Catholic Contextual urban Theology, Mimetic Theory, Contemplative Prayer. And other random ramblings.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Sermon at Parish Mass Trinity 6 2017

Isaiah 44.6-8
Romans 8.12-25
Matthew 13.24-30,36-43

Following on from last week’s parable about the sower, we have another parable about sowing seed, and gathering a harvest. But, as with last week’s parable, we have to be on the alert. Parables are strange, Jesus describes what are at first glance typical scenes from everyday life, but look closely, and there’s always something odd. We are not looking into the world we are used to. Parables jolt us out of the ordinary into a new world where things happen differently.
Once again, as with last week, we have to ask ourselves, “what is wrong with this picture?”
We are to remember that, when Jesus was asked why he taught in parables, he quoted the Prophet Isaiah:
You will indeed listen, but never understand,
and you will indeed look, but never perceive.
Parables are not about explaining simple moral lessons. They are about uncovering for us the ways in which we listen, but do not understand, and look, but do not perceive.
Looking at today’s parable, sowing wheat and dealing with weeds are everyday activities in agricultural communities, very familiar to Jesus’ audience. What is strange, in this parable, is the instruction of the landowner, to let the weeds carry on growing. Any gardeners will know that if you have weeds coming up, you remove them as soon as possible. Weeds spread, and can choke the good plants that we do want to grow. In fact, last week’s parable told us just that! Which just goes to show that parables keep us on our toes.
As with last week, Jesus goes on to explain the parable to the disciples, but, as with last week, doesn’t explain the bit that is really strange, which in this case is why a farmer would allow weeds to grow up with his wheat.
So let’s look back towards the beginning of the parable. “while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away.”
What is the end result of the enemy sowing weeds? To be sure, the weeds grow, but that is not the end result. It is not the most disruptive thing the enemy has done. Because what then happens is that the weeds grow, and this causes the harvest workers to ask the landowner if they should remove them.
It appears that what the enemy has really sown is the desire to separate the wheat and the weeds. The harvest workers turn out to have a binary mentality – wheat is good, weeds are bad, cast them out! And is this not exactly the mentality that Jesus comes up against again and again? Us and them. We are good, they are bad. Cast the bad people out!
And to this, the landowner says no. If you did that, you would uproot the wheat as well. In other words, you think you can tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds, but I know you can’t. Your binary worldview, us against them, is an illusion.
It is in the end a deadly illusion. The Pharisees and the religious authorities were convinced that they had “us” and “them” right. They were sure they were on the inside, the pure and righteous, and others on the outside, unclean and polluting weeds to be uprooted from God’s field. And the weed they will focus on in the end, the one they will tear out of the field and cast aside, will be Jesus himself.
And this gives the parable a new perspective. Casting people out, identifying victims to destroy, is the seed sown by the evil one. But it is all too easy to think it is the work of God.
Now, to be sure, Jesus does say that “the good seed are the children of the kingdom [and] the weeds are the children of the evil one”, and he speaks indeed of a final separation. But he also says that it will be his business to sort that out, not ours. Just as it is his business to bring the righteous into the kingdom of their Father where they will shine like the sun. And as we can’t for now tell the difference between the wheat and the weeds, well, there may be many surprises in store for us when that happens.
Saint Paul, in the Letter to the Romans this morning, speaks of the “glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God”.
If something is going to be revealed, then it is not apparent yet. Until it does appear, we can’t distinguish between the wheat and the weeds. But Paul goes on to speak of a great cosmic resolution of everything: “the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God”.
We have to wait, with the whole creation, for the gathering in of the harvest in which, somehow, some way, the whole creation, groaning now in its labour pains, will be set free.
In the meantime, our task is to tend the harvest, not to uproot it, and not to suppose that we know the difference between good and bad.
Of course, we can be confident about those who are children of God. The grace of baptism assures us of our adoption in Christ as children of the Father. And even if we fall into grave sin, repentance will restore us to that relationship, for God is always calling us back to himself. The wheat and weeds in the fields of our hearts will in the end be sorted out by God, if we go on co-operating with his grace.
What we can’t say is who is not a child of God. The Holy Spirit is not contained within the walls of the church, and is at work in the world, giving a myriad secret graces to countless people in ways that are completely hidden from us.
And even in the hearts of those who appear to be furthest from God, whose evil and wickedness seem obvious, who can tell what half-strangled ear of wheat might still be surviving among all the weeds?  There, perhaps, in the end to be snatched out of the burning in to the harvest of the kingdom.
This is not to say that we are to ignore the evil. In the Church, as in society, we are to guard against those who would do harm with proper safeguarding and protection. But we should never despair of God’s grace being at work in anyone, however bleak their situation may appear to us.

So we are not to be lured into the mentality of us and them, insiders and outsiders. We are not to think that it is our task to purify the church. We are to trust in the work of grace, for others no less than ourselves, and leave the final judgement to Jesus. For he is the one who in the end will free creation from its bondage to decay and bring all things into his glorious kingdom. He knows what he is doing, and we can trust him to do it.

No comments: