Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalm 86; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43
We have three sets of homily notes to choose from. Please scroll down the page.
Rev. Fr. Galadima Bitrus, OSA: GOD, GREAT AND GRACIOUS
Rev. Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai: KINGDOM GROWTH
Rev. Fr. Paul Oredipe: BE PATIENT – DO NOT JUDGE, DO NOT GIVE UP – GOD WAITS
Fr. Galadima Bitrus, OSA
GOD, GREAT AND GRACIOUS
In contrast to last Sunday’s liturgical readings which were focused on the quality of our disposition in receiving the Word of God, today the readings put the focus on God’s own qualities and their effect on us, underscoring at once God’s greatness and all-powerfulness, as well as his graciousness and kindness in his dealing with us.
In the 1st Reading (Wisdom 12:13.16-19), we are presented with a litany of divine qualities expressed as a beautiful interplay of divine greatness and divine graciousness. God is characterized as one who cares for all men besides whom there is no other (v.13), whose strength is the source of righteousness and whose sovereignty causes him to spare all (v.16) and give repentance for sins (v.19).
Though sovereign and strong, God judges with mildness and governs with righteousness, deeming it alien to condemn anyone who does not deserve to be punished (v.15). Despite having the power to act whenever he chooses, God conducts his affairs with patient self-control (v.18).
From God’s way of doing things, the sacred author draws lessons of kindness and hope for us: “Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous man must be kind and you have filled your sons with good hope” (v.19).
We find a similar litany of divine qualities in the Psalm (86:5-16), expressed in a similar pattern, as an interaction of greatness and graciousness. Regarding his greatness the Psalmist states: “All the nations you have made shall come; they shall bow down before you O Lord, and glorify your name. For you are great and do marvelous deeds, you who alone are God (vv.9-10). As per his graciousness, the Psalmist continues, “But you O God are compassionate and gracious, slow to anger O Lord, abundant in mercy and fidelity (v.15)”
The 2nd Reading (Romans 8:26-27) describes the depth of man’s weakness almost to a point of helplessness, not knowing how to pray. This sense of dire human weakness, however, encounters the enabling grace of God’s interceding Spirit: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (v.26).
In the Gospel Reading (Matthew 13:24-30.31-43), Jesus employs once again an agricultural metaphor of a sower sowing seed, this time to illustrate his patience in dealing with our weaknesses. He, the Son of Man, is the sower and the world in which we live is his field, and we as children of God’s kingdom, are the good seed. The evil one has stolen his way into God’s field (the world), and has planted his own seed amongst us, competing for the same space and nutrients.
Truly, like the slaves of the householder we would want the weeds immediately uprooted, gathered and burnt so that we can have more space and extravagance of nutrients to grow and blossom as God’s planted wheat. But surely, the seed cannot be wiser than the sower. If in his wisdom the sower allows the wheat and the weed to grow together, he must be sure that the space and nutrients available to the wheat are more than sufficient.
Following this parable to a logical conclusion, one may wonder if there are any of us in the world that are the direct creation of the evil one. But parables are not to be read following the implication of each word and phrase, or each turn of the story. Like any metaphor or analogy, only certain aspects of a parable (not every detail of it) function to drive home the point. As such, we must not miss the point of this parable which is God’s graciousness and forbearance with us all: the good and the bad alike. God who is all-powerful exercises his power with patient self-control; he judges with mildness and governs with righteousness.
The readings today challenge our conception of power and strength and their exercise thereof, which we often confuse with mean and insensitive disposition translating ultimately into a callous and arrogant relationship with the weak and those over whom we have authority. The passages teach us that we can be great and at once gracious, we can be powerful and still be kind and compassionate.
Therefore, anyone who possesses strength and power must cultivate graciousness and kindness; s/he must fill the weak with hope. In judgment, such a person must not seek to cause harm but to restore order, hence, must judge with mildness. Such a man or woman must govern not as an exercise in power display but as a responsibility to exercise with righteousness and forbearance.
