FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 16th SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME, July 19, 2020:
Growing up Sunday nights always had a ritual about them. As kids we would quickly take a bath so that we could be ready and in front of the TV in time for Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. Wild Kingdom was always exciting because inevitably Marlin Perkins would come face-to-face with something ferocious – a lion, a tiger, a bear (oh my?). And it would always be exciting. It reminds me of an encounter I had with something ferocious a few years ago. One night I was grilling some chicken behind the rectory, when I suddenly found myself dodging a very angry pigeon that was dive-bombing in my direction. I quickly discovered this was a mother pigeon protecting two eggs nearby. So, I gave Mama her space. About a week later I checked to see if any new pigeon chicks had arrived yet. What I saw was the Mom protecting one cute little chick, but the second egg was cast outside of the nest. It was a sad sight – Mom was fiercely protecting the one that survived, but the other one didn’t make it. I reminded myself that in the wild kingdom some make it, and some don’t.
We heard in our Gospel today the disciples ask, “‘Do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?’ And Jesus replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest.” We know that Jesus loves to use understandable images from nature when explaining the deeper things to us; today He gives us this image of wheat and weeds. Obviously, we know which we want to be – the wheat is gathered into the Kingdom; the weeds are gathered and burned. And, yet, even though it is obvious that it isn’t good to be among the weeds, Jesus still says let them stay. To put this into context, I think Jesus is addressing our own human nature that often wants to be the arbiters of who’s in and who’s out. We create categories like us and them; good and bad; sinner and saint. These categories are designed to exclude and make us into the judge who is better and who is worse.
This can even be a challenge for people of faith. Jesus recognized that even in our holiness we can be tempted to judge others. We look at people and we become a self-appointed judge and jury. The problem, of course, is that God never asked us to be the judge. Pope Francis said it much more directly when he said those five simple words that traveled around the globe, “Who am I to judge?” These were five powerful words coming from the Pope, but the same words should come from each of us too. Who are we to judge? There is only one judge; and it is not us – it is God, the only true judge we will ever face.
But change that statement ever so slightly and ask instead, who are we to love? Who are we to forgive? Who are we to show compassion? Who are we to welcome? Who are we to reach out to the needy, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned, the refugee, the immigrant? These are exactly the things we are called to do, and that’s the real problem of judgement – judging keeps us from welcoming, from reaching out, from loving, forgiving, and showing compassion to others. Jesus explicitly asks us to be the ones who love as He loved; to be His kind, welcoming, compassionate and forgiving presence in our world today.
Jesus tells us to “Let [the weeds and wheat] grow together.” Why? Because Jesus knows that when we stop judging and start loving, something amazing can happen. Weeds can become wheat. If Jesus, through His grace and mercy, can transform mere bread and wine into His Body and Blood – as He will do again in front of our very eyes on this altar today; if Jesus can turn even our sins into holiness every time we go to Confession – then surely He can also turn weeds into wheat. Perhaps some of us here – maybe many of us here, maybe all of us here – were once weeds ourselves, but through God’s amazing grace, we have been transformed into wheat. “Let them grow together,” Jesus says because He gives us all the time we need to do the same. He wants all the weeds to become the beautiful wheat of His harvest.
It might be nature’s way to cast off the ones who don’t look like they are going to make it; it might be easier to judge and wish that things just weren’t so. But, that is not God’s way and it most certainly should not be our way. Pope Francis said, “Let the Church always be a place of mercy and hope, where everyone is welcomed, loved and forgiven." Let us make his words our words too so that when others see us, they see mercy and hope; that when they come to us, they too, are welcomed, loved, and forgiven. Love the weeds around you until they are transformed into wheat.
May the Lord give you peace.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.