Message: We're in a spiritual war. We need allies and we need to become strong soldiers.
Perhaps you've heard about the distinction between reading the Bible and reading into the Bible. Reading the Bible involves listening for God's message. Reading into the Bible means looking for something convenient.
Today Jesus says to let the weeds and wheat grow together. Don't uproot the weeds. "Great," I say. "I don't have to work in the flower beds!" That's reading into the Bible.
On the other hand, reading the Bible - listening for God's message - requires trying to see the big picture. As we've seen in recent weeks, we are in a spiritual war. Every page of the Bible speaks about that struggle. We are in a spiritual war, but it's not a war of total annihilation. In the present moment we have to let weeds and wheat grow together - and then leave the final separation to God.
There are good reasons to leave weeds alone. First, you and I may not see the difference between useful and useless plants. Many people consider dandelions a nuisance. Others however harvest the leaves for a spring salad and even use the flowers as part of a vegetable stew.
Weeds - plants we consider useless - might turn out to have a good use. Furthermore an extremely valuable plant - wheat - once grew wild until our ancestors learned to domesticate it.
Something similar can happen in our souls. Weeds can transform into something valuable. Let me illustrate: A certain man had a terrible temper. His outbursts of rage were destroying his family. He went to a priest for help. The priest pointed out that his tendency to anger had a good side. The man was surprised because he did not see anything good in his temper, which often went out of control. But the priest explained that God gave him the energy of anger and wants him to use that energy to protect and defend his family. When the man went home, he talked with his wife and children. He asked forgiveness for the outbursts, but also said he wanted to form a strong family - a family that would withstand the attacks against it.
The man got out one of those Christian picture books. It had symbols for virtues like courage, justice and temperance. He focused on the virtue of temperance whose symbol is a compact fire. If a fire gets too big, it burns down the house, but if it's too small it simply dies out. Temperance keeps anger in the right balance. Anger is not bad in itself. A certain amount produces heat and light. The family thought about this and the man's wife said she would help her husband keep the fire in the fireplace. Together they prayed for the virtue of temperance. What appears as a weed can transform into something valuable.
This principle of transformation applies also to our relationship with others. We are in a spiritual war and we need all the help we can get. To cut off a potential ally is a huge mistake. A famous man hated Christians so much that he hunted them from city to city. Once he fomented the stoning of a young Christian named Stephen. The persecutor held people's cloaks as they threw rocks. Bruised and bleeding, Stephen prayed for the persecutors, including the instigator.
Shortly after, a light blinded the persecutor. He went from persecutor to proponent. You know who I mean. Most Sundays we read from his letters: like today, St. Paul's letter to the Romans. Paul transformed from Christian persecutor to Christian proponent. The same can happen to the person who scoffs as you go to Mass or leaves an anti-Christian message on Facebook.
So let's not lose potential allies or the strength that can emerge from apparently negative energy. We're in a spiritual war. We need allies and we need to become strong soldiers.
Leave the separation to God. Jesus assures us that one day God will send his angels to separate weeds from wheat. Not our job. But we do want to help others convert so they will not be bundled and burned. A terrible fate.
When Mary appeared to the children of Fatima - one hundred years ago - she gave them a glimpse of hell. She then taught them this prayer: "O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, and lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of Your Mercy". We want everyone to become part of the great harvest. That means helping them learn to pray. As St. Alphonsus said, "Those who pray are certainly saved; those who do not pray are certainly damned." (see Catechism #2744)
We are in a spiritual war. Let's seek potential allies and help others become part of the good harvest. As one former persecutor, St. Paul, tells us today: "The Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness, for we do not know how to pray as we ought...the Spirit intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will." Amen.
From Archives (for Sixteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Audio Files of Homilies (Simple Catholicism Blog)
Take the Plunge Bible Study (audio resources)
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Fr. Brad's Homilies
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