That is the approach to sovereignty and strength that we see in God in our today’s readings and which we must imbibe at all levels of our relationships with the weak and any over whom we have authority.
Teach us Lord to know your greatness and the power of your love; make us agents of your kind, compassionate and gracious greatness which creates and forgives, uplifts and heals. Help us to overcome our twisted notions of greatness and power that we may be converted to the model you offer us today! Amen!
Fr. Daniel Evbotokhai
Jesus preached about the kingdom and its proximity during the course of his earthly ministry. Jesus used different images and parables to speak to the people about the kingdom and how we should conduct ourselves in order to enter into this kingdom. Today’s gospel presents us with three of such parables: The Parable of the Weeds, (Matt.13:24-30); the Parable of the Mustard Seed (Matt.13:31-32) and the Parable of the Yeast (Matt.13:33). Our reflection shall focus on each of them for proper understanding.
The Parable of the Weeds: The parable says “a man sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.”This shows that there are hostile and aggressive powers working in the world; seeking and waiting to destroy good seeds. You don’t need to offend an enemy before he comes to attack. The parable did not say the man with the good seed offended the one who came to plant weed. An enemy does not wait for an offence; that is why we must always be on our guard as Christians. 1Pet. 5: 8 says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Beloved, we must be alert, the gospel says in Matt.13:25 that while men were sleeping the enemy planted weed. We must be awake spiritually to ensure no one comes to plant evil in our faith, in our heart, in our family, in our children, in our church, and in our schools. We have to be vigilant to know the kind of friends our children keep; we have to know the content of their phones, the site they visit and the movies they see; the groups they belong to on Whatsapp and Facebook. This may sound funny but it is the truth, many children are bad today because they came in contact with bad people, bad friends and bad classmates.
The parable of the Mustard seed: This parable describes the kingdom of God like a mustard seed. The Church is like a mustard seed; it started so small, but has grown very big that men and women take spiritual and physical shelter. In Acts1:15 they were 120 believers when peter addressed them, in Acts2:41 about 3000 members were added to the number of believers. Verse 47 says the Lord added to their number daily. Till this day the number has not dropped. Beloved, we must not be discouraged by our humble beginning. You may begin small but if it is of the Lord, it will grow into a big mall. No matter how small your beginning may look, if it is of the Lord, it will grow, it will last, and it will flourish.
The parable of the Yeast: The kingdom of heaven is like the yeast mixed with 3 measures of flour, until all of it was leavened. This parable tells us of the interior work of grace. The kingdom of God grows with the help of God, and without this help, our efforts are in vain. The grace of God should act like yeast in each one of us; it should saturate our whole being and cause an increase in faith. It should completely spread in our whole life; such that we are Christians in the Church, markets, farms, streets and on the play grounds.
Summarily, the mustard seed is small but produces a big shrub and bread is flat unless yeast is added to make it rise. Do not be discouraged with small beginnings. With one FAITHFUL believer the whole world can start believing. Therefore, we should ask ourselves whether we are the good seeds or the weeds. If we are the weeds; God is still patient, the first reading says He is merciful to the repentant, let us turn to him and ask for pardon before his judgment comes. No doubt man by birth is weak, but the Holy Spirit has been given for his empowerment. Precisely because of this, the second reading says the Spirit comes to help us in our weaknesses. Therefore, we should allow the Holy Spirit to work in us, to bring about transformation and growth in his Kingdom. God bless you.
Fr. Paul Oredipe
BE PATIENT – DO NOT JUDGE, DO NOT GIVE UP –
We sometimes ask: Why is there so much evil around us? Why does God allow terrible things to happen? To these questions Jesus addresses the parable of the weeds and the wheat, today’s gospel.
Evil is a mystery; theological studies deal with the question of the mystery of evil. And the word “MYSTERY” is deliberately chosen. Evil is quite irrational, illogical, and inexplicable.
