Gospel reflections – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
19 July 2020
Matthew 13: 24-43
LET THEM LINGER.
THINGS CAN AND WILL GET BETTER.
Today’s Gospel may be entitled “Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds”.
A few days ago, I was invited for a morning Mass in St. Teresa’s convent. (Don’t worry. The board of St. Teresa’s School was not there, so I’m covid free.) After Holy Mass, they offered me breakfast. And they served “mee tikus”. One sister was saying, “Father, do you know why we call this ‘mee tikus’? Because… look at the noodles… they look like rats’ tails, right?” There and then, I lost my appetite. I’m actually afraid of rats. I never told the sisters though. I still enjoyed what they have served, though I tried my best not to imagine rats while eating. At the end of our meal, they offered fruits called “mata Kuching” as desert. The sisters also explained to me why those fruits are called such. They look like cats’ eyes.
Before I left for home, I was telling myself, “I had ‘tikus’ and ‘kuching’ (rat and cat) inside my stomach now. I wonder how are they there. I hope they are not fighting inside my tummy.”
Well, I never needed to rush to ‘tandas’ (toilet) after that unique breakfast. Now I know, rats and cats can co-exist, after all.
Come to think of it, life is kind of like that. We have cats and rats, blacks and whites, good guys and bad guys, weeds and wheat all around us… nay, even inside us. We have saints and sinners around us and inside us.
Remember that friendly neighbour of yours… who gives you ‘pansit’ or dishes from time to time? Or that generous classmate of yours… who shares his snacks with you during breaks and, more so, shares his answers to you during exams? Remember that cousin of yours… who is always there whenever you needed someone or something? Remember our frontliners… who sacrifice a lot even if they themselves get stressed and sick? There are a lot of such people… so saintly, right? They are the wheat among us.
But sadly, there are the weeds among us too. Remember that inconsiderate neighbour of yours… who honks his car loudly even after 10 at night? Or that bully classmate/officemate of yours… who finds joy in hurting or humiliating you and others? Remember that relative of yours… who often gossips about you? Remember those in power who make decisions that actually make you and many many more suffer gravely, who use their authority not to serve the poor and needy but to promote their own agenda selfishly? There are a lot of them. They are the weeds among us.
Maybe sometimes we find ourselves asking, “Lord, why do you allow these bad people to linger? And let their evil schemes prosper? Why not just get rid of them to make this world a good and happy place for everyone all the time? Why do you allow bad people and bad situations to let be?”
Be careful what you wish for. You might actually regret it.
What if I pray, “Lord, I hope those bad guys get punished. Make them all suffer for their evil. Now (right away), please.”
And then I will find myself saying after, “Lord, why am I having stomach ache all of a sudden? Are the rats and cats now finally fighting inside my tummy? Oh no!”
To which the Lord will reply, “I thought you want me to make the sinful suffer? Now (right away), you say. So? There you have it. Since you are a sinner too, (that’s what you get)!”
Today’s big good news is this…
GOD ALLOWS BOTH THE SAINTS AND THE SINNERS TO LINGER
TO GIVE THEM TIME TO GET WELL, TO GET BETTER.
Nowadays people are getting afraid again, more afraid perhaps. For days, Malaysia had zero covid case. But the numbers are back, and they’re growing. And not only in Malaysia.
But I heard there is this one country where there is no covid case at all, zero covid since before. You know where? In North Korea. You know why? Because there, when a person gets covid, he gets killed right away. “You have covid? You die. Now!” Joke only, hehe. I hope this is really a joke only.
“Lord, thank you very very much. You are not like Kim Jong Un. You give time for both the saints and the sinners around us and in us to linger, to get well, to get transformed, to get better.”
Yesterday, after reading today’s Gospel, this story came to my mind. It is kind of a possible continuation to that parable. It is just me making this up, ok? I hope the evangelist Matthew would not mind.
The parable in the Gospel ends with the master telling his servants, “No, don’t pull up the weeds. Let them grow together. Come harvest time, that’s when you bundle the weeds and burn them, that’s when you gather the wheat into my barn.”
Now here is the possible continuation…
Days passed until the time for harvest came. And the servants, upon going to the fields to do as the master had told them, had their big surprise. They found no more weeds anywhere. The fields were filled with wheat everywhere.
