-and it just kept growing and growing. She tried cutting the mound of dough in half, pounding it, caressing it, covering it, pleading with it-and it kept growing and growing and growing.
<br>Finally, in desperation, Judy went out and buried the huge lump of dough in her front yard, came back inside, and sat down in the living room to watch TV. Within an hour, her father came bursting through the front door screaming: "THERE'S SOMETHING GROWING IN OUR FRONT YARD!!!"
<br>You know what happened. The heat of the sun on that summer day beat down on that ill-fated mound of dough, that unbaked loaf, even though it was buried in the ground and brought the yeast back to life-and it had started growing again and BURST out of the ground! Even its grave couldn't contain it, so irresistible was the life of that yeast which Judy had hidden in her bread dough.
</ul>(from <b><i><u><a href="https://episcopalchurch.org/library/sermon/again-jesus-spoke-his-disciples-parables-proper-12-1999">Again... Jesus Spoke to His Disciples in Parables</a></u></i></b> by Steve Kelsey.)
Lord Jesus, you are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness. Lord, have mercy.
Christ Jesus, you are gracious and merciful, slow to anger. Christ, have mercy.
Lord Jesus, you hear our prayers and have pity on us in our weakness. Lord, have mercy.
Celebrant: Christ has taught us that his Father is full of mercy and rich in compassion. Therefore, confident that Christ will intercede for us, we bring our prayers and petitions to the Father.
Deacon/Lector: Our response is "Lord, show us your mercy".
That the leaders of the Church will be living examples of God's kindness and mercy, we pray to the Lord.
That the leaders of the nations of the world will treat those entrusted to their care with justice and fairness, we pray to the Lord.
That the sick, the terminally ill and those who are grieving the loss of a loved one will come to know God's love through our caring concern, we pray to the Lord.
That we will always cherish the gift of life from conception to natural death and oppose all those who promote the taking of any life, we pray to the Lord.
That the seed of the Word of God will grow in our hearts and yield a rich harvest in good works, we pray to the Lord.
That all of those affected by natural disasters will be strengthened in their efforts to rebuild their lives, we pray to the Lord.
For all of the intentions we hold in our hearts and which we now recall in silence. (Pause) For all of these intentions, we pray to the Lord.
Celebrant: Merciful Father, your Son showed us your mercy by forgiving our sins from the cross. Grant us the grace of your Spirit to be able to imitate his example and to forgive those who would harm us. And we ask this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.