Home Homilies Michael Whelan SM, PhD Gospel for the Sixteenth Sunday (20 July 2014)

Gospel for the Sixteenth Sunday (20 July 2014)

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.'” (Matthew 13:24-30 – NRSV)

Introductory notes

1. This parable is unique to Matthew.

2. See the Gospel for the Fifteenth Sunday for some preliminary notes on the parables.

3. This parable is sometimes called “the parable of the darnel”. Many scholars believe that the “weeds” are in fact darnel, a grass that looks very like wheat when young. Hence, to distinguish the darnel from the wheat would be very difficult.

4. Before we draw simple moral injunctions or lessons for life from any parable, it is helpful to listen for the plot. What is happening in this little story? One thing that stands out in this parable is the sense of culmination. The story is moving towards an end point and it is at that end point that things will be sorted out. There is a not-yet theme here, a warning against impatience and the desire to make it all right. Meanwhile the farmer and the servants must wait. Pre-empting the end point would be self-defeating. Trust the process! We are reminded of Julian of Norwich’s “all shall be well”.

   a. This easily gives rise to the theme of eschatology – from eskhatos meaning “last”. The eschaton is the final and culminating event in the divine plan, climax of history.

   b. Paul’s comment to the community in Corinth is a good example of this eschatological thinking: “Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God”. (1 Corinthians 4:5)

   c. The parable reminds us that eschatology is very much about the present and how we should and should not conduct ourselves.

5. This parable, along with the other six parables in Chapter 13 of Matthew’s Gospel, raises a serious question: “Why?” Why does God not step in and sort things out? If God is a God of Love and Goodness, why do we not witness the triumph of Love and Goodness each day? Or, more pointedly, why does evil seem to win the day so often? N T Wright suggests a good response: “Would people really like it if God were to rule the
world directly and immediately, so that our every thought and action were weighed, and instantly judged and if necessary punished, in the scales of his absolute holiness? If the price of God stepping in and stopping a campaign of genocide were that he would also have to rebuke and restrain every other evil impulse, including those we all still know and cherish within ourselves, would we be prepared to pay that price? If we ask God to act on special occasions, do we really suppose that he could do that simply when we want him to, and then back off again for the rest of the time? These parables are all about waiting; and waiting is what we all find difficult. The farmer waits for the harvest-time, watching in frustration as the weeds grow alongside the wheat. Not only the farmer, but also the birds, wait for the tiny mustard seed to grow into a large shrub. The woman baking bread must wait for the leaven to spread its way through the dough until the whole loaf is mysteriously leavened. And that’s what God’s kingdom is like.” (N T Wright, Matthew for Everyone, Part 1, SPCK, 2004, 168-169.)


One of the marks of adulthood is that we take responsibility for our lives and hold ourselves accountable for our actions. We do not seek to defend the indefensible or rationalize our behaviour. The Book of Ecclesiasticus reminds: “It was he who created humankind in the beginning, and he left them in the power of their own free choice”. (Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 15:14)

The world is what it is. Life is a mystery to be lived not a problem to be solved. Having done our best we place it all in the hands of God. We submit to what is real.

The great artist Monnet offers some good advice: “Nothing is ever completed … Incompleteness is a part of nature and it takes great art or great wisdom to know when to lay down the brush … we should always avoid
perfectionism.” (Jean Monnet, Memoirs, Trans. Richard Mayne, Doubleday, 1978, 521.)

The question of motivation arises here: Why are we doing what we are doing or wanting what we are wanting? In the Sermon on the Mount, Matthew has already reminded his listeners of Jesus’ words: “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the
evil thereof”. (6:33-34)