Sixteenth Sunday in
July 20, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos,
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm 86:5-6, 9-20,
Jesus proposes an interesting
situation in this parable: an enemy has sabotaged his neighbor’s fields by
broadcasting weeds among the farmer’s wheat.
This might be bearded darnel, a weed that winds around a crop and looks
exactly like wheat until the wheat finally bears fruit. So even if the farmer could distinguish one
from the other, he would pull up the wheat along with the weed. But an enemy’s sabotage is not really the
point of the parable.
Jesus leads us to consider a
farmer’s response to sabotage. He
suggests that in this story we may discover a mystery of the kingdom of
heaven. It is this: God waits to
see. God deals with the good and the bad
differently, but God is patient, slow to judge and ready to forgive. The parable is not about weeds. The parable is about how to deal with weeds. And since every parable is about God’s kingdom,
we may discover here how patiently God deals with weeds – the evil that people
choose – while God gathers in wheat that bears fruit – God’s righteous
But why doesn’t God remove the evil
from our world so that we can live in peace?
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, at his installation 9 years ago, raised the
same issue. Pope Benedict said:
How often we wish that God would show
himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and crafting
a better world. All ideologies of power justify
themselves in exactly this way: they justify the destruction of whatever would
stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We
suffer on account of God’s patience. And
yet we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the
world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of
God. It is destroyed by the impatience
of man.  [emphasis mine]
Despite our human sense of
“justice,” which sometimes actually means retribution or vengeance, Jesus
suggests in this parable that the kingdom
of God is about divine
patience and God’s mercy. One writer put
it this way: “[God] is not a God of
wrath. He is a God who is an Ocean of Mercy.
And that does not mean that on occasion God shows mercy. Rather, Mercy is what God is. Compassion is what God is. When we see Mercy and Compassion, Jesus is
telling us, we know that we are in the presence of God.  [emphasis
God’s patience and mercy toward
others may seem baffling to you and me.
At the same time, though, we fully depend on God’s patience and
mercy toward ourselves. But that
is because we do not think like God. In
our better moments, however, we honestly want to be like God, but our
tendency is towards self-interest. And
so we become judgmental about other people.
Were we the farmer in the parable, we would, with great abandon, pull up
anything we might perceive as a weed. We
judge people. We categorize them. We exclude the weeds; we gather to ourselves
the wheat. That is, unless they perceive
us as weed!
Jesus’ parable leads us back to
today’s reading from the Book of Wisdom.
“And you taught your people … that those who are just must be
kind….” You see, as Wisdom teaches, even
though God is all powerful, God judges with clemency, God governs us with
leniency. God’s patience and mercy
toward others may seem baffling to you and me.
At the same time, though, we fully rely on God’s patience and mercy
toward ourselves. And so you and I,
while we still need to be prudent and careful with whom we associate and whose
examples we might emulate, we should not pretend that we are their judge. God is their judge and our judge. And God is a patient judge. If by chance criticism by us seems just, we
must criticize with kindness. For that
is how God deals with you and me.
Another thing: Saint Francis de Sales reminded us, “Have
patience with all things, but chiefly have patience with yourself.”  So as you and I try to become less judgmental
and less confrontational with others, we must be gentle especially with
ourselves. To admit one’s own faults can
lead to a sense of discouragement or even self-loathing. But we must be as patient with ourselves as
God is. Genuine conversion is a
life-long mission for us. But as Wisdom
reminds, “[God] gave [God’s] children good ground for hope that [God] would
permit repentance for their sins.” God
deals with the good and the bad differently, but God is patient, slow to judge
and ready to forgive. “The world is redeemed
by the patience of God. It is destroyed
by the impatience of man.” 
 Pope Benedict XVI, sermon at the Mass of
Installation (April 24, 2005),
quoted by George Weigel, God’s Choice -- Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of
the Catholic Church (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2005), p. 191ff.
 William H.
Shannon, Seeds of Peace: Reflections on Contemplation and Nonviolence
(New York: Crossroad, 1996), p. 130.
 St. Francis de Sales; The full quote is “Have patience with all
things, but chiefly have patience with yourself. Do not lose courage in considering your own
imperfections, but instantly set about remedying them – every day begin the
task anew.” http://www.quotesdaddy.com/author/St.+Francis+de+Sales
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary
July 13, 2014
Rev. Anthony Medairos, pastor
Each of Jesus’ parables was intended
to heighten awareness of the kingdom of God.
But most people seem to let parables wash over us like a wave at the
beach. For a moment that wave gets one’s
attention, but once it has passed, it’s quickly forgotten. And that’s okay because we’re at the beach to
relax. But really hearing a
parable requires attentiveness. It needs
focus and, frankly, it requires work to understand. And many are not willing to do that work.
But each of Jesus’ parables was
meant to astound, not confound.
They were intended to prompt surprise which, hopefully, might lead the
listener to deeper thought and new insight.
The parable of the sower and the seed is one so familiar that we hardly
note its challenge. It is so familiar
that we may not hear its power.