God is aware of the evil in our world. Evil is the price of freedom. If mankind did not have the ability to choose between good and bad, he would not be free. The choice of bad effects all people, but it is the price of having the ability to choose good. The farmer does not refuse to plant because he might find weeds among the wheat. He plants knowing that the result might not be perfect, but there will be wheat.
The Lord responds that He recognizes our suffering and suffers with us, but He will give others time to choose Him also, to be numbered among His wheat. God sees the weeds among the wheat. They are the price of freedom. But without freedom there would be no wheat. We must remember now that all of these people we so much cherish are who they are as a result of the choices they made, choices they freely made, just as we are who we are right now as a result of all of the choices we have made in our past histories.
The parable says, ‘while the men were sleeping, the enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat’. They failed in their duty to guard the crop. Individually, we are like them. In all our lives there are signs that the enemy has come in and sown his weeds, when we too have fallen asleep and allowed him to approach. So the combat becomes more violent, more insidious, due above all to the darkness of the night in which the enemy operates. “While men were sleeping, his enemy came…”
The enemy loves the night, he loves darkness, for he hates the light: “For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.” (Jn. 3:20) It is at night that the enemy sows weeds in the field where good seed had been sown, for it is then that the sun is on the other side of the earth.
The parable clearly refers to the universal scope and spread of the Kingdom of God. The Church, which embraces all mankind of every kind and condition, in every latitude and in all ages, is forever developing in spite of obstacles, thanks to God’s promise and aid.
While making its way on earth, the Church is composed of good and bad people, just men and sinners. They are mixed in with one another until the harvest time, the end of the world, when the Son of Man, in His capacity as Judge of the living and the dead, will divide the good from the bad at the Last Judgment — the former going to eternal glory, the inheritance of the saints; the latter, to the eternal fire of hell.
Through His whole life and ministry and teaching, Jesus has assured us that our relationship with God is the single most important thing in our lives. He also has shown us how our relationships with other persons affect our relationship with God. When our relationships with others are enriching and loving, the power and love of God can move in us and through us. But when our relationships with other persons are destructive, the power of God is literally blocked and we become estranged from Him, cut off from His power.
Jesus is very clear, very direct and very specific about this. “Do not judge and you will not be judged.” He says, “because the judgments you give are the judgments you will get, and the amount you will measure out is the amount you will be given. Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?” (Mt. 7:1-3).
The parable of the wheat and the weeds is a story about judgment – about good seed and bad, saints and sinners living side by side in the world. In the end God will sort everything out, and God’s judgments will be just. Meanwhile, our lot is to strive for the best from ourselves, look for the best in others, and leave the harvesting to God. For it is God alone who sees each and every one of us in all our seasons.
So where does this leave us? Are we to ignore evil? Are we to ignore pain and suffering? Should we keep our mouths shut when evil is around us? Absolutely not. We are called to till the soil of the Lord. We are called to bring forth fruit. We cannot allow evil to exist when we come upon it, particularly in ourselves.
Some have asked: Why does not God simply destroy evil people, cleanse the world of them, and make our world into a garden of peace, tranquility and happiness? Such a request, however, ought to be given deeper thought. Suppose God did, in fact, rid the world of evildoers. Would we survive God’s wrathful and righteous purging?
The Scripture tells us: “If you O Lord should mark our guilt, Lord who would survive? But with you is found mercy and forgiveness.” For the truth is that WE ARE, ALL OF US, A MIXTURE OF GOOD AND EVIL. If God were to cleanse the world of sinners, you and I would be erased from existence.
And because we, you and I and a whole lot of others, are a mixture of saint and sinner, angel and beast, the world is consequently a mixture of good and evil.
