Sunday, July 19
My Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This is my homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
Jesus shares a number of parables in the Gospel today.
I focus on the parable of the “Wheat and the Weeds.”
When I was a kid, life was pretty simple and much was painted in blacks and whites.
I couldn’t understand why anyone would not want to be a Catholic.
I couldn’t imagine people choosing to be anything but American, if they had the choice.
I wasn’t positive that it was superior to be Polish, but my grandparents, and my uncles and aunts, thought so, so I leaned in that direction.
Then the “Polish Jokes” became popular and I had to take another look at my world vision, and deal with my anger at those where discriminating against people of Polish descent with no real reason to do so, other than it seemed to be fun. (Maybe like Blonde Jokes?)
I thought that kids who went to Public Schools weren’t smart enough to know what they were missing in the Catholic Schools. And somehow Catholic School kids were better than Public School kids.
And I believed that the Smith’s who lived down the street, and who were very generous with their time in a variety of neighborhood activities, were actually inadequate because they didn’t belong or go to any Church.
My world was divided into very neat categories: Catholic and non-Catholic, Americans and foreigners, churchgoers and non-church goers, smart kids and dumb kids.
As I journeyed through life, became older, and experienced many new things, I realized what a simplistic, convenient, and easy way this was to look at life.
The tendency to put people in boxes, to stereotype them on the basis of the categories they fall into, is a trap that we humans, all of us, fall into, and we must work hard to not keep falling into that trap.
Such simplistic thinking creates a virus, a pandemic, if you will, “this versus that,” virus and a “them versus us” virus.
We divide the world into all kinds of opposite categories: male and female, young and old, black, brown, and white, insiders and outsiders, weak and strong, rational and emotional, sacred and secular, heterosexual and homosexual, clergy and laity, documented and undocumented immigrants, winners and losers, and the list goes on.
Wheat and weeds! Wheat and weeds!
What makes things even worse is that we often rank people who fall into the same category better or superior to the other.
Take the category of Catholics for example. We divide that category into clergy and laity, and clergy seem to rank better than the laity.
People say, “Father say a prayer for me, you are closer to God than I am.”
No, we are all equally close to God if we choose to be. A priest is no closer to God than others simply because he is a priest.
And with all the various categories, what happens in the worst-case scenarios, and this happens often, is that these opposites begin to see each other as enemies.
Finally, we then know what happens when these dualisms become institutionalized. We have racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, suspicion, violence, and fear of Arabs and all Muslims. These attitudes are destructive to society, and they are a result of simple categorical thinking.
In today’s Gospel, we are given Jesus’ Parable about the wheat and the weeds. This was included in the Gospel because the early Church was struggling with simple categorical thinking. This is nothing new!
The early Christians were stumped about what to make of those who were different. Who were God’s faithful followers, and how was the community to regard non-believers? What should they do about them?
The best solution seemed to be the obvious one: “Aren’t those weeds growing among the wheat? Shouldn’t they be pulled up and thrown out? We can see the differences. Let us sort out what doesn’t belong!”
It is a struggle not to draw lines between what we would accept and what we would reject. It is easy to fall into simplistic categorical thinking and create those categories: “them and us,” “the good guys and the bad guys,” “the moral and the immoral,” “the saved and the sinners.”
Who are the “thems” in our lives? Who would we like to weed out?
The “in-law” that is not Catholic or not Christian… All Muslims because of the few terrorists… Liberal or Conservative Catholics… Republicans or Democrats… Maybe it would be “members of the good ol’ boys club” or “strident feminists”… “Blaming the Black Lives Matter” movement for the looters and destroyers of property…
We see what is happening today in our political system with everyone drawing lines in the sand, taking pledges about certain ideologies… We even argue about the politics of wearing face coverings and masks for the safety of our health…We are slowing freezing ourselves into a total lack of immobility. We cannot move forward on important decisions that face our country. Yet, the definition of politics is “the art of compromise.” We have lost the sense of compromise!
In recent years there has been serious conversation within all circles, and at all levels of the Church about who should be able to receive Communion and who shouldn’t. Who should be buried from the Church and who shouldn’t?
Again attempting to separate the wheat and the weeds…
For me, that kind of conversation and our decision to separate wheat and weeds is a slippery slope. We should not go down that path because the possibilities are endless, and we each have our own particular “weeds” that we would want to pull up to be burned.
Fortunately, the Gospel Parable today reminds us that it is not our job to be separating the wheat from the weeds. We are spared that chore. It belongs to God who is the harvest master, the One who is more skilled and more generous than most of us.
We must not be too hasty about pulling up weeds or too confident about identifying them. We are all growing together in the Lord’s field not really knowing who is “good seed” and who is weed.
The truth is, if we are willing to admit it to ourselves, that oftentimes, we are both – wheat and weed.
Let God be the Final Harvest Master. When the time comes for the great harvest, some of those who are gathered into the barn will surely surprise us. And, I am sure, we may surprise them.
Let God be the Harvest Master. Let God be God.