Now, one must remember that the
gospels took written form rather late, in fact, many decades after Easter. The community’s memory of what Jesus did and
said lived on in oral form – in story telling – for at least a generation before
being written into books.
The parable of the sower and the seed must have been particularly
memorable, as it found its way into each synoptic gospel. Matthew (which we read today), Mark, 
and Luke 
include it nearly word-for-word the same.
It is even found in a Gnostic gospel reputed to be from the apostle
Thomas – which is neither scriptural nor even a gospel, in that it is not a
narrative (a story) but only a collection of sayings reputed to be from
Jesus. But in Thomas this parable also
appears word-for-word the same. 
As a collection of supposed sayings
from Jesus, the parable in the Gospel of Thomas stands alone, without
explanation, while the synoptic evangelists say that Jesus explained the
meaning of the parable. Personally, I am
not convinced that Jesus actually explained the parable to his apostles. Rather, his “explanation” is the inference
made by each Christian community that heard the parable. The reasons I say this are three. First, parables by definition are stand-alone
stories that are intended to startle and prompt new thought. Second, an explanation of a parable weakens
its startling aspect and dampens the challenge to come up with a new insight,
like a stand-up comedian trying to explain a joke. Sometimes people “get” a joke, some people
don’t. But if a joke needs to be
explained, it’s not much of a joke.
Sometimes people are spiritually provoked by a parable, some people are
not. If it needs to be explained, it’s
not much of a parable. And third, the
“explanations” of this parable are different in each of the gospels. Each evangelist inferred or “remembered” the
explanation Jesus gave differently.
Two gospels are similar. Mark writes, “The sower sows the word.”  Luke recalls it a little more specifically,
“The seed is the word of God.”  And that is an easy interpolation for each of
us to make: using the agricultural
method of his day, unlike today’s professional farmers – or even amateur
gardeners – who plough their ground and make neat furrows in which seeds are
planted carefully at intervals, people of Jesus’ time simply “broadcast” their
seed on ploughed ground, hoping that some of it would implant and grow, full
knowing that some seed would be lost in the bushes and brambles and some people
would walk on them. While some seed
would bear fruit, other seed would wither and die. In Mark’s and Luke’s recollections, Jesus
implied that various people would respond differently to the word sown among
them, as seeds responded to the earth.
But Matthew’s recollection is subtly
and significantly different. It’s the
message we’re left with today. And it
requires some introspection on our part.
As Matthew relates Jesus’ explanation of the parable, the seed is not
the word or the word of God. The seed is
the listener. “The seed sown on the path
is the one who hears the word … without understanding it.” “The seed sown on rocky ground is the one who
hears the word … but has no root and lasts for only a time.” “The seed … among thorns … hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word….” “But the seed … on rich soil is the one who
hears the word and understands it [and] bears fruit and yields a hundred- or
sixty- or thirty-fold.”
The seed is the listener. The seed is you and me. Matthew’s interpretation of the parable
places responsibility for the fruitfulness of God’s gifts to us squarely on how
we listen to God. And this requires
some honest introspection from each of us.
How, we must each ask of our self, do I listen to God?
This may actually make a better
examination of conscience than running through the Ten Commandments before
going to bed each night or before going to confession.  Am
I someone who has heard the message but doesn’t care? I don’t find God relevant to real living, so
I pay God little heed, thus making myself easy plucking for “the evil
Has my initial enthusiasm for our faith failed? When a tribulation or persecution pops up, am
I rootless and so turn from faith? Like
at the recent Church sex scandals:
people who thought themselves pillars of the parish just wander
away. Tribulation, certainly; but the
abandonment of sacrament and worship exposes the rocky ground, the rootlessness,
that had always been there. Persecution,
yes; both from Muslims martyring Christians overseas and the ridicule of our
neighbors and the resistance of government as we Christians attempt to live a
moral life. Perhaps the most
disconcerting place I see this is while teaching a moral truth and our own
teenagers look with utter mystification that the Church could possibly think
that, for example, marriage is between a man and a woman. (“Where do you get this stuff, father?”) God is facing a world-wide field of rocky
ground – people who are taught to hear only what they already believe because
of their immersion in secular humanism rather than in the gospel.
Did some thorns in my life drive me away? There are many difficult people to deal with
even in this Christian community; are these the weeds choking me? Or perhaps I am the weed, teaching my
children and others in word and example that Church is not important.
Or do I listen to God by preparing fertile ground through my prayer
life, my study of today’s issues, my reading of scripture, my involvement with
other Christians, my celebration of the sacraments, my service to
neighbor? It is in listening to God in
these ways that I nourish the word and will surely bear fruit, yielding “a
hundred- or sixty- or thirty-fold.”
 Marvin W. Meyer (trans.), “The Gospel of
Thomas or The Secret Sayings of Jesus” from The
Secret Teachings of Jesus – Four Gnostic Gospels (New York: Random House,
1984), Saying 9.
 Edward F.
Steiner, “Homily Backgrounds,” The Priest