16 Sunday A: Wheat and Weeds - Stories & Reflection

Gospel text: Matthew 13:24-3

Michel DeVerteuil 
General Comments

images of Mt 13We have three more parables this Sunday. The first is the parable about the wheat and the darnel in verses 24 to 30, with an interpretation in verses 36 to 43; this is one possible interpretation – feel free to let the parable lead you in other directions. As always when reading a parable, be conscious of the perspective you are coming from: are you identifying with the wheat that a planter allowed to grow although some enemy had sown darnel alongside it? With the man who had the trust to let both grow together? Or with the servants who wanted to pull up the darnel, even though they might pull up the wheat with it? Be conscious also of whether the parable is
– bringing back memories from your past,
– giving you an insight into what is happening to you now,
– or inviting you to trust in the future.

The parable about the mustard seed in verses 31 and 32, and the one about the yeast in verse 33, are on the same general theme, but don’t try to meditate on both together; rather, choose the one that appeals to you now.
Verses 34 and 35 are another summary about parables. Remember with gratitude when you understood one of life’s parables and became aware that what you had learnt was an ancient truth.

Prayer reflection
Lord, we thank you for those who educated or guided us from youth.
They saw that we had bad traits as well as good ones,
that darnel was mixed in with the good wheat they sowed in us.
There were people who wanted to weed out the darnel
but they said no, lest the wheat be pulled up also:
– if they did not let us mix freely with others, we might no longer be open and generous;
– if we were not allowed to make mistakes, we would never take risks;
– if we did not feel free to ask foolish questions, we would never learn.
We thank you for those who let wheat and darnel grow till harvest time,
and now we have gathered the wheat and can let the darnel be burned.

Lordforgive us that we write off people as if there is nothing to them but
– their selfishness;
– their insincerity;
– their arrogance.
We forget that they are good seed that you sowed in the world.
The evil in them is only weeds that some enemy sowed
while others were asleep.
Those sins which colour our judgement about them
will be tied up in bundles and burnt,
while you gather them like precious wheat into your barn.

mustard seedLord, we thank you for the church today,
our own community and the world-wide church.
What a big tree it has become,
and so many birds of the air come and shelter in its branches.
We remember that it was once a mustard seed,
but people of faith took that seed and sowed it:
Jesus, the apostles, the first Christians, the founder of our community.

We pray today for all those committed to making the world more human:
– those who are spreading the spirit of cooperation and community;
– human rights organizations;
– those who uphold the ideal of chastity.
They often feel that the seed they are sowing in the world
is the smallest of all seeds,
but they do it in trust that it will be a big shrub,
and will eventually become a tree
and birds of the air will come and shelter in its branches.

Lordwe thank you for mothers:
– endlessly correcting and reproving,
– repeating the old sayings and proverbs,
mixing them into the daily lives of the family,
so that today we recognize that their teaching has touched
every part of our society.

Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration

Use the Asperges option, with this introduction:
Sisters and brothers, today’s gospel reminds us that we, because we are Christians, have to be like a leaven in our society and our world. So let us begin our assembly as the Body of Christ by re-affirming our identity as those who have died in Christ in baptism, and have risen with him to new life and so stand here today.
(If your use a Rite of Penance, then Option c vii (Missal, p 394-5) is appropriate.)

