Twenty-sixth Sunday after
Pentecost (5th Epiphany)—9 November AD 2008
“But while men were asleep, [the] enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat.”
The Holy Sacrifice of the
Mass in Latin and English
Fifth Sunday after Epiphany celebrated after Pentecost
Dóminica Quinta quæ superfuit post
The meaning of today's Gospel is rather clear. If anyone
does not understand its symbolism, he need only read a little farther along in
the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew's Gospel. Our Lord explains that the
planting of the weeds is representative of the sowing of sin among those who
were created to love God in this world and in the next.
The passage gives an understanding of why God permits sin
and evil to exist in the world, alongside virtue and goodness. God generally
refrains from interfering in earthly affairs, lest the good be disturbed along
with the bad. Both are allowed to exist, side by side, and only at the end—at
the final judgment—will God separate the good from the bad, the “wheat from
the chaff;” gathering the weeds and cockle into hell for eternal burning
This should help too, to refute the charge often times
brought against Christianity and the Church by her enemies: It is often enough
said that Christianity is false because not all of her people are good. God's
enemies can even point to the members and leaders of the Church—and can
correctly say that not all of them are good.
But, we can see from today's Gospel that this is not proof
that the Church is merely a human institution, or that it has failed in the task
given it by God. On the contrary, it shows that our Founder, Jesus Christ, had a
clear knowledge of human nature and what to expect from that nature in the
future. It merely shows that the Church and its members are what our Lord
predicted them to be.
Yet, when we recite the Creed, we speak or sing of our
belief in “One, HOLY, Catholic and Apostolic Church. How does this mixture of
weeds and wheat—of good and bad—reflect the notion of holiness in the Church?
How do we justify using this adjective in the Creed?
To begin with, we can say that the Church is holy because
our Founder is holy—indeed, He is holiness itself. Unique among all
institutions, the Church can claim to be founded by God Himself, who had taken
human form to deal with us directly. Many of the non—Christian religions don't
even claim to be anything more than philosophies—simply attempts to explain the
mysteries of existence. They make no claim that their founder was anything more
than a clever human being.
Most of the sects of Christianity can claim little more.
They all point back to Christ as their founder, but insist that really proper
Christianity didn't get off the ground until it was reshaped by their founder;
be he Photius, or Luther, or Calvin, or Zwingli, or whoever.
We see that the Church is holy in that it continues to
teach only what we have received from almighty God. The history of the Church is
a history of martyrdom, imprisonment, and heroic missionary activity—refusing to
worship false gods, refusing false doctrine, and working unceasingly to spread
the teachings of Jesus Christ. It is a history of refusing to accept anything
other than God’s revealed truth.
The Church clearly posses the means of holiness. Through
the Mass and the sacraments, we are able to restore the union with God lost by
Adam and Eve. Even if we ourselves fall from grace, we have the means to rise
again through Confession and Communion. Perhaps, equally important, we have the
means to grow in the graces of God —— not simply to “stay out of trouble”
with Him. Through the Mass, the Sacraments, and the sacramentals, nearly every
aspect of our life is sanctified and brought closer to God.
And, the Church is holy in her members. We tend to
publicize and remember the bad and forget the good. But, for every notorious
sinner, bad priest, or unholy pope, the Church has produced hundreds or
thousands of good ones. On All Saints day we commemorated the millions who have
persevered in holiness; the martyrs, confessors, widows, and virgins; the
priests, the pontiffs, and patriarchs; the hermits, the monks, the abbots—all of
those who have demonstrated the holiness of the Church through their good and
To be sure, there are weeds, and cockle, and chaff amongst
the wheat. There always will be. So much is implied in the parable we read
today. But, none—the—less the Church remains holy in her Founder, her teaching,
her sacraments, and in her people.
And, particularly important to recognize is the fact that,
unlike the weeds in today's Gospel, we have free will. Even if we have spent
some number of years of our life growing up as chaff amongst the wheat, we have
the ability—with God's grace—to change ourselves.
If we look in the small circle of people around us, and
the Church doesn't seem holy to us, we should consider whether or not this
unholiness is largely our own fault. If it is, we can and should do something
We have the means of holiness. We can reform ourselves: We
can keep the commandments. We can adopt the dispositions mentioned today by St.
Paul: “mercy, goodness, humility, patience, modesty,” and so on. We can
overlook one another's faults and idiosyncrasies. We can grow in the love of
God, letting “Christ dwell in us abundantly, in wisdom, word, and work.”
If we are unholy ... if the Church seems unholy around us
... we can do something about it. For, we are not weeds, we are not chaff, we
are not cockle. Rather, we are human beings, created just a little bit below the
angels, adopted sons and daughters of God.
WE CAN DO ALL THINGS
IN THE NAME OF THE LORD,
GIVING THANKS TO GOD THE FATHER
THROUGH HIS SON
OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.