The Kingdom of Heaven is like the life of every man and every woman. There is that in each of us which is wheat. There is that which is weed. Should God destroy us because of the weed in us? Or should He give us time? Perhaps that which is weed in us can be overtaken by that which is wheat. A strong prayer life goes a long way in preventing serious sin. The Divine Farmer is not ready to give up on the crop. We should not give up on ourselves. God knows that what may appear to be weed is in reality wheat.
God knows the good and the bad. We cannot fool God. We must be honest with God, because we cannot hide from God.
Today, as we pray that we might withstand the onslaught of evil against us, we also pray that we might fight to eliminate evil in our lives. With confidence, with hope, we realize the Lord who sees all will in the wisdom of his time remove the weed from the wheat.
We should not be seeing evil everywhere and all the time. But let us remain vigilant. Again, the Bible tells us: “Be calm but vigilant, because your enemy the devil is prowling round like a roaring lion, looking for someone to eat. Stand up to him, strong in faith.” 1 Pet. 5:8-9.
But to return to Jesus’ parable, let us note well the clemency and patience of the Lord. He does not want his servants to gather the weeds, for fear of also rooting up the good seed. If the Lord acts thus, it is because He hopes for, and still awaits, the conversion of sinners and of all who do evil. May we too have such patience toward others, and also toward ourselves. Let us convert ourselves and let us not be discouraged by our weaknesses.
God believes in people. He is patient to give us freedom to discern, spiritual food to grow, and time to transform for the Kingdom of God.
It is the prerogative of God to bring good out of evil, order out of chaos, meaning out of absurdity, and life out of death. However crazy and mixed up our world may be, the disaster of Christ’s crucifixion was turned into God’s victory in Christ’s resurrection. You and I, precisely as Christians, can take life as it is, knowing that eventfully it will become what it ought to be in Jesus Christ’s final victory over our ancient enemy. Until that day comes, I invite you to join me in establishing our hearts in the unshakable faith of Jesus Christ.
This ties in with today’s first reading, from the Book of Wisdom. God is shown as a Righteous Judge. He is all-powerful, but He always judges with mercy and forbearance.
This is the same teaching as that of Jesus and here, as in everything He taught, there was no contradiction between what He taught and what He did. He tolerated the presence of Judas among the apostles until His divine purpose was achieved. Here, we must follow His example. It is not for us to play God. What the Church must do – what we must do – is to practice tolerance and patience, and all the time to preach repentance: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
After this first parable, we have two very short, rather similar parables. The first concerns the mustard seed. We must not be deceived by the smallness of the seed into thinking that it is insignificant, for from it a large tree will grow. The kingdom had small beginnings in the ministry of Jesus, but He promised that it would attain vast growth.
Jesus was telling His disciples to be patient – they wanted the kingdom to be manifest, probably with themselves in positions of importance. They were being told to wait: all would be manifest, but it takes time for the seed to grow into the tree which God intends it to be.
They were the beginnings of the Church, unpretentious beginnings, and it was God’s will that His Church would flourish, so that in time the Church would show to the world what we call its four marks, one of which is that it is universal – it has spread to convert all nations. In the meantime, Jesus taught His followers that they had a role to play, which He compared to that of leaven – only a small amount was mixed into the flour, but its effects were felt throughout all the flour, causing it all to rise, so that its intended purpose could be reached.
So what are the various roles and responsibilities that Jesus is teaching us in these parables? We must stay alert so that we do not give the devil the opportunity to plant the seeds of our own destruction. We must not judge others, but leave the judging to God, the Great Judge. We must be patient and persevere to the end, knowing that the kingdom is growing towards its fulfilment. We must be like leaven, so that as we live in the world, we can win souls to Christ by our words and our example.
In this way, we will reach the reward promised by Jesus at the end of the explanation of the parable, “Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.”
The Holy Scriptures and message of the Church calls us (all of us) to repentance and conversion, penance – the Sacrament of Reconciliation is for us. The good and the bad will not co-exist in eternity when the judgment comes. Judgment must begin in the House of God.
Be patient – do not judge, do not give up – God waits.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.