Homily Notes
1. During the Year of Matthew we encounter, Sunday by Sunday, a very large range of parables – as commonly de­fined – as the gospel readings. The repetition of themes can, therefore, be a problem. One solution would be to select top­ics from the second readings, but this cannot be done on every occasion without provoking the question: ‘How does the gospel fit with this?’ Sadly, most people cannot appreci­ate that there is no planned link between the two New Testament readings, no matter how often they are told this. Another solution would be to pick significant topics for preaching, irrespective of the gospel readings. However, apart from this being out of. harmony with the logic of the liturgy, and the General Instruction, it also destroys the greatest gift any lectionary confers: it sets a limit to preachers going off on their hobby horses. So preaching, if it is part of the Eucharist and so part of the supreme ecclesial expression of a community of the baptised, must be linked to the read­ings and, normally, the gospel.
So we need a more sophisticated strategy to provide homilies for the Sundays on which there are parables, which acknowledges the content of the reading, but does not reduce the homily to exegetical notes on particular snippets of text which would be found only of antiquarian value by those members of the community who are not interested in the study of the gospels as such. What follows in these notes, and those of other Sundays (i.e. on Sundays 17, 19, 27, 28, 29, 30, 32), is an attempt to have a preaching strategy that can over­arch a wide selection of parable, and parable-like, material.
2. There is a fundamental question that we have to ask ourselves: How do we learn to be Christians?
3. Is that a silly question? Note two specific elements of the form of the question. First, it is not a question about Christianity, but about people. Second, it is not a question about an individual engaged in learning, but about a community engage in learning.
4. It is very easy to learning about ‘what we believe’ or about ‘what the church believes’ or ‘what the church teaches.’ There are umpteen books, catechisms, and classes on this topic. You will find little booklets on it at the back of the church and posters in the porch advertising courses. It is also easy to find out about ‘The Church’. Again, there books on its history, structures, its position as a social force in various societies, it art, customs, architecture, and what not. But all this is learning about something. But Jesus calls us to a new life­style, a new way of acting, a new way of life. And one learns how to be and how to live through doing it. Its more like an apprenticeship than a course of studies.
Jesus+everyone5. The question is how do we learn to be Christians. Most learning is an individual activity, we just happen to do it in a group because there are not enough teachers to go round. So we go to a group evening class to learn French after we have been on a holiday in France. But we worry that our children’s class-sizes are too large. We think of learning as my learning. But how could you learn to play football on your own? To learn to play football requires slowly building up skills through practice and more practice. But while one can prac­tice one or two little moves on one’s own, real practice needs to take place with the team: because it is learning to play to­gether as the team that is the key to success. One cannot say, except as a joke, that ‘I won the game; pity that my team lost!’
6. We hear about ‘the kingdom’ in almost every reading from the gospels. We hear about ‘the disciples,’ ‘the apostles,’ and about ‘the followers’, and in almost every reading from St Paul we hear about ‘the church in this or that place’ or’the body of Christ’. In every case we are talking about the groups: the kingdom is the group who have united them­selves with Jesus Christ, are given life by the Holy Spirit, and have come into the Father’s presence. This is the group we pray for when we say’ thy kingdom come’. The kingdom that is just one individual is a joke!
7. So we have to learn how to be members of this group, the Christians; and we have to learn how to be this new people, how to live this new lifestyle of Jesus. We have to see our­selves as learning by practice, and working with sisters and brothers (that is why we use these terms about one another) to be ‘the kingdom,’ ‘the church,’ ‘the People of God.’
8. Today’s gospel gives some insights into the tasks facing the group learning to be Christians. First, they have to cope with the fact that the group will not be perfect at this stage of its pilgrimage. It would be nice to be part of a perfect group, but it is the actual community that we must work with, learn to act as a group, learn to act with harmony keeping our minds fixed on the lifestyle of generous, peace-making love. Second, we have to learn to act as a group so that we are like a tiny seed that grows to be a great tree. We must be willing to collaborate to take on the great tasks needed so that the Father’s kingdom grows. Third, we have to work as a com­munity to transform situations of injustice and suffering. As yeast turns an unappetising mass of starch into joy-giving, living bread, so must our community act within the society. The world must be a better place because of our community.
9. Learning about doctrine is easy; Jesus calls his people to learn to be his people.
John Littleton
Gospel Reflection