“What happened? Didn’t we see a lot of weeds together with the wheat before? That’s why we were alarmed and disturbed, that’s why we told the master about it. Where have the weeds gone?”
You know what actually happened?
The master, after speaking to his servants, went to his fields day in and day out.
He saw the wheat and told them, “Wow, I’m so happy for you. You make me proud. The good seeds I planted are now bearing bountiful fruits in you. Keep up the good work. I bless you even more.”
But the master also saw the weeds and he approached them too saying, “Oh, poor you. I pity you. It’s those who hate me who has caused you. But I don’t hate you, never will. I love you too. I’ll care for you. Always will. Please let me. And see your neighbour wheat? They’re my partners, my instruments to care for you, to cure you. Please let them influence you.”
And so it happened. Upon the master’s touch…
…the wheat were blessed even more and their goodness has become such a big influence…
…and the weeds… who allowed their master to care for them, to cure them, and who allowed their neighbour wheat to influence them… have been transformed; they have become weeds no more.
“No way, Father Ramon. That’s not possible. Weeds are weeds. No farmer can ever turn them into wheat.”
I guess you are right. No farmer, no man nor woman can.
But God can, right? In fact, he does. History shows… a loooot of saints were big sinners before. The traitor Peter has transformed into the solid Rock. The dirty Magdalene has become that faithful disciple. The doubting Thomas has turned into a martyr saint. The persecutor Saul then, now the great apostle Paul.
There is no contention to this.
GOD IS NEVER THE CAUSE OF ANYTHING NOR ANYONE BAD OR SINFUL.
BUT IN HIS WISDOM, POWER AND LOVE, HE ALLOWS SUCH
SO THAT THE GOOD IN THEM AND AROUND THEM MAY TRANSFORM THEM FROM WEEDS TO WHEAT.
God calls you and me… “HELP ME, PLEASE.
LET THE GOOD TRANSFORM THE BAD.
LET THE SAINT IN YOU TRANSFORM THE SINNER YOU AND AROUND YOU.”
One video I saw weeks ago shows a Filipino priest doing a lot of good to the hungry and homeless in Manila. With the help of volunteers and donors, he provides decent showers, meals and a place to stay, even livelihood and personality development programs, to many poor and needy street people in the city, even those, especially those who have been living in vice and sin. The saint in him has transformed the sinners around him.
And you know what is even more inspiring? That saintly priest, doing a lot of good, has been a drug addict before, doing a lot of bad. The saint in him has also transformed the sinner in him.
And perhaps that is really how it works….
LET THE SAINT IN YOU TRANSFORM THE SINNER IN YOU.
THEN AND ONLY THEN CAN THE SAINT IN YOU BE ABLE TO TRANSFORM THE SINNERS AROUND YOU.
One final story…
There was a man known to be so friendly to everybody. He had no enemy since childhood. And when asked, “Mister Friendly, what’s your secret? How come you have zero enemy?”, he replies, “My secret? Why I have no enemy? Simple. Once a person becomes an enemy, I kill him.”
“Ha! How could you?”
“I KILL MY ENEMY WITH MY KINDNESS.”
Very true…. KINDNESS KILLS. IT KILLS THE BAD AND GIVES BIRTH TO THE GOOD.
And for kindness, size does not matter. A seemingly small amount of kindness can actually go a long long way. Kindness is that “mustard seed” or that “yeast” that influences, that transforms, that changes weeds into wheat, that brings out the saints out of the sinners in and around us.
The world’s big problem is not that it is filled with bad people doing a lot of bad stuff wreaking havoc all around. It is that the so many good people are not doing enough good to transform into good the evil around.
MAY THE SAINT IN US TRANSFORM WITH GOD-LIKE KINDNESS THE SINNERS IN US AND AROUND US.
Today’s Gospel may be entitled “Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds”.
Well… I think a better title would be “Parable of the Wheat TRANSFORMING the Weeds… In Us and Around Us.”
May that parable… which is “God’s-Able”… come true in me and you.
Wheat and Weeds may also be likened to “situations”, not only persons.
Some situations are so positive… like wheat. But some are so negative… like weeds.
We pray too that these “weedy” situations in our lives be transformed into “wheaty” ones.
How? WE KILL THEM WITH OUR GOD-LIKE KINDNESS.
Fr Ramon Borja, SDB
Commission for Youth