16th, Sunday, O T Year A – 17

16th, Sunday, O T Year A – 17

Wis.12:13, 16-19, Rom.8:26-27, Matt.13:24-43

A man was suffering from a serious attack of appendicitis. He hated going to the doctor, but his wife would not let him suffer. Finally, she got him to a doctor who arranged for an operation.

Still in pain and still protesting the idea of an operation, he said to the doctor, “When God gave people an appendix, there must have been a reason for putting it in our bodies.” “Oh, there was,” said the doctor. “God gave you that appendix so I could put my children through college.”

People of faith tend to believe that God has a reason for everything, even if that reason is not obvious. Sometimes people can’t figure out God’s plans.

They give up trying to understand and decide either God doesn’t have any plans or God doesn’t have any control or simply they decide there is no God. Most atheists have come to belief that there is no God because of the problem of evil in the world.

Their argument is if there is a good God, then God would not allow all the evil we see. He would stop it, but since there is so much evil, there must not be a good God. Their argument ignores all the good things we see in our world, which far outweigh the evil.

Our first reading from the book of Wisdom and Jesus’s parable of the wheat and the weeds gives us one way to help us understand the problem of evil. It is that God is patient while waiting and urging the evil doers to change their ways.

We’ve all gotten impatient with God at times, thinking God is too patient. In the end, aren’t we grateful that God is patient for we’re all sinners and we have failed at times. We all try to be the good element (the wheat) in God’s kingdom. Otherwise we wouldn’t be here today.

In the course of our lives, if we’re honest, we know we haven’t been perfect all the time. Thankfully, God is patient and God is merciful. God wishes none to perish as he tells us in the parable of the lost sheep.

Jesus’ parable last week, the three today, and the three-next week are about one of his favorite topics – the kingdom of Heaven. The kingdom is the “good news” that Jesus preached.

In today’s gospel, Jesus tells a parable that also dwells on the mystery of evil. Good seeds were sown in the field. Then an enemy came and sowed weeds in the field.

So, the cause of evil is zeroed in on this “enemy”. But who is this enemy? And where is this enemy? It would be convenient to assume that the enemy is somewhere out there lurking in the dark.

Or better still, we can even identify the enemy as the devil, and for the evil that is happening, we can blame it on him. In a way that is quite true. Even the gospel parable seems to put it like that.

Yet there is another enemy – the enemy that is within! The following story may illustrate what is meant by the enemy within.

The Great Wall of China was and still is a massive structure. It was also built at a massive cost, especially in terms of human lives. (It has been estimated that more than a million Chinese died over the centuries that it took to build the Wall)

It was built to keep out and to prevent the barbarians from invading the country. When it was completed, it was thought to be impregnable. Until one day it was broken into, and broken into quite easily.

Along the walls, there are also many gates for the troops to move in and out. The enemy simply bribed one of the gate-keepers, and when everyone was asleep, he opened the gates for the enemy.

The irony was that the Great Wall which was built at the cost of many lives, was breached not by the enemy from without but by the enemy from within.

And that brings up the point about the enemy in today’s gospel. The enemy that sowed the weeds may not be from without or from somewhere out there. The enemy may be from within. In other words, there is no greater enemy than ourselves.

In fact, if the enemy is from without, it would make us more united. But it is the enemy from within that will cause the most extensive damage because it begins with internal damage.

And internal damage begins with evil thoughts which will lead to evil desires and evil actions. At the heart of it all is none other than the heart itself. Our hearts are created by God and created to be pure and holy.

When we choose to walk on the dark side, we shut God out of our hearts and consequently we let the devil sow his weeds of evil into our hearts. But even if we choose to walk on the dark and evil side, there is the wheat of goodness in the hearts.

All the evil cannot take away the goodness in our hearts, because it is a goodness that is sown by God Himself. So, let us come back to the light and walk in the love of the Lord and bear a harvest of goodness.

There cannot be a perfect humanity having only good people. Good and bad, like the wheat and the weeds of today’s Gospel passage, will always coexist till the end of the world.

Good and evil will always be found together among persons and in the communities. God respects both and is patient with them. He gives sunshine and showers of rain to both just and unjust, to both good and bad people.

Secondly God knows that as wheat will survive in spite of the presence of weeds, so good people can grow in God’s ways even if the people with evil intentions attack them.

Besides it is not easy to distinguish the good from the evil just as it is not easy to distinguish the wheat from the weeds. So, we need to be patient. It is God and God alone can separate the good from the evil at the end time.

One should not forget that the kingdom of God is a mixture of true and false people. God allows weeds to grow among the wheat, but at the harvest time the weeds are gathered and destroyed. Similarly, in the world and in the society, there will always be evil people as well as good people. Just as God is patient with those who are evil and gives them chances to avoid their evil ways and time to return to them, we too must be patient to the evil doers and help them to repent and be converted. It is a life-long task.

The good will have to suffer at the hands of the evil ones but Jesus had taught us how to deal with them, “Love your enemies” and “pray for those who persecute you”. Your reward will be great in heaven.

The same time every good and holy person, knowing that they are weak, ought to be watchful not to be led astray by the evil one.

Let us patiently and lovingly treat the “weeds” in our society as our brothers and sisters and do all in our power to put them back on the right road to Heaven, especially by our good example, encouragement and our fervent prayer for their conversion.

Let us remember that most of us have been “weeds” in God’s field more than once, and God has showed us mercy. God is so merciful that He allows evil to exist in order that what is good may grow.

He allows evil to exist also because He can turn it into good. Through the power of the Spirit, God can change even the ugliest thorn into a blossom of Faith. In God’s field, we have responsibilities.

Our acts of charity, kindness, mercy, encouragement, loving correction and selfless service can prompt the “weeds” in our society to reassess their lives, modify them and become useful members of society.

Let us grow in grace to share His Word and His love with others. Amen.