During his ministry, Jesus preached that the kingdom of heaven was near. The kingdom of heaven is the reign of God. Jesus used several images when speaking about the kingdom since it is beyond complete description and explanation in human words.
Jesus and The-Kingdom-of-God, c AD30Jesus inaugurated God’s kingdom on this earth. We are already living in the kingdom because the Church is the seed and the beginning of the kingdom. But the Church is not itself the kingdom in all its fullness. The kingdom is a more inclusive reality than the Church of Christ and, similarly, the Church of  Christ is a more inclusive reality than the Catholic Church. Many characteristics of the Church of Christ are also to be found outside the Catholic Church and various aspects of the kingdom occur outside the Church of Christ in other religions.This is because the Catholic Church is not identical with either the Church of Christ or the kingdom. The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) taught that the Church of Christ ‘subsists’ in the Catholic Church.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Jesus and The Kingdom of God, c AD30
This means that,  although elements of sanctification and truth also occur outside the visible structures of the Catholic Church and beyond the wider boundaries of the Church of Christ, the fullness of grace and truth are entrusted by Christ to the Catholic Church. Thus there is an inextricable relationship between the Catholic Church, the Church of Christ and the kingdom of God.
The fullness of the kingdom is expected at the end of time. Meanwhile, the Church on earth is on a pilgrimage towards that end. The Church, the People of God, always has members who are sinners. Therefore, while unfailingly holy because Christ is its Head, the Church is constantly in need of purification and renewal. Only at the end of time will the Church on earth achieve fully the perfection to which it is called when the kingdom of God is fulfilled in heaven. Then the Church will be free from all sin.
In that respect, the Church is similar to a field of wheat. The field of wheat ripens slowly, requiring much care and patience from the farmer. Growth may seem undetectable but it occurs as the wheat matures and becomes ready for the harvest. Using the parable of the wheat and the darnel, Jesus teaches two important lessons. First, the Church includes both the good and the bad. Both co-exist. Awareness of God’s reign emerges slowly but surely. Secondly, the good and the bad will be separated at harvest time. Judgement comes at the end.
The Church and the kingdom of God are absolutely linked. Active participation in the Church’s life and mission prepares us well for judgement at the end of time. The parables about the kingdom challenge us to remain faithful to the Church’s teaching and guidance, reminding us that the Church is the seed and the beginning of the kingdom here on earth. The Church, when it is faithful to its vocation, is the primary means whereby the kingdom is brought about.

For meditation
The sower of the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world; the good seed is the subjects of the kingdom; the darnel, the subjects of the evil one; the enemy who sowed them, the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; the reapers are the angels. (Mt 13:37-39)
Fr Donal Neary, S.J
Small beginnings

Everything starts small. The mustard seed was a tiny seed that grew into a flowering bush; it was not mustard as we know it, but only a bush to give beauty and shelter. It can remind us of the beauty of creation, and of the caring shelter we can give to others. It is also a reminder that each of us began as a seed in the mother’s body, and grew with the plan of God. The love of God grows like that – it begins small with birth and with bap­tism, and then grows wide so that we share our love of God. It is the same with marriage – love begins and then grows so that children and grandchildren and others may shelter in love. Love grows when love is given, in our immediate circle, and in our care for the wider world. Good friendship and love spreads out to many.
We want the kingdom of God on earth and God is saying that it grows slowly. It grows as we try to grow love, peace, justice and compassion. The shelter of the mustard bush is the mercy of God, encouraging our parish to be ‘an oasis of mercy‘ (Pope Francis). It is not easy, as love and care for the really needy of­ten meets with opposition. The kingdom of God grows with the help of God, and without this help, our efforts are in vain.
From the Connections:

Matthew’s Gospel has been called the “Gospel of the Kingdom,” containing some 51 references to the kingdom or reign of God.  Three of Jesus’ “kingdom” parables make up today's Gospel:
The parable of the wheat and the weeds:  God’s kingdom will be “harvested” from among the good that exists side-by-side with the bad.  Palestinian farmers were plagued by tares -- weeds that were very difficult to distinguish from good grain.  The two would often grow together and become so intertwined that it was impossible to separate them without ripping both weed and plant from the ground.  Jesus teaches his impatient followers that the Lord of the harvest is more concerned with the growth of the wheat than with the elimination of the weeds.  The time for separation and burning will come in God's own time; our concern should be that of our own faithfulness.
The parable of the mustard seed:  The smallest and humblest are enabled by the Holy Spirit to do great things in the kingdom of God.  From small and humble beginnings, God's kingdom will grow.
The parable of the yeast:  A small amount of yeast mixed with three measures of flour can make enough bread to feed over a hundred.  In the same way, God's reign is a powerful albeit unseen force.

Matthew’s Gospel was written some 50 years after Jesus’ death and 15 years after the destruction of Jerusalem.  By this time it is clear to the community of Christians that Jesus is not going to be accepted by all of Israel as the Messiah.  In citing these parables, the writer of Matthew encouraged the largely Jewish Christian community to see itself as the legitimate heir to God's promises to Israel.  They were the “good wheat” existing side by side with the “weeds” that would destroy it, the small mustard seed that would give rise to the great and mighty tree of the Church, the small amount of yeast that would become bread for the world.

