Wisdom 12, 13, 16-19 + Psalm 86 + Romans 8, 26-27 + Matthew 13, 24-43
It is a parable. It is not a lesson on gardening. As I was driving out of the OU Medical Center after a visit to someone this week, there was an employee sitting on a curb pulling what I call “nut grass” and other non-blooming plants out of a patch of flowers in the median. I thought to myself: “What a hopeless job. With the rain we’re having they will all be back before she gets to the end of the block.” But then, if the weeds were not pulled we would never see those “lantana” blossoms that look so grand especially when the sun is shining; and with that, I drove off thinking about this parable.
It is a parable about the end of time, the great gathering or “harvest” as Jesus often refers to it. That topic was an important one for Matthew in his Gospel probably because he and the church to which he was writing were expecting it to occur very soon. Perhaps for that reason this parable is only found in Matthew’s Gospel. I suspect that Matthew is thinking that with the end coming soon, there is no need to be concerned about sorting weeds from wheat. By the time Luke prepares his Gospel using much of Matthew and Mark, the end is clearly not coming soon and may have already begun, so the parable is of less interest in Luke’s Gospel. None the less, here we are long after the transition from Matthew to Luke holding this parable up for reflection and open to the Living Word’s revelation.
It is still about God, as parables always are. The seed comes from God who sows everywhere. For Matthew, the field is the church. If so, the Church is full of wheat and weed. Not much has changed. There are still some who produce fruit, feed, and nurture, and there are still some who just take up space using up precious moisture and sunlight; taking and never giving. It’s none of our business which one is which except to ask ourselves which we have become. We don’t do the sorting. We produce the fruit. This has long been the heart of the parable’s message which can lead to asking whether this parable is about weeds or people.
Perhaps we could go a little further with it, a little deeper, and let it become a little more personal. It is said by scholars that Matthew is writing about the early Church, a mixed assembly of good believers and not-so good believers. Not much has changed on that idea. Perhaps however, the parable might lead us to look at ourselves and recognize the truth that within us there is something very good, and something not so good. The Word of God today might well be asking us to stop looking around at others making our judgments about who is wheat and who is weeds. It might be better to simply look within and clean up the garden or the field of our own lives that are always such a mixture of success and failure, good and bad, because we’re all sinners and saints full of goodness and light one day and doom and gloom the next.
The field of this parable is the world, and the good seed has been sown everywhere. Think of the image of the sower Matthew spoke of last week. Going on with the second parable about a mustard seed, we are reminded that it does not take a lot of seed nor big seed to produce something good. All it takes is a little yeast to make the bread says the third parable.
For me this parable is today a reminder that there is a little good in everyone and when they are ready to pull their weeds, what good there is will grow even better. I am also reminded that when all I can see is the weeds in my life, there is still a mustard seed or a grain of yeast in all of us that will, once the weeds are addressed, grow more abundantly. Of course that assumes that we recognize our imperfections and, shall we say, “weediness”. This is then a parable of hope and encouragement more than one of threat and doom that can define these days as preparation for the harvest.
The Matthew of the past was all worried about apostasy in the early church with advice about how to be prepared for the harvest. So concerned about the future, it was difficult to live in the present. This “reign of God” he speaks of has already begun. It is not some future cataclysmic event. It began with the Birth of Jesus Christ. This reign of God is only obscured by the weeds which have to go before we can shine like the sun. The angels are among us like grace itself providing the courage and the wisdom, to lift up our hearts, our minds, and our lives for we are living now in the harvest time.