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Sixteenth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Wis 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43 (hay 24-30)
1/ Reading I: RSV Wisdom 12:13 For neither is there any god besides thee, whose care is for all men, to whom you should prove that you hast not judged unjustly; 16 For your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all. 17 For you do show your strength when men doubt the completeness of your power, and do rebuke any insolence among those who know it. 18 You who are sovereign in strength do judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you do govern us; for you have power to act whenever you do choose. 19 Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous man must be kind, and you have filled your sons with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words. 27 And he who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 13:24 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; 25 but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. 26 So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. 27 And the servants of the householder came and said to him, `Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ 28 He said to them, `An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, `Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ 29 But he said, `No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. 30 Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'” 31 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” 33 He told them another parable. “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven which a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, till it was all leavened.” 34 All this Jesus said to the crowds in parables; indeed he said nothing to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfil what was spoken by the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter what has been hidden since the foundation of the world.” 36 Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” 37 He answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; 38 the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. 40 Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. 41 The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, 42 and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.
I. THEME: We need to patiently wait for God’s justice and mercy.
When people witnessed tragedies resulting of hurricanes or earthquakes, they used to question, “Where is God? Why didn’t He prevent these tragedies but let them happen to the innocent?” If they can’t find a satisfactory answer, they shall conclude: either God has no power to prevent or He isn’t merciful. As a result of this reason, they no longer believe in Him! Or when people face injustices that happened for individuals, families or societies, they also question, “Where is a just God who let the evildoers cause so many damages for the innocent? Why didn’t He take them away?” And they concluded God can’t see and they don’t want to believe in Him anymore! In short, people challenge God to govern the world according to human way and thinking. They want to control God, not to let God control them.
Today readings emphasize on God’s wisdom in His providence for the world and limitations of human understanding. In the first reading, the author of the Book of Wisdom demonstrates that God always acts wisely and treats all people mercifully and justly. In the second reading, St. Paul revealed for us an important truth: since people don’t know how to pray properly, so God bestows on them His own Spirit, to help people to offer proper prayers that both please God and benefit people. In the Gospel, Jesus answered a frequent question posed by human beings, “Why God doesn’t destroy the evildoers but let them live and cause so many damages for the innocent?
1/ Reading I: God is almighty, merciful and just.
1.1/ By His strength, God acts righteously: When we read the Wisdom Books of the Old Testament, we can see clearly that human understanding is very limited. For example, in the Book of Job, he couldn’t understand why God let the good suffer. His friends, based on the tradition, told him that the reason for his suffering is either due to his ancestors’ sins, or his, or his children’s sins. He didn’t accept their explanation because it isn’t right in his case; he would like God to give him the answer. Finally, when God appeared and questioned him, Job had to raise his hands to cover his mouth and replied, “Therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:6). The reason why Job must suffer is only because God wants him to demonstrate to Satan that he believes and loves God not based on good things which God blessed and bestowed on him (Job 1:6-2:7).
God has wisdom and power to create and to control the whole universe; human beings are so dull and limited to understand God’s works. The human duties are to humbly recognize their limitation and not to blame on God as “unjust.” The author of Wisdom also advised people, “For your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all. For you do show your strength when men doubt the completeness of your power, and do rebuke any insolence among those who know it.”
1.2/ God is both merciful and just: “Merciful” and “just” are two of God’s attributes. Some saints liken these two attributes as two wings of a bird or two feet of a human being. A bird can’t fly with only a wing and a human being can’t walk with only one foot. When a person pays attention only to God’s justice, he can end up in desperation because he doesn’t believe God can forgive his enormous sins. In opposition, if a person pays attention only to God’s mercy, he can fall into presumption—God shall forgive all of his sins without the need of his repentance!
How can these two attributes be in God? The author of Wisdom gave the answer, “You (God) who are sovereign in strength do judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you do govern us; for you have power to act whenever you do choose. Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous man must be kind, and you have filled your sons with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.”
2/ Reading II: “The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
2.1/ People don’t know how to pray properly: In reality, all of us don’t know how to pray correctly. In the Gospel according to St. Luke, the disciples recognized this so they came and asked Jesus to teach them a proper way to pray; and he taught them a priceless prayer, the Our Father (Lk 11:1-4). There are at least three reasons that show people don’t know how to pray properly:
(1) People don’t know what shall happen to them in future: People know only what happen in the present moment. Therefore, one thing can be good for people in the present moment but shall not be good for them in future; for example, richness can cause a person to lose his life or happiness. Or one thing can be bad for people in presence but shall be good for them in future; for example, losing a job can be bad in presence but can be the motivation for a person’s better job in future.