“The wheat and weeds”:  We often approach religion as a deadly serious business; we lose the spirit of joy and the sense of hope that are part of the promise of the Risen Christ.  We become so concerned about pulling out the weeds that we forget to harvest the grain; we become so focused on the evil and abuses that surround us and “threaten” us that we fail to realize and celebrate the healing and life-giving presence of God in our very midst; we become so intent in upbraiding and punishing sinners that our own lives become mired in gloom and despair.  The task of judging sinners belongs to God; to us belongs the work of compassion and reconciliation.
When we hear Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the weeds, we first think of good people (the wheat) and bad people (the weeds) coexisting in an imperfect world until the coming of God’s kingdom.  But  every individual possesses something of both the “good” wheat and “evil” weed.  Every one of us possesses the ability to do compassionate and just things out of love — but there exists within us the same ability to do destructive things out of selfishness and greed.  Discipleship recognizes that struggle existing within each one of us but also embraces the hope that, in seeking to imitate Christ’s spirit of loving servanthood, we may be “wheat” for a world that is often choking in “weeds.”  
“Mustard seed”:  All of us, at some time, are called to be “mustard seeds,” to do the small, thankless things that are necessary to bring a sense of wholeness and fulfillment to our homes and communities.  From such “mustard seeds” is yielded a great harvest of peace and reconciliation.
“Yeast”:  In baptism, we accept God's call to be “yeast,” to be the bread of compassion, justice and forgiveness to a world which is desperately hungry in its despair and hopelessness. 

My Grandfather’s Blessings
In her book My Grandfather’s Blessings: Stories of Strength, Refuge and Belonging, physician Rachel Naomi Remen tells of the many unusual gifts she received from her beloved grandfather, an Orthodox rabbi and scholar.
Once, when she was four, her grandfather brought her a paper cup.  She expected to find something special inside.  It was full of dirt.  Rachel was not allowed to play with dirt. Disappointed, she told her grandfather that she wasn’t allowed to play with dirt.  Her grandfather smiled.  He took her little teapot from her doll’s tea set and took little Rachel to the kitchen where it filled it with water.  He put the little cup on a windowsill in her room and handed her the teapot.  “If you promise to put some water in this cup every day, something may happen,” he told her.
This made little sense to a four-year-old, but little Rachel promised.  “Every day,” he repeated.  At first, Rachel did not mind pouring water into the cup, but as the days went on and nothing happened, it became harder and harder to remember to do it.  After a week, she asked her grandfather if it was time to stop yet.  Grandfather shook his head.  “Every day,” he repeated.
The second week it became even harder, but Grandfather held her to her promise:  “Every day.”  Sometimes she would only remember about the water after she went to bed and would have to get up in the middle of the night and water it in the dark.  But, in the end, Rachel did not miss a single day of watering.
Then, one morning three weeks later, there were two little green leaves that had not been there the night before.  Rachel was completely astonished.  She could not wait to tell her grandfather, certain that he would be as surprised as she was -- but, of course, he wasn’t.  Carefully he explained to his beloved granddaughter that life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places.
Rachel was delighted. “And all it needs is water, Grandpa?”
Gently, he touched her on the top of her head.  “No, dear Rachel.  All it needs is your faithfulness.”
Faith is the ability to see the potential in the smallest of things and the courage and perseverance to unlock that potential.  Humanity’s dreams of peace, community and justice will be realized, first, in the everyday acts of such goodness of each one of us.  Such is “mustard seed” faith: that, from the smallest and humblest acts of justice, kindness and compassion, the kingdom of God will take root.  

From Fr. Jude Botelho:

Patience does it
Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children. She was born prematurely and her survival was doubtful. When she was four years old, she contracted double pneumonia and scarlet fever, which left her with a paralyzed left leg. At age 9, she removed the metal leg brace she had been dependent on and began to walk without it. By 13 she had developed a rhythmic walk, which doctors said was a miracle. That same year she decided to become a runner. She entered a race and came last. For the next few years every race she entered, she came in last. Everyone told her to quit, but she kept on running. One day she actually won a race. And then another. From then on she won every race she entered. Eventually this little girl, who was told she would never walk again, went to win three Olympic gold medals.
Jack Canfield in ‘A 2nd. Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul’

In today’s Gospel Jesus speaks to the crowds in parables. Jesus is speaking about an issue that confronts us: Why is there good and evil in this world? Why does God permit evil? Nature itself provides many metaphors for the kingdom of God. In the first parable the farmer does not weed his field because that might also damage the good plants. Similarly, faith communities are made up of imperfect individuals at various stages of spiritual growth. God does not ‘prune’ the community of believers but waits patiently for individuals to change and let the goodness in them bloom forth. Like the farmer, God knows that things are not always what they first appear to be. God is patient, allowing us time to mature and reveal our truer selves. Given time we might turn out to be something very good. It is hard to trust the slow work of God. Perhaps when we grow frustrated with the world and wonder why God doesn’t seem to be acting, we can reflect on his patience with us. If we do that we might be able to cooperate more deeply in the slow work of God that will make all things right in God’s own time. The parable of the mustard seed and the leaven shows that something quite small can have a very large effect. Our God, while doing great and magnificent things, is also the God of small things! Some of the greatest saints had humble beginnings and spent their lives doing ‘little’ things. The kingdom of God is really like a mustard seed or a pinch of yeast.

