In today’s Gospel, Matthew 13:24-30, Jesus presents us with a parable about ourselves – the parable of the wheat and the weeds.
In the parable, a man goes out and sows good seed in his field. While everyone is asleep, an enemy comes and sows weeds throughout the wheat. As the crop grows it becomes apparent that something is wrong: both wheat and weeds are growing side by side. The sower recognizes that an enemy has done this but rather than uproot the wheat along with the weeds, he lets them grow side by side until the day of reaping comes and then he will have his men separate them, burning the weeds and gathering the wheat into his barn.
This is very much our own story. God has created each one of us good. God has made us in God’s image and likeness and yet something is wrong. Satan has toyed with God’s creation and sin has entered our lives. We are a mixed bag, capable of both good and evil. (If you have any doubt about the existence of Satan or of sin in our world, just read the papers or listen to the news. Better yet, take a good look at your own lives.) God loves us with an absolute unconditional love and desires our salvation. And so God works with us, broken as we are. Gradually, ever so gradually, God brings us along, purifying us until that day when it’s time to reap the harvest. We have to cooperate with God, and let God work in us. When the day of reaping comes, the weeds will be cast aside and we will be gathered into God’s loving embrace.
In today’s Gospel, Matthew 13:10-17, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah:
“You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted and I heal them.”
The people of Isaiah’s day had closed their minds and hearts to hearing God and; therefore, being converted. In His day, Jesus stresses the need to have an open mind and heart, “… blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear.” An open mind and heart allows us to be in touch with the saving word of God; to not only listen to His words but to take them in and allow them to change us – to be converted and to be saved. The saving word of God is available to all. The tragedy is that so few are open to seeing, hearing, understanding and being converted.
It is now twelve days since I have come down with a full blown case of shingles. Everything I ever heard about it or read about it is true. It is painful. Besides the medications that I am taking, I have to apply calamine lotion three times a day. There is no problem doing it on the front of my chest but I cannot reach the back. I am relying on a friend to help me. He is a busy man with many commitments especially during these July days. He said that he would come at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Good intentions. It’s hit and miss. Sometimes he is right on time; other times, I sit and wait and wait and try to do so patiently. I am dependent on him. I am grateful but my patience is sometimes stretched as I wait. I remind myself that this is for only a few weeks. I am not an invalid dependent on him for the rest of my life.
I pray that when (and if) that day comes that I am dependent on him or anyone else for the rest of my life that I will be patient and have a grateful heart, and if it means waiting, then I will do so with patience.
Patient dependency is a great grace that we all need to pray for……..
What makes for membership in a family? Blood certainly, but in today’s Gospel, Matthew 12:46-50, Jesus goes far beyond that. “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” Jesus asks and then stretching out His hands towards His disciples, He said, “… whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Jesus is certainly not dismissing blood bonds that form family, but He is going beyond that to insist that membership in His family is based on action … “whoever does the will of my heavenly Father …”
There are millions of people who will identify themselves as Christians, members of Jesus’ family but look at their actions, e.g., dictators who oppress; people who make money by cheating others; politicians who profess Christian values but vote otherwise to keep themselves in office; men and women unfaithful in their marriages – the list goes on and on and we can add our own personal contradictions.
Jesus is very direct: “… whoever does the will of my heavenly Father is my brother, sister and mother.” This day is a good day for me (and perhaps for you also) to make an examination of conscience: Am I truly a member of Jesus’ family?
Come and join me at the feet of the Master. Use your imagination as we enter into today’s Gospel, Luke 10:38-42. Let us go to the feet of the Master together. Let us enter this scene of two thousand years ago.
Jesus visits His good friends: Lazarus, Martha and Mary. They provide Him hospitality whenever He is in the greater Jerusalem area. They are on intimate terms with Jesus as can be seen from the story.
Jesus is seated in the place of honor reserved for guests. Mary sits at His feet listening to Him speak. Martha who has assumed the position of host is busy running around doing all of the things necessary to make Jesus welcome. After a while, Martha has had it. She feels burdened with much serving and approaches Jesus and says: “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me by myself to do the serving? Tell her to help me.” The first thing to note is the familiarity with which Martha addresses Jesus. In the day and context of our story, this would have been unheard of – a woman publicly chiding a man in such a way, especially a guest. This reveals a particular intimacy reserved only to good friends. Jesus says to her in reply: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and worried about many things. There is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part … ” At first it seems as though Jesus is reprimanding her but He is not. He acknowledges all of her efforts. Jesus knows that her actions are necessary in order to make Him welcome, but He wants her to know that while actions are important, the most important part of hospitality is presence. Mary is sitting at His feet listening to Him.
Herein lies a great lesson for all of us. Action is important but presence is ultimately what makes for a loving, receptive, hospitable environment. Mary sits at the feet of Jesus. Each day, we find ourselves involved in a tremendous amount of activity. There is always something to do, something that must be done. Even our prayer life runs the risk of being a set of obligatory prayers to be said, actions to be taken. What is most important as Jesus reminds us is to sit at His feet and listen.