Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

07-23-2017HomiliesFather Tony Okolo CSSp

Patience in the midst of Evil

Jesus preaches to the crowds a number of parables in today’s gospel reading. In the first parable, he tells a story of a man who planted good seeds in his vineyard and while everyone was asleep his enemy went and planted weed. The servants discovered it and requested they go and uproot the weed, Jesus tells them, “No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned but gather the wheat into my barn”.

What does Jesus mean to say with this parable? And what does he not say with it? Certainly, he does not want us to lose the courage to battle the evil in us. He is not saying we should stop uprooting the defects and weeds that constantly come into our daily lives. Certainly, he does not want us to despair over the fact that there will always be weeds as long as we live in this world. Jesus is not telling us to stop continually combating our bad habits otherwise they develop root so strong that they become indestructible. The central message he gives us in this parable is to learn to be patient and gentle with ourselves and with other people in the community. If we lose patience with ourselves because of our defects we may shoot ourselves in the foot and if we are not patient with others whom we consider as weeds, especially in the Christian community, we may pass unfair judgment on them.

Jesus is talking about the kingdom of heaven. What is this kingdom of God? It is that society or community of men and women who freely submit to God and who honor him as their Lord and King. With this, he means the community he came to establish and build up. In this community of Jesus, in the Church, in Christianity, there will also always be the weeds of the unchristian next to the good wheat sown by Christ. In our hearts, among us, men and women, good and bad will always be found at the same time, mixed just like the weeds that grow in the wheat field. This is not pleasant and almost every day we hear of negative reports in the media both from high Church leaders and our own members to remind us that there are many weeds among the Christians. But Jesus tells clearly in today’s gospel where they come from. An enemy has done this, the devil does not sleep and he especially has his eye on the work of Jesus. That is why 1 Peter 5:8-9 admonishes us when he says, “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”. So Jesus knows that the enemy aims to destroy the good seed he has planted in us. So our responsibility is never to give the enemy the opportunity in our life.

Even if it is painful and annoying to see weeds now growing in the good wheat of Christianity, have patience and be confident: weeds do perish. God himself will take care of that at harvest time. There is a proverb which says, that, “One moment of patience may ward off great disaster, one moment of impatience may ruin a whole life.” He calls us to be patient with the bad weeds we find in our very selves and among other Christian brothers and sisters or even among Church leaders. He will intervene at his own time. Secondly, we must pray that evil forces of impatience do not get hold of us. By telling the disciples not to uproot the weeds immediately Jesus is calling for patience in our Christian practices. But our patience with evil or our hope in the Lord should not make us remain passive or indifferent to evil around us, rather we should combat it headlong but doing so with gentleness and patience.

I wish each of you and your families God’s blessings on this particular Sunday and the grace of patience in your families.

Father Tony Okolo CSSp