Sunday, July 23, 2017

7 PENTECOST, PROPER XI - A-17                 MATTHEW 13.24-30, 36-43


 Today’s parable builds on last week’s parable of the sower. Here Christ gives attention to the enemy who has sown his seed among the seed of Christ. This parable found only in Matthew, deals with the presence of evil in the kingdom of the Son of Man, in contrast with the kingdom of the Father, which is the new age, from which all evil will have been removed.
The kingdom of the Son of Man is a mixed bag, containing both good and evil. It is not a visible union of pious souls, but a visible commonwealth, to which it is possible formally to belong without being of it inwardly. The task of differentiating the worthy from the unworthy is not up to the church, but will be accomplished by the Son of Man as judge at the close of the age.
But for now, God allows the good and evil to exist together. It is the present mingling of the good and the evil that casts a cloud or mist that will one day be blown away by the breath of God. Then the sun will shine upon those deemed worthy to inherit God’s kingdom.
Thus, Jesus makes it plain enough that there will be a “harvest” at the end of time, as we know it. However, I have discovered over the years that some people have a much different view of God. They do not want to think about that. Future judgment, for them, is not a “hot” topic, no pun intended. Or else they have a different opinion altogether contrary to what Jesus has to say.
I have heard it said, for example, that God would not condemn or judge anyone. Others have said that they believe that God will hold out and postpone the “harvest” until every single “weed” has been turned into wheat. Then there is the idea that God is like an indulgent parent who lets his kids get away with doing whatever they wish and still rewards them at the end of the day.
There are many who hope that this is true. However, these views of God, and the idea of a lack of judgment that goes along with them are false.
If we want to know what God is really like, we look to Jesus. We listen to what he said and we look at what he did. Evil exists as much today as it did in Jesus’ day. Anyone who believes otherwise is simply looking through the wrong end of the binoculars.
So, why doesn’t God do something about it? That is perhaps the most frequent question people ask.
Tyrants and bullies, strongmen and hit men seem to get away with it. And sensitive souls ask again and again, why is God silent? Why doesn’t he step in and stop it? Jesus’ parables are not direct answers to the question. And probably there is no direct answer in this life.
But would we really want God to step in and stop every act of violence, every mistake and every evil impulse, including all those we still know and cherish within ourselves? That would bring God’s judgment now. Would we be willing to pay the price? Are we ready for that?
The parable is all about “waiting” something we all find difficult. Jesus’ followers did not want to wait. If the kingdom was really present in Jesus, coming to birth in what he was doing and saying, then they wanted it all right now. They were not interested in God’s timetable. They had one of their own, and expected God to conform to it.
What’s changed? Don’t we sometimes feel the same way? Let’s face it we are an impatient people. When we want something from God, we want it right now. Like the illustration of a monk I saw years ago who was on his knees praying for patience and asking God for it right now!
In Jesus, we see that God does not act straightway. The servants in the parable wanted to go immediately and start pulling up the weeds. However, Jesus says that the weeds are to grow alongside the wheat. That’s God’s way. Besides, there is the danger that the wheat might be destroyed in the process.
That is why the Church should neither condemn “nominal” members, nor judge those outside the Church (1 Cor. 5. 12, 13). Just as wheat would be destroyed in weeding out the tares, so also many people who might ultimately find salvation would other wise be lost if condemned before the Day of Christ’s judgment.
Unfortunately, most of us have been guilty of this, even the Church. We all know individuals who have turned away from the Church because of this very thing. They were made to feel judged and condemned rather than welcomed. May God forgive us.
Again, at the heart of today’s parable is the note of patience. Not just the patience of the servants who have to wait and watch, but also the patience of God himself. God didn’t and doesn’t enjoy the sight of a cornfield with weeds all over the place. But he doesn’t relish the thought of declaring the harvest-time too soon, and destroying wheat along with weeds.
The parable speaks to the compassion of God in that delaying his judgment allows more people to be saved at the end. Jesus taught that the kingdom had come in Him, but not yet fully arrived and would not in one big bang. It would come through a process of slow growth, a steady growth based on God’s time-line. Some might say that is a “cop-out,” no doubt they did in Jesus’ day.
Again, it has to do with one’s view of God. To say that God is delaying his final judgment seems outwardly that God is uncaring and inactive. If Jesus did what God does in combating evil and defeating it and is still working toward the final outcome when the enemy will be ultimately defeated, then it is false to say that God does not care about us now and that He is inactive.
We who live on this side of the cross know that He did indeed act suddenly and dramatically at the moment He gave the life of His Son for the life of the world. When today we long for God to act, to put the world to rights as it were, we need to remind ourselves that He already has by looking at the cross.
What we are waiting for now is the full outworking of those events. We wait with patience, and as St. Paul says, with hope, not like people in a dark room wondering if anyone will ever come and turn on the lights, but like people in early morning who have seen the sunrise and are now waiting for the full brightness of midday to shine upon us. AMEN+

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