July 19, 2020
St. Peter the Apostle and St. William Parishes in Naples, FL
Wisdom 12, 13, 16-19 + Psalm 86 + Roman 8, 26-27 + Matthew 13, 24-43
We are still right where we left off last week. Jesus has come out of the house and gone down to the lake. We are on the shore of the lake. Jesus, on a boat is teaching. Last week he gave the “Parable of the Soil” that some people call the parable of the Sower, but it’s really more about us, the soil. Still thinking in terms of farming Jesus now comes up with these three parables today. The first is serious, the other two are silly. We get a little hint with them that Jesus could use humor to teach a lesson. Sowing mustard seeds is ridiculous! It’s a weed. What is that guy thinking, we ought to ask. Who sows crab grass or dandelions in their flower bed? The last parable is so exaggerated that Jesus must have had those people roaring with laughter. Every time I read it, I recall an “I Love Lucy” episode when she has gone to work at a bakery, and messed up the recipe. The oven door flies open, and dough starts oozing out. Three measures of flour is about 40 pounds in our system! Imagine what 40 pounds of flour would do with yeast in it.
All of these parables are about the Kingdom of Heaven. That’s how he started last week and today: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like….” So, these parables ought to awaken our imagination about the Kingdom of Heaven. That phrase (Kingdom of Heaven) is used 51 times in Matthew’s Gospel. If that doesn’t tell you to pay attention and think about it, nothing will. We have to be receptive to the Word of God we learned last week, like good soil. Once our minds, our hearts, our imaginations, our souls are open, we can begin, with the help of these parables, to imagine the Kingdom of Heaven.
If our imagination is inspired by these parables, we should get the point that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is not territorial or geographic; and while the other Gospels write about the “Kingdom of God” as some future event, Matthew’s “Kingdom of Heaven” begins with the Incarnation. It’s already begun. God is already with us in Jesus Christ. This “Kingdom of Heaven” embraces souls, not land possessions. God’s rule transcends the boundaries of time and space. The power and authority of God is not centered on domination, but in compassion and forgiveness. This is what Pilot could not grasp. This “King” Jesus was no threat to the Romans. He was not interested in land or power. This “King” Jesus was interested in souls, in love, and compassion.
So, the Kingdom these parables reveal is already here. It is now. We’re in it, and when you look around, you begin to get the point of this week’s parables. There are weeds here. It does not matter where they came from, but there are weeds. This world, this church, our lives are not perfect. What do we do about? Jesus says, don’t be upset or angry. You know, that was the problem that the Scribes and Pharisees had. They wanted everything perfect, and they thought they could make it so. They threw people out who were not perfect, and Jesus didn’t like that. He kept putting them back. In their eyes, even Jesus was imperfect. He kept on eating with sinners and tax collectors, touching lepers and the sick they had thrown out. He talked with respect and patience with people like that woman at the well. Everyone knew about her! My friends, we belong here, in this place, in the Kingdom of Heaven imperfect as we are. There is grace, there is a little time, there is a patient God revealed by Jesus who waits for us to listen to his Son and work hard at getting ourselves in shape, preparing for the harvest. It is then that the weeds and the wheat will be separated, not now. Perhaps most importantly of all, we need to realize that we are not the ones to do the separating. That’s not our job. We will have enough to do simply making sure that we are fruitful like the wheat.