‘Let them grow together until the harvest…’
Five Parables from Matthew’s Gospel (2)
In our last reflection, we considered the concerns that the Evangelist Matthew wishes to emphasize in his Gospel. First, he wants to point out that it is Jesus Himself who is the true interpreter of the Law of Moses, as opposed to the understanding of its meaning by the Pharisees. Secondly, Matthew wishes to address the question of judgement at the end times.
These preoccupations are reflected in the Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat (Matthew 13:24-30). The sown field is a powerful symbol of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. But here the problem is not the soil in which the seed is planted, but the fact that an enemy has come in the night to sow weeds among the wheat seeds. These are not just any weeds, however, but ones that are virtually impossible to discern from the wheat as they both sprout. The owner’s servants are befuddled. Where did the weeds come from? Shall we pull them up?
The weeds actually can have at least two meanings. On the one hand, they are the bitter growth of evil, sown by the enemy of mankind. Notice that it is the good seed that is sown first, then the weeds, which have no purpose but to choke the wheat. It is the nature of evil to be parasitic on the good, and to be its counterfeit, difficult to detect. On the other hand, as any gardener knows, weeds can simply be obnoxious, and undesirable, something we want to prune.
In either case, the important issue is not to decide where the weeds come from, but how they are to be dwelt with. Here Jesus is telling us that we must be careful in making judgments. He is directing his message here not only to the Pharisees, but to anyone who thinks the Church is a hotel for saints rather than a hospital for sinners. The Church is a mixed body. And we don’t have the insight to weed out what we think are its imperfections. We might weed out those whom Jesus would want us to welcome, like the tax-collectors and the sinners that the Pharisees complained about for eating for with Him.
We should be guided by tolerance and patience toward others, forbearing criticism and avoiding spiritual pride. By so doing, we actually show that we trust in God. For, as we will consider next time, it is not our role as servants of the owner of the field to separate the weeds from the wheat, but that of the harvesters at the last judgment.