(2) People don’t know what is really good for them: There are many things which people consider as good for them but they can cause bitter results for them; for examples, most people want to have power, honor and richness but they can’t fathom their unbearable bitter results. Or children want their parents to let them out all night to party with their friends and they don’t know bad things which result from this party.
(3) People don’t know if their prayer might cause damages for others: God protects all people because they are His children even though they don’t know Him. For example, when one prays for God’s punishment on his enemy right away, God states clearly His will, “As I live, said the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live” (Eze 33:11).
2.2/ “The Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words”: Since we don’t know how to pray correctly, God bestows on us His own Spirit. St. Paul said clearly in today passage, “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words.”
The Greek verb used in Rom 8:23 is “stenázô,” which is meant “to groan.” The noun used in today passage is “stenámois alalêtois,” which is translated by RSV as “sighs too deep for words.” This noun has its origin in the Book of Exodus where God heard the groans of the Israelites when they were maltreated by the Egyptian taskmasters; they don’t know whom they should pray to, only to groan in their heart (Cf. Act 7:34; Exo 3:7-10).
Why does God bestow His Spirit for people? St. Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians explained, “For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit which is from God, that we might understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit” (1 Cor 2:11-13). “And He who searches the hearts of men knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27). In short, when people pray under the Holy Spirit’s guidance, they pray properly.
3/ Gospel: “Let both grow together until the harvest.”
3.1/ The Parable of the Weeds: Like the Parable of the Sower, Jesus explained for his disciples the Parable of the Weeds when they asked him. God is the One who always sows good things in people’s heart. His enemy, the devil always looks for opportunities to sow bad things in people’s heart. People want to root out the weeds right away but God tell them to wait until the harvest. His reason for this is that if they root them out right away, they shall root out both weeds and the wheat.
The difficulty for commentators is Jesus’ explanation. He explained in details: the field is the world, the wheat are the children of light and the weeds are the children of darkness. This is correct on the Last Day where everything are clear; but there is no reason why people have to wait until the harvest; once people know the weeds are always the weeds, they can’t become the wheat. We must stress that parables aren’t used to explain everything; they only aim at one main thing. That main thing in the Parable of the Weeds is the waiting time for the wheat to be recognized from the weeds; not the weeds’ danger that needs to be rooted out right away.
We can apply this parable in our life: People must face both good and bad things as long as they live in this world. The good and bad things can’t be used to determine the good and the evil people until the Last Judgment. On that day, God shall determine for us to see who are the good and the evil people. In waiting for that day to come, we must make efforts to do good and to avoid evil. No one can proudly say that he is good because he doesn’t know when the evil shall grow in him. If someone does evil, he shouldn’t be discouraged but be repented and hope for God’s mercy. We shouldn’t condemn anyone as the weed by looking at their bad works.
3.2/ God is patiently waiting for people to change: Experience teaches us that time is needed before we can see the result of our works; for examples: for a seed to be wheat, it needs three months; for a tree to bear fruit, it needs three years; for a person to be successful, it requires twenty-five years; and for a man to be good, it requires a hundred years or his whole life. People need to be patient during the waiting time. The dangerous enemy of people is the impatience; they need to understand the meanings of these maxims, “A haste decision only leads to failure” and “If one is patiently enough, he can make a piece of iron to be a needle.” Today people seem having no patience to wait; they want to see results right away. It is the lacking of patience that leads many to failure and sufferings.
However, patience also has its limit and all things have their time. If a tree exceeds its time to bear fruit, it must be cut out to give other tree an opportunity as Jesus’ parable about the fruitless fig tree or the fruitless branches must be cut out and thrown into fire. God’s justice shall be vindicated on the Judgment Day. When the harvest comes, the weeds shall be cut out and thrown into fire and the wheat shall be gathered into the barn. When these things happen, no one has a right to blame on God that He is not just or merciful because everyone has an equal opportunity from Him.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Let God govern and control the universe according to His wisdom, mercy and justice. Who are we that question God about His providence? It is better for us to know our limitations.
– Have we ever imagine what shall happen to us if we let a human being control this universe? Does he have patience to wait for sinners to repent? The death penalty is an example of human impatience.
– Have we ever questioned why the merciful God let His only Son suffer greatly and die on the cross? Or why the just God didn’t destroy all sinners but sacrificed His Son to redeem them?