Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time/July 19, 2020
WIS 12:13, 16-19; PS 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16; ROM 8:26-27; MT 13:24-43 OR 13:24-30[Shorter form]
The Good Sower
Right now, if you look out our kitchen window, you’ll be rewarded with a view of several magnificent, seven foot high, close-to-blossoming . . .weeds. Thistles, in fact. Rising up from right under the window, they’re so close to it that they interfere with the casement’s opening and closing. But they haven’t been cut down or otherwise rooted out. Nope, they’re staying put. Why? There are several reasons, including their size and the ferocity of their thorns (not to mention our love of Scotland), but the most important has to do with birds. Goldfinches love thistle seed. Very soon they’ll be swarming all over those plants, flashing their bright yellow plumage and delighting us all as they gorge themselves. If “an enemy [had] done this,” my guess is that certain bird-lovers in the community would thank him! (What the beleaguered gardener might say cannot be recorded here.)
Our community has its reasons for leaving the thistles, and the owner in today’s gospel has his for leaving the “darnel” (as it’s often called in other translations of the Bible). It’s interesting to see how angry his servants are: up in arms, ready to get out into the field with their sickles and hoes; they’re mad as hell and they want action! If they lay hands on that “enemy,” it won’t be pretty. It’s hard not to sympathize with their need for action – even their desire for revenge.
The answer of the owner, however, reveals a very different perspective. We might call it taking the long view. His “enemy”? Well, yes, he’s done the owner a mischief, created a nuisance, but what of it? The wheat is still there. If people start hacking around with hoes and machetes, it’s likely that some of the wheat will be harmed in the process. But what the owner wants more than anything is to see the wheat come to term; that’s what he cares about. He refuses to lose sight of that great desire, no matter the provocation.
Which can lead us to today’s first reading, from the Book of Wisdom, and to the psalm response as well. If ever there was a description of a God who “takes the long view,” it’s here in Wisdom. The speaker acknowledges the power and might of God, but delves beyond the typical theophany; as Elijah had discovered long before the Wisdom writer was born, God’s power is not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire. For Elijah, it was the “still, small sound.” For the Wisdom writer, God’s power is revealed in forbearance and patience -- for your might is the source of justice/your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all – and in mercy:
But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency,
and with much lenience you govern us;
for power, whenever you will, attends you.
If we listen to today’s psalm, we hear much the same thing:
You, O LORD, are a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity.
Turn toward me, and have pity on me. . . .
This is a God who holds back from sending out the weed eradication squad. A God who wants to see his wheat come up more than anything. A God who sowed the wheat “in the beginning.”
Sometimes, I wonder what God sees when he looks at me. Weeds? After all, I’m all too often as thorny as any thistle. But today’s gospel reminds me that God is the one who sowed me in my beginning, and that God doesn’t sow weeds. The owner of the field isn’t waiting for some kind of magic to happen; he doesn’t imagine that if he waits till harvest time, the weeds will somehow change into wheat. No, he says very clearly that the harvesters will bundle and burn the weeds and then gather the wheat into his barn. It’s the same with God. He sows good seed, and that’s us. Sure, we can go astray, as last week’s parable showed us. But the seed is still good. And God is still good too, as the Psalmist says: “The LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Ps 103: 8).
“An enemy has done this.” Yes, things happen, but so what? The Good Sower’s loving concern for his sowing outlasts -- and outloves --anything that any enemy can do.
Sr. Nuala Cotter, R.A.
Lansdale, PA USA