16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – “The Wheat and the Weeds”
'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' Jesus replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."'"
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who I will definitely mention in other homilies as well because he is such a fascinating figure who lived through several different imprisonments in Russian prison camps before coming to the US and warning the US that he was seeing things similar to Communism that were already taking place in the US. He gave one of the most epic commencement speeches of all time to Harvard graduates in 1978 where he gave that warning!
But anyway, some of us likely have a good question which is “why doesn’t Jesus just destroy all the evil people in the world.”
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn answers our question this way “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being.”
The fact is that we are not allowed to give up on anyone. We all have evil in our hearts, although none of need let evil triumph in our hearts nor in our lives, but because each of us has evil in our hearts, none of us is allowed to judge another person as good or evil. We ought to judge actions, but never judge persons.
I realized this year during Lent as I was proclaiming the Palm Sunday Passion narrative from Matthew. In that Passion narrative it says the two thieves on either side were reviling Jesus.
But Luke’s Gospel recounts how, as Jesus’ death draws nearer, one of the thieves rebukes the other, and then asks Jesus to remember him when Jesus comes into His kingdom, and Jesus says “Today you will be with me in Paradise”
What is the takeaway from these Gospel passages? it is that when the two thieves were hung on either side of Jesus, they were both mocking Jesus. But one thief, whether it was conversation with Jesus or simply watching Jesus suffer, in his last moments of his life, turns to Jesus, understanding now fully that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah and makes this beautiful request
The lesson for us is obvious – we are not allowed to judge anyone, nor are we allowed to give up on anyone. But by the way we live our lives, by the ways that we endure suffering patiently and with hope, those things will attract people, and will inspire some of them to convert at the very end of their lives.
We pray that each of us will have the courage to endure suffering patiently, and so be a witness to all who see us, and inspire those who would have otherwise been thrown into the fire at the end of time.