Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
- Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
- Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
- Romans 8:26-27
- Matthew 13:24-43
The readings for this Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time proclaim the patience and overwhelmingly forgiving nature of the God we worship. Our God, the Book of Wisdom tells us, is mighty and powerful, but that might and power does not cause him to lord it over us, but is the very source of God’s “justice,” making God “lenient to all” and judging with “clemency.” Wisdom’s proclamation that justice and kindness go hand in hand should cause us to be critical of those in power, whether in the Church or civil society, who wield their might like a club, and in whose actions there are no discernible traces of kindness.
Notice that Wisdom declares that God gave his children good ground for hope by permitting “repentance for their sins.” Imagine how hopeless our lives would be without the possibility of forgiveness. The Psalmist highlights that our God is “good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon Him.” It is because God is “merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in kindness” that we have the courage to admit our guilt and ask for forgiveness.
Forgiveness is part of the solid foundation on which Christianity is built. Without forgiveness there can be no Christianity, as Jesus so clearly demonstrated in his lifetime. When, at the very end of his earthly ministry, Jesus forgives those who have put him on the cross, we are reminded of how often Jesus spoke about forgiveness with his disciples.
Our gospel parable of the weeds from Matthew is just such a teaching. All of the gospel parables display a keen understanding of human nature, and the parable of the weeds is no exception. Like a good gardener Jesus recognizes that there will always be weeds, and they are not necessarily the result of a malicious neighbor. If you have a garden, there will be weeds. What is most interesting about this parable is the householder’s prohibition of his slaves removing the weeds. Indeed, the weeds almost appear to have a purpose in Jesus’ parable, for they are allowed to grow until harvest. Remember, parables are pithy stories that are meant to get us thinking. The parable of the weeds is not meant to be an agricultural treatise, and what we are talking about is not plants, but people, people who are part of the kingdom of God. There are good people in that kingdom, and there are bad people in that kingdom, but while weeds might never be able to become wheat, bad people can become good. Could the refusal to remove the weeds be the occasion for conversion, for repentance, and for the redemptive act of forgiveness? I would surely hope so.
Like weeds in the garden, there has always been evil in the world, and while self-anointed messiahs are always eager to uproot those weeds and get rid of them, the Messiah teaches us to be patient and forgiving in the hope of seeing those weeds be transformed into plants that are worthy of the kingdom. Our God is good and forgiving, and he alone is the judge who will separate the weeds from the wheat. Our task is to grow, not to judge. We are meant to grow with the knowledge that God’s power gives us mercy, and if we grow toward the sun (Son) we need not worry about the harvest.