The Church of Weed and Wheat
Using a series of parables, Jesus speaks about the kingdom of heaven in this Sunday's Gospel according to Matthew. What is the kingdom of heaven? It is called the kingdom of God in Mark and Luke; it is the same thing as the kingdom of heaven. In simple terms, it means the reign of God. We can get an understanding of the kingdom of heaven by referring to the parallelism that Jesus used in describing it in the prayer he taught his disciples: "…thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." The kingdom of heaven is where God's will is done, where God rules or reigns. That is what the Church, the assembly of Christians should be, people among whom God's will reigns supreme. But this is not always the case. As the first of the parables illustrates, the Church, as we know it, is made up of the wheat and the weed, the good and evil ones. The two are intertwined to the extent that we don't usually recognize the presence of the good, the reign of God in the Church and the world.
Is it possible then to see a visible presence of God in the Church despite the mixing of evil with good? Yes, if we look deeply. Like the mustard seed and the yeast mentioned in the other two short parables, there is a hidden and quiet presence and growth of good seed in the Church and human world often exposed for its scandals, hypocrisy, greed, lies, falsehood, racism, hate and other sins. Think of the presence and growth of the good seed in terms of the excellence and budding faith in the children of our parish. This week, I concelebrated the 8th-grade graduation Mass at Seven Sorrows, Middletown, and had the honor of presenting awards to deserving children from our church: Mary Bolesky, Joseph Barb, Benjamin Heckman and Brynne McDevitt. Thanks to the Men's Club for sponsoring a scholarship given to our children at Seven Sorrows who continue on to Catholic High Schools. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I concelebrated baccalaureate Mass and attended graduation at Lancaster Catholic High School, respectively. Our children again distinguished themselves by their excellent performance. I congratulate Hope, Nicholas, Jillian, Gabrielle, Kathryn, Aaron, Zygmunt, Tyla and Ian. God is generous in spreading the good seeds in our parish by giving the body of his Son, Jesus Christ, the Holy Eucharist, to Celia, Gabriella, Helen, Kate, Sophia, Alyssa, Ella, Kara, Gage, Aubrey, Malina, Juliana, Nora and Arria. It was a privilege to give them their first Holy Communion. These are some of the good seeds growing in our imperfect Church and world.
Indeed, the kingdom of God, the Church that exists in the human world, is a mixed collection of saints and sinners, and it will remain that way until judgment time. God is the ultimate judge. We are called to respond to all the evil present within the Church with patience, tolerance, forbearance, and Spirit-led prayers of intercession (Romans 8:26 ). That is not to say we should resign ourselves to passive indifference to the presence of evil, to assume nothing can be done. We must still strive to keep evil at bay even if we cannot completely exterminate it at this age. If we don't work to tame the growth of evil, it will end up choking the good. Yes, we have to resist the growth of evil, but we are not to sit in judgment over others, that is to be left to God, the ultimate judgment at the end of time, we surrender that role to God who will "judge with clemency" and govern with "much leniency" (Wisdom 12: 18).
In Christ, the Merciful Judge,
Fr. Bernard Oniwe, OP