“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 Epiphaniam
It's not uncommon to find a note of
pessimism among many Catholics who are making the attempt to keep the Faith
as we have received it from Jesus Christ. A lot of obstacles get in the
way—a lot of discouragements enter in. We see the highest authorities in
the Church failing to do their job of preserving the Faith, and even
actively contributing to its weakening. We see our churches taken away from
us; some hideously remodeled and used for sacrilegious worship; some put to
secular and downright profane uses; others simply closed. We see an
abundance of bad literature replacing those things which are truly
Catholic. Then too, we see the government and the media actively
contributing to the demise of public morality, and the consequent further
weakening of the Faith.
It's easy to become exasperated; to
throw one's hands up in the air, and to demand to know why God permits such
things to go on. “Why does God let this happen?” “Why doesn't He strike
them dead?” “... or cause the earth to open up and swallow them alive?”
We've probably all had feelings like this—some of us maybe a little bit more
vocally than others.
To be sure, God can, and sometimes
does act in this way. He can send a plague, or an earthquake, or a
lightning bolt, if He chooses to do so. We see examples of these things in
Sacred Scripture and in Church history. But most of the time God doesn't
choose to intervene in so dramatic a fashion. The laws of nature operate
according to a very complex plan which He laid out even before creation—He
generally lets those laws operate without interference. He doesn't pull out
the weeds, for fear of harming the wheat.
And, certainly, we should be
thankful that God is as forbearing as He is. It would be pretty unnerving
to have to duck a lightning bolt every time we gave way to an inappropriate
This morning's Gospel shows us that
infrequent intervention is what God intends. After all, He did create us
with free will—in order to honor Him, He had to create us capable of
dishonoring Him—He has to give us some slack, in order that we may work out
our intentions and put them into practice.
You might go home and read the
entire chapter that this Gospel comes from—Saint Matthew's thirteenth
chapter. We only read seven verses out of fifty-eight. Virtually the
entire chapter speaks to the idea of God allowing evil to coexist with good;
vice with virtue; of waiting until the end of time to separate the wicked
from the just.
Of course, we ought to make a pretty
determined effort on our part to be good, and virtuous, and just—otherwise
God might look down from His throne and decide that there is not enough
wheat left among the weeds to hold off any longer on the order to burn
them. Sacred Scripture tells us that will happen someday—only the day and
time are uncertain.
Saint Paul, in today's Epistle,
gives us a brief synopsis of what we should be doing in order to make our
difficult burden easier for all of us to carry.
He tells us that first of all we need to be good to one another. After all,
we are of the same household of the Faith. We need to have mercy, goodness,
humility, modesty, and patience with each other—sharing the burden of living
in a faithless world—above all, charity and mutual forgiveness.
“Mercy, goodness, humility, modesty,
patience” —it is probably significant that Saint Paul placed “humility”
squarely in the center of that group of words, for humility is essential to
living the spiritual life. The humble recognize that all good things come
to them from God, and are properly grateful. And Saint Paul is talking
about Christians getting along with one another, so again, humility is
essential, for no one likes to have to listen to someone brag about himself.
We are to let the peace of Christ
reign in our hearts. The way of the world is agitation, and combat, and
siege. There is a distinct difference between, on the one hand, being on
guard against evil, and on the other hand, actively looking for people to
engage in bitter argument. We have to have trust in Christ; that in the end
He will separate the good from the bad as He said He would.
And, just as we have to have the
peace of Christ, Saint Paul tells us that we must have His “word” in our
hearts. That really means two things. First of all, it means that we
should seek to be constantly growing in our knowledge of God, in order to
grow in His love. It is a very serious mistake for a Christian to be more
knowledgeable of worldly affairs than to be knowledgeable of his Faith.
We should also understand that the
“word” can be understood in Greek sense to be the “logos,” the second
person of the Blessed Trinity, through whom all things were made, Christ
Himself. In other words, we should ensure that God is always dwelling in us
through sanctifying grace.
Good and evil will be with us as
long as the world survives. We should do our best to be good, and to spread
Christ's word through our good example.
We should be prepared to meet our
own personal end, because only in that we can we possibly be prepared if
some day God does decide that it is time to bring on the lightning bolts.
And it is inevitable that we will see our own personal end—it is only
possible that we will see the winnowing out of the wheat from the chaff on
wide scale basis.
Perhaps above all, we must never
allow the apparent frustration of our Faith to drive us to despair. Our
Lord will have the last word; the Overseer who will instruct that the wheat
be gathered into the barn, while the weeds are cast into the eternal fire.
Despair is the devil's weapon—our help is in the name of the Lord!