Dear Friends in Jesus Christ…,
Seeds and Weeds! Let them grow together. Today’s Gospel tells us about a very patient and compassionate God who is hopeful that the so-called “weeds” among us will be converted. The Gospel warns us that we should not be in a hurry to eliminate such elements from the Church or society or the family based on unwarranted and hasty judgment. You may ask why? I would like to share with you this beautiful story which I really love and share with children. The year was 1770, and in a small Italian church, two altar boys prepared for Benediction. Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni entered the sacristy, put on their albs, and grabbed the heavy brass candlesticks. And then they began to bicker. Arguing over who would stand on the priest’s right for the procession. Their quibble escalated into a shouting match. Alarmed parishioners turned their heads to the back of the Church to see the commotion, and that’s when it happened: Castiglioni cracked Della Genga over the head with his candlestick. Blood dripped from Della Genga’s injury, and both boys began shoving each other. Shocked parishioners screamed, “Throw them out! Throw them out!” So, the embarrassed priest grabbed the boys, led them to the door, and tossed them out of the church.
Now fast-forward several decades to 1825. Half a million-people gathered in Rome for the great Jubilee celebration. The Jubilee occurred every 25 years, and its grand climax was the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica. Traditionally, the Pope would knock on the door three times with a large silver hammer and sing, “Open unto me the gates of justice!” On the third knock, the door would swing open, and the Pope would lead his people through. The symbolism was rich: pilgrims from all over the world coming back home to the Church, following their leader through the great porta fidei, the “Door of Faith.” That Jubilee year, in front of thousands of pilgrims, Cardinal Della Genga made his way to the door. It was fifty-five years after the candlestick incident. Cardinal Della Genga who had become Pope Leo XII neared the door. Turning to the Cardinal beside him—Cardinal Castiglioni, the Pope said “Let me have the hammer.” With a sly grin, Castiglioni replied, “Just like I gave you the candlestick?” Amazingly, four years later Castiglioni succeeded his friend and became Pope, taking the name Pius VIII. Now if you told any of those pew sitters back in 1770 that they had two future Popes in the back of their church, they’d have laughed you out of the building: “Those two boys? The ones shoving and whacking each other with candlesticks”?
Today’s Gospel gives us the good news that God can change even “weeds” to wheat and that we should be patient. I am very sure many of you have asked this questions several times. Why does God permit evil to triumph so often in this world? Why the wicked are allowed to prosper? Jesus answers these questions in the parable. The triumph and prosperity of the wicked are short-lived, whereas the reward of the Christian who suffers from their wickedness is everlasting. We should not be discouraged because of the “weeds”. We need to pray for the conversion of “weeds” to wheat: We are called to recognize evil, name it and then to give it to God in prayer so He can take care of it, the way the farmer in the parable told his servants that he would take care of the weeds. God wants us to do good instead of evil, to bless instead of cursing, to praise instead of criticizing, to help instead of standing aside, to love instead of hating, to forgive instead of resenting and to tell the truth instead of lies. The disciples to whom Jesus addresses this parable include Judas who will betray Jesus, Peter, who will deny him, Thomas, who will doubt him and James and John, who cherish personal ambitions. In the end, only Judas is (apparently) lost, showing us that many “weeds” can become high yielding wheat. We need to practice patience. First of all, we need to be patient with ourselves. We may not get everything done perfectly this week, but so what? Then we must be patient with the others – those who annoy us by the way they drive their cars, those whose opinions differ from ours, those who make too much noise and disturb us and those who make our spiritual progress more difficult for us by their bad example and counter-witnessing. Let’s practice patience, remembering that, in the end, it is God who controls. Let us patiently and lovingly treat the “weeds” in our society as our brothers and sisters and do all in our power to put them back on the right road to Heaven, especially by our good example and our fervent prayer for their conversion.
We need allow God to judge us and others as “weeds” or wheat: This parable was told so that we might not go around judging others as “weeds” or wheat. Judgment is the function of God the Father and His angels. Instead, the parable asks us to take a close look at our own life with the understanding that one can judge one’s own heart, then repent and bear good fruit. It is a time to look at our own sins and at the way we conduct our own life, then to make a decision about our own repentance so that we can turn around and bear fruit for Jesus.
God Bless You,