16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year A. Bible Study: Wisdom 12:13.16-19, Psalm 86, Romans 8:26-27 and Matthew 13:24-43
“And they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42)
Just like we saw last Sunday, Jesus explains the kingdom of God with a parable centred on the planting and growing of seeds in a field. Last Sunday, we learnt that bearing fruits requires that we change our soil. Today, Jesus makes us understand that even within the good soil, the enemy sows bad seeds as well.
What is even surprising is the behaviour of the landowner who would not allow the servants to pull out the bad seeds immediately. Could this be the reason why it seems God is quiet at the face of evil in our world? Where did the enemy come from? How can we survive in the midst of the bad seeds? Who and what are these bad seeds? This brings us to our lessons for today.
1. The Enemy is real
Just a few days ago, someone sent me a petition to sign stopping Hollywood from releasing a movie where Jesus Christ is depicted not only as a woman but a wayward person at that. I mean, we would be playing the proverbial ostrich if we deny the activities of the devil and his agents in our world today. In John 10:10, we read: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
The truth is that the devil stylishly deceived Adam and Eve, he continues to act in disguise making us think he does not exist. I mean, without a discerning mind, one would toss such a movie away as just mere entertainment. In the name of entertainment, many have lost their souls to the devil through online pornography, cultism, immodesty and other sins of the flesh.
2. The Enemy operates while we sleep.
Jesus tells us that “while the men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.” No matter how powerful the devil is, he cannot have his way in our lives unless we let him in. This is because He that is in you is greater than he that is in the world. No wonder St. Peter would warn us saying: “Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8).
St. Peter describes the devil like a roaring lion not to evoke fear of the devil in us but to emphasize the need to stay awake spiritually. Be watchful. The devil will only have his way when we are asleep. How do we sleep spiritually? When we let down our guard. One example that readily comes to mind is David, the great king of Israel. The country was at war but David was at home idle. One evening, he took a walk on the roof of his palace and lusted after Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah. This was the beginning of his downfall.
3. By their fruits, you shall know them. (Matthew 7:16).
Unless one is an experienced farmer, there is no way to tell the difference between the wheat and the weed especially when it is not yet time for the harvest. Our people say, ‘all lizards carry belle face ground, we no sabi the one wei him belle dey pain am.’ Indeed not all that glitters is gold. It is not all those who say “Lord, Lord that will enter the kingdom of God.” (Matthew 7:20) Even the way some of us dress to church, you wonder if they are there to worship God.
Jesus entered the synagogue one day only for a man with an unclean spirit to shout “what have you to do with us?” In sending out his disciples to preach, Jesus said, I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. It is not everyone who identifies as a Christian that is worthy of that name. Yes, it is one thing to admit one’s sinfulness and make efforts to repent but it is another thing for one to work as an agent of darkness who derives joy in seeing others fall into the abyss of sin.
Do not be deceived. There are satanic agents in our midst. Do not get carried away by a so-called Christian Brother or sister who is very active in the church but will lure you into fornication right after Church. Don’t be deceived by that brother or sister who appears to be so concerned about your welfare, always asks about your family and your job, and listens to you like a dear friend only to suggest or advertise witch doctors, marine spirits and occult powers as the solution to your problem.
4. Never Joke with Prayer.
How do we know those sent by the devil disguised as agents of light? St. Paul provides a perfect answer to this question in today’s second reading: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness for we do not know how to pray as we ought but the Spirit intercedes for us… And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the Spirit.”
My dear, if your prayer life is active, the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see who your enemies are. If anything must suffer in your life, it should not be your personal prayer. No one can pray for you better than yourself just as no one can eat food on your behalf. Prayer is not just asking, or informing God, it is a Divine Communion. It is entering into His Presence.
5. God is Patient: Repent Before It is too Late
As usual, we barely see the logs in our eyes but are quick to identify specks in the eyes of others. Yesterday, we asked: “Why does God allow wicked people to succeed?” The answer is that we ourselves are the wicked people. The reason God is yet to answer the prayer of those asking Him to destroy us is that He wants us to repent. Until we are able to look inwards and see our own dirt and filth, we would not understand why it seems as if wicked people are having their way in our world.
In today’s reading, the book of wisdom describes God as a merciful father is care is for all men (no one is exempted). Addressing God, it says that “in strength you judge with mildness, with great forbearance you govern us… you give repentance for sins.” God is patient but Hellfire is real. Jesus wasn’t just speaking in parables when he spoke about the furnace of fire where men will weep and gnash their teeth. Instead, He was explaining the parable. Human life is too fragile. Death can happen anytime. Repent before it’s too late.
Conclusion: Don’t Rush. Learn to be Patient with People.
By not allowing his servants to pull up the weed immediately, the landowner (God) acts with patience knowing that in pulling the weeds, the servants would mistakenly pull the wheat as well. Secondly, the landowner acts with the hope that even the weed would be of some benefit to the wheat. As St. Augustine would say: “God would never permit evil to happen unless He is incapable of bringing good out of it.”
Do not be too quick to write off someone. Be like God. Forgive. Give second chances. It is possible that you have not heard the full story. Avoid jungle justice. The person you condemn today may just be your helper tomorrow.
Let us pray: Lord Jesus, save me from the many evils around me. Amen.
Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you.