“A parable washes over you like a wave full of life and light, but an explanation–well, an explanation lets you know where you stand. It gives you something to work with, a tool with which to improve yourself and the condition of the world in general….”
– Barbara Brown Taylor
The readings for the sixteenth Sunday in ordinary time cycle A can be found here.
The scripture scholar will point out that the parable in this Sunday’s Gospel is also seen in other ancient writings. It has been identified in some scholarly circles as a rewriting of Mark 4: 26-29.
And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed upon the ground, 27 and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should sprout and grow, he knows not how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”
Mark 4: 26-29
Since 1945 and the rediscovery of the Gospel of Thomas, scholars have recognized this parable as Saying 57 in that Gospel.
Jesus said: The kingdom of the Father is like a man who had [good] seed. His enemy came by night and sowed weeds among the good seed. The man did not allow them to pull up the weeds. He said to them: Lest you go and pull up the weeds, (and) pull up the wheat with it. For on the day of the harvest the weeds will be manifest; they will be pulled up and burned.
– Gospel of Thomas (57)
Regardless of where you read it, the message is clear; the kingdom of God is combination of good and bad people. Patience and tolerance should be our vanguard. Others will try to persuade you to act rashly, but we are to be stalwart in our reserve.
This Sunday the farmers are all either pleased we are speaking about growing a harvest or upset because they can’t seem to get away from shop talk. I apologize to the latter because we will continue the seed sowing theme. We have all heard the phrase; you reap what you sow. Scripture scholars will point out that these are the words of Paul in Galatians 6:7. This idiom is interpreted to mean that if you perform acts of iniquity, in turn you will receive the same. The reverse is also true. If you perform acts of love, in turn you will receive the same.
Jesus helped us understand in the parable of the sower that we are the sower and our role is to love wastefully. John Shelby Spong tells us that “a life defined by love will not seek to protect itself or to justify itself. It will be content simply to be itself and to give itself away with abandon.”
Today we hear Jesus again telling a parable of a sower. This parable finds that weeds have been maliciously planted among the good seed. We again are the sower in this parable and the good seed is the word of the kingdom of God. How often do we encounter other people in our lives who sow the seed of discontent? How often do we encounter other people in our lives who sow the seeds of malicious intent? How often do we encounter people in our lives who counsel us to withdraw from the world?
The wisdom of the sower shines forth in the parable as the sower does not take the advice of the servant to pull the weeds. Instead, when it is time to reap what has been sown the word of the kingdom can easily be separated from other words, and as John Dominic Crossan writes “he has both his wheat safe and some free kindling as well… his enemy is doubly outwitted.”
The word of the kingdom of God is so precious that to hold back and sacrifice that message, even the slightest bit, is not worth any benefit of removing the malicious words from our lives. We are to be content to simply spread the word of the kingdom of God in the midst of our community.
The true meaning of life lies in the community, in caring for the weak and sharing equally in the bounty of the land. All of this I learned from the indigenous world, from the poor and the peasants. They taught me the value of human life and shared their capacity to feel joy. They taught me how to laugh.
– Bishop Raul Vera
If you take one thing from the homily it should be to live in the world and spread the word of the kingdom of God. Don’t be concerned that the message of God’s love is competing with modernism, materialism, or any other ‘ism because when it comes time to reap the fruits of the harvest the word of the kingdom of God will be easily separated from any competing words. Love God and love your neighbor. Love wastefully without regard for who is receiving the love. Our love, patience and endurance will enrich the kingdom of God on earth.