Read Wisdom 12:13,16-19, Ps. 86:5-6,9-10,15-16, Romans 8:26-27, 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 seeds in a field. Last Sunday, we learnt that bearing fruits requires changing our soil. Today, Jesus surprises us that the enemy also sows bad seeds even within good soil.
Even more surprising is the behaviour of the landowner, who would wait to allow the servants to pull out the bad seeds immediately. Could this be why it seems God is quiet in the face of evil in our world? Where did the enemy come from? How can we survive amid the bad seeds? Who and what are these bad seeds? This brings us to our lessons for today.
1. The Enemy is Real
In the parable of Jesus in today’s Gospel passage, when the master was told about the appearance of weeds, his response was: “The enemy has done this.” (Matthew 13:28). We will 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.” Just as the devil deceived Adam and Eve, he continues sowing bad seeds in God’s vineyard today.
In the name of modernity, the devil has sown seeds of unbelief in the minds of many Christians today. In the name of “adapting to the current times”, some Christians no longer see anything wrong with fornication, homosexuality, co-habitation, swear words or indecent dressing. In the name of entertainment, many have lost their souls to the devil through illicit music, pornography, cultism, substance abuse and other vices.
2. The Enemy operates while we sleep.
Jesus says, “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. (1 John 4:4). No wonder St. Peter would warn us: “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 as a roaring lion not to evoke fear of the devil in us but to emphasise 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 David’s downfall.
Be on guard lest the enemy sows weeds in your heart and cause you to derail. Be mindful of the kind of entertainment you permit, the books you read, the friends you keep and the places you visit. Do not sleep spiritually. 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 (advertise) witch doctors, marine spirits and occult powers as the solution to your problem. Whatever your situation, be on guard; do not let the devil sow weeds of evil suggestion in your heart.
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 wheat and 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).
In the Gospel of Mark 1:23-27, we read how Jesus was in the synagogue (a place to worship God), and there was a man with an unclean spirit. But for the presence of Jesus, no one knew that such a person was there. Did this man go to the synagogue to deceive, destroy and pull out believers from God’s house? On the other hand, could he have gone there because he knew he was sick and needed deliverance?
Whatever the case, we cannot deny that there is wheat and weeds in every Church gathering. The church is not home to saints alone; sinners are among us. Do not be deceived. There are satanic agents in our midst. There are seeds among us that the enemy has planted, and we would not know until harvest time (that is unless they begin to manifest their fruits).
As bad seeds are in our midst, we also have bad seeds within ourselves. While we point fingers at others, we cannot ignore the logs in our eyes. Once upon a time, the Jews brought a woman caught in adultery to Jesus. They wanted to know his verdict. For them, she is a weed and doesn’t deserve to live. Jesus did not defend her evil act but made them see the weeds within themselves.
Jesus said: “Let him who has not sinned be the first to cast a stone at her.” (John 8:7). As much as we are embarrassed at the presence of bad Christians in our midst, we must not forget that we have our bad sides.
4. Avoid Labelling People
Once you label a person as bad, you suddenly become blind to their good sides. Once the servants recognised the weeds growing alongside the wheat, all they could see was weed. They forgot that even though the weeds grow faster than the wheat, they have a shorter life span. The servants worried about the weeds because they couldn’t see the wheat.
No matter how evil a person is, there is still a lot of good in them. Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future. Your best friend today may turn out to be your worst enemy tomorrow, while the one you condemned today may ultimately become your saviour.
In the same way, do not condemn yourself because you have noticed your flaws and limitations. Instead of sliding into depression, focus on your strengths; build your talents – feed your wheat. In today’s second reading, St. Paul teaches: “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.”
In other words, prayer is the key. Have you noticed a bad Christian? Don’t rush to condemn; submit them to God in prayer. Do you hate yourself for the things you do? Go down on your knees. Call on the Holy Spirit. Prayer changes many things.
5. Why does God allow wicked people to succeed?
The Book of Wisdom (our first reading) describes God as a merciful father. His care is for all men (no one is exempted). It says, “In strength, you judge with mildness, with great forbearance you govern us… you give repentance for sins.” God is patient. By not allowing his servants to pull up the weed immediately, the landowner acts with patience, knowing that in pulling the weeds, the servants would also mistakenly pull the wheat.
Secondly, the landowner knows the weed would benefit the wheat despite its ugliness. As St. Augustine would say: “God would never permit evil to happen unless He is incapable of bringing good out of it.” God will not rid the world of all evildoers because He gives them countless opportunities to repent and because He knows how to bring good out of their evil.
The weeds provided competition for the wheat, and because the wheat struggled to survive, the fruits they bore were stronger and better. Evil people provide adversity; they make life difficult for us, yet we become stronger due to adversity. Sometimes, you need to thank God for your enemies; they challenge you to bring out the best in you. Your enemies help you to know that you need God. They keep you at your toes, prevent you from sleeping spiritually; they teach you not to trust people. Without weeds, we wouldn’t value wheat. Without enemies, you would never know who your friends are or what you can achieve.
We cannot rid the church completely of sinners, yet the church will never lack saints. You can learn to be good by having a role model to imitate or by having someone that you don’t want to be like.
Conclusion: Judgement Day Will Surely Come.
God is patient, but we must not take His patience for granted. Jesus wasn’t speaking in parables when he spoke about the furnace of fire where men will weep and gnash their teeth. Jesus mentioned this “furnace of fire” while explaining the wheat and weeds parable. There comes a time when the reapers will enter the farm and gather the weeds; then, it will be too late. Repent now while it is possible.
Let us pray: Almighty ever-living God, save me from the many evils around me. Through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen
Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. Bible Study: Wisdom 12:13,16-19, Ps. 86:5-6,9-10,15-16, Romans 8:26-27, Matthew 13:24-43).
@Rev. Fr. Evaristus E. Abu