Sunday, July 23, 2017

Homily 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A July 23, 2017

          Since Vatican Council II we have been observing a three year cycle of readings.  You all know that, right?   And this year we are now in year ????  Creatively named “Cycle A.”  And mostly we hear from the Gospel according to Matthew in this cycle.  Next year is Mark, then the following year is Luke, and the Gospel of John comes in during Easter season and sprinkled throughout the year.  But this year is MATTHEW.  And so that is why we hear today the parable of the wheat and the weeds.  Because ONLY Matthew tells us this parable.  Mark, Luke and John either didn’t know this parable, or they didn’t like it, or they simply skipped it.  Only Matthew tells it.
          Why?  What was going on with Matthew’s community that he thought this was a good parable to include?   Well I would like to hazard a guess.  Scripture scholars think, and are pretty well convinced, that Matthew was writing his Gospel for a mixed community of Jewish Christians and pagan gentile Christians.  We don’t need to go into all the reasons Scripture scholars are convinced of that, there are hundreds of books about it if you are interested, but let’s just accept that that was the pastoral reality Matthew was dealing with when he wrote his Gospel.  A diverse community of Christians of both Jewish and Gentile backgrounds. 
          Now Jews and gentiles, sorry to say, throughout the ancient world, often did not get along.  Even today, Jews and some other groups do not get along, conflict with each other, look down on each other, and persecute each other, usually the Jews being the weaker player in this.   Except in Palestine.  But I digress.
          So we know, that there were tensions in St. Matthew’s community.  Although everyone in St. Matthew’s community was baptized, and was Christian, and a follower of Jesus, there could still be tensions and
difference in ways of doing things between the Jewish Christians and the gentile Christians.  We know from the letters of St. Paul this was often quite contentious, especially over the requirement of circumcision, and was it really necessary? 
          So given the possibility of, and indeed the probably of, the presence of division in his community, St. Matthew includes this parable in his Gospel. 
          Jesus says, “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field…..”   This is about the Kingdom of heaven.  The Son of Man (that is, Jesus) sows good seed, the Word of God.  And the field?   That is the church.  The field of God is the church.  And then comes the evil one and sows weeds.   The evil one sows them, not in the world; the weeds have been there already, but rather in the field of the kingdom of heaven, that is, in God’s field, the church.
          This parable is about the weeds in the church.  Look around.  See all those fine, stalwart Christians, everyone a saint!  But hiding in there, looking pious, are certainly some weeds.  Right in the heart of this holy and committed Christian community of St. Austin Catholic parish there could be some sinners.  Some people that don’t believe quite right.  Some weeds. 
          Where did they come from?  And most importantly, what should we do about it?
          Oh yes!  There are some weeds!  Some people who think and vote the wrong way.  In one pew there are probably some people thinking, “Yes, some of these people watch Fox news and voted for Trump!”  They are weeds in our beautiful field of progressive wheat.   And in another pew others are thinking, “Yes, some of these people watch MSNBC and voted for Hillary!”  They are liberal weeds in our beautiful field of orthodox wheat. 
          Parishioners here have different thoughts and ideas about politics, about same-sex relationships, about militarization and defense, about ecology and climate change, about gender roles, about women priests, about health care, even about Longhorns and Aggies.  Everybody’s got a list of weeds.  And we know they are right here in this room.
          What should we do?   Should we pull them up and expel them from our midst, and make our parish once again a shining beacon on a hill? 
          Nope.   Jesus in the parable tells us:  His slaves (that’s us) said to him,
'Do you want us to go and pull them up?
'   Should we throw them out of our church?  Should we have a parish of all like-minded people so we can easily be at peace?  Show the world an example of perfect harmony?
“He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”
          Jesus does not give us the easy way out.  We have to show the world that we are the field of God not because we are all alike, not because we all think and believe the same way, not because we value the same things, but because we all respect and honor each other.  And that is a lot tougher.
          The judgement is not ours. We are too prone to mistakes, to over-reacting, to misreading situations, to not considering all the consequences.   The judgement belongs not to us but to God.  “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."  
          In this society where people segregate themselves by the television they watch, the groups they join, the news they read and watch, the neighborhood they live in, and in so many other ways, our little parish here is called to be a witness to a different way of being.  Not separating into different interest groups, but called to be the field of God.  A field that has, and indeed welcomes, wheat and weeds, left and right, red and blue, black and white, male and female, straight and gay, Longhorns and yes, even Aggies. 

          The Gospel today teaches us not to judge.  That is God’s job.  Our job is to love.   AMEN.  

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