16th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (A)
Sunday 23 July 2023
“He put before them another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’ He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
In Chapter 13, Matthew the Evangelist records a parable of Jesus which isn’t found in the other Gospels. Jesus speaks about a field. The Son of Man walks around sowing good seed. Soon after, the enemy – the devil – passes through sowing his seed of weeds (poison darnel). The scientific name for this plant is Lolium temulentum. It is a grass which infests cereal crops. It is very similar to wheat, growing together with it, and reaching the same height. However, its grain is black and toxic. The specific term for this weed is found in Greek (zizànion) but its origin is probably from Hebrew (zun, zunìm), from the root word zna, meaning prostitution. In effect, both this weed and the person found guilty of prostitution shared the same fate: they are burnt (Gen 38:24; Lev 21:9)!
The field represents the Christian community, in which we can find the two realities: the good seed and the bad seed, a reality that is true in the heart of individual believers too.
And when the servants notice the weed in the field, they go to the landlord seeking clarification. However, it is already too late. They would have had to remain alert, not sleeping, beforehand. Sleep is used here to indicate spiritual relaxation, letting “our guard down”. Most of the time, this takes the form of abandoning prayer, because we don’t ‘feel’ or find comfort in it. The enemy enters the field in these precise conditions: when everyone is asleep and, unfortunately only discovering his trespass after he’s gone!
The reaction of the servants (the typical human reaction) is to want to clean up immediately. We would like to weed out the ‘bad’ from within us and even more so from others! But the master, the Lord, has a different strategy: “Let both of them grow together until the harvest”. In other words, be patient and merciful, without wanting to anticipate judgement, especially towards others! Judgement will come. But today we are in the time of mercy and forgiveness. The Lord invites us to be patient. He wants to teach us to accept and welcome His forgiveness and, as a next step, to be channels of forgiveness for others.