Homily, Ordinary Time Sunday 16A
When people learn that I’m the youngest of nine children in my family, many tend to think that we must have grown up on a farm, but we never did. We always just lived in town, down in Elk Point. However, my mother always had a large garden next to the garage, and many of us spent our summers working in corn fields, for one of the local seed companies at the edge of town. I spent five summers in the fields. Even in my own limited agricultural experience, helping in the garden and in the corn and soybean fields, it’s always kind of amazing to me how quickly and how vigorously the weeds tend to grow, just as we hear in today’s Gospel. And I could never figure out why we always ended up with so much wild spinach in the garden, when my mom never planted any. Especially during times of drought and adverse conditions, like what many areas are experiencing this year, it can often seem like the weeds do a lot better than what we’ve actually planted.
Now one way to understand the parable of the weeds and the wheat in today’s Gospel is that each plant stands for one person, that each one of us is either a weed or a wheat, growing together in the field of God’s kingdom until harvest time. But another way of understanding the parable is that the wheat, the children and fruits of God’s kingdom, wheat refers to the many virtues that God plants in each one of us, the virtues of patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, the virtues that God asks us to cultivate in ourselves by cooperation with His grace. The weeds, then, are the vices, the children and plantings of the evil one, the habits of sin, impatience, anger, selfishness, violence, those tendencies in us that constantly threaten the good plantings of God.
Ultimately, God is the Gardener of each one of us. He gives freedom and strength by His grace, but He doesn’t decide everything for us. By our own actions, by the choices we make every day, we decide which plants in us are going to receive nourishment, either the virtues that come from God or the vices that come from our enemy. Are we going to choose patience, to react with kindness and perseverance to the inconveniences, challenges, and setbacks that life presents to us? I think we often forget that God does answer our prayers, but as St. Paul reminds us in our second reading, “we do not know how to pray as we ought.” The problem is not that we ask too much of God, but we ask far too little.
You see, God wants us to become Saints. He’s wanting the transformation of our minds, hearts, and actions, but oftentimes, we merely ask God to change our circumstances. We might ask God for patience, but then we quickly move on to asking him to remove from around us all adversity and to make things easier for us. Then God is left wondering, Which is it? Are we asking for patience, or are we asking for an easy life? If we’re really asking for patience, we should remember that this virtue is only cultivated and exercised precisely when things are not going our own way, when we’re forced to deal with people and with situations that make us feel very impatient.
So when we ask God for patience, and then we quickly run into countless situations that actually test our patience, why then do we complain that God doesn’t answer our prayers? He answers our prayers precisely in providing opportunities for us to exercise the virtues that He desires to see within us. But virtue is only proven through trials, adversities, and setbacks, through the saving but mysterious power of the Cross of Christ.
You are God’s field. You can either work with Him to cultivate and strengthen the good wheat of His virtues, or you can work with His enemy, and cling to the false idea of an easy life in this world. There is no easy life. A life of sin is not easy for those who are in it. And a life of virtue is difficult to reach, but a life lived with God and for God and for our neighbor is infinitely more worthwhile. So be bold. Ask God for patience and perseverance, and then prepare yourself for trials.