What makes you what you are
Stephen Grant, a research scientist who had made several medical breakthroughs was being interviewed and asked: What set him so far apart from others? He responded that in his opinion, it all came from an experience with his mother that occurred when he was two years old. He had been trying to remove a bottle of milk from the refrigerator when he lost his grip on the slippery bottle and it fell, spilling its contents all over the kitchen floor. When his mother came into the kitchen, instead of yelling at him, she said, “Robert, what a great and wonderful mess you have made! I have rarely seen such a huge puddle of milk. Well, the damage has already been done. Would you like to get down and play in the milk for a few minutes before we clean it up?” Indeed he did. After a few minutes, his mother said, “You know, Robert, whenever you make a mess like this, you have to clean it up and restore everything to its proper order. So how would you like to do that? He chose the sponge and together they cleaned up the spilled milk. His mother then said, “You know, what we have here is a failed experiment in how to effectively carry a big milk bottle with two tiny hands. Let’s go in the back yard and discover a way to carry it without dropping it. The little boy learned that if he grasped the bottle at the top near the lip with both hands, he could carry it without dropping it. What a wonderful lesson! The renowned scientist then remarked that it was at that moment that he knew he didn’t need to be afraid to make mistakes. Instead, he learned that mistakes were just opportunities for learning something new, which is after all, what scientific experiments are all about. Wouldn’t it be great if all parents would respond the way Robert’s mother responded to him?
Jack Canfield in 'A 2nd Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul'

The Window
There were once two men, both seriously ill, in the same small room of a great hospital. Quite a small room, it had one window looking out on the world. One of the men as part of his treatment was allowed to sit in bed for an hour in the afternoon. His bed was next to the window. But the other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. Every afternoon when the man next to the window was propped up for his hour, he would pass the time by describing what he could see outside. The window apparently overlooked a park where there was a lake. There were ducks and swans in the lake, and children came to throw them bread and sail model boats. Young lovers walked hand in hand beneath the trees, and there were flowers and stretches of grass, games of softball. And at the back, behind the fringe of trees was a fine view of the city skyline. The man on his back would listen to the other man describe all of this, enjoying every minute. He heard how a child nearly fell into the lake, and how beautiful the girls were in their summer dresses. His friend’s descriptions eventually made him feel he could almost see what was happening outside. Then one afternoon the thought struck him: why should the man near the window have all the pleasure of seeing what was going on? Why shouldn’t he get a chance? He wanted a change badly. One night as he stared at the ceiling, the other man suddenly woke up, coughing and choking, his hands groping for the button that would bring the nurse running. But the man watched without moving –even when the sound of the breathing stopped. In the morning the nurse found the other man dead. And quietly took his body away. As soon as it seemed decent, the man asked if he could be switched to the bed next to the window. So they moved him, tucked him in. and made him quite comfortable. The minute they left, he propped himself on one elbow, painfully and looked out of the window. It faced a blank wall.
Author Unknown

There was a monk who was very impatient. You may wonder, why would a monk be impatient? Don't they become monks so that they don't have to deal with the world? Yes, that's true. So imagine how impatient this monk was... The more he tried, the more impatient he became, so he decided that he must get away altogether to learn to be patient. So he built himself a little home deep in the woods, far away from civilization. Years later, a man was traveling in those woods and met him. The man was amazed to find anyone living so far away from the rest of the world, so he asked the monk why he was there all by himself. The monk said that he was there to learn to be patient. The traveler asked how long he had been there, and the monk replied: seven years. Stunned, the traveler asked, "If there is no one around to bother you, how will you know when you are patient?" Annoyed, the monk replied, "Get away from me, I have no time for you." Every time that I feel myself getting impatient, I picture the monk and I laugh out loud. This is yet another example of how to control our so-called "uncontrollable" emotions. By associating a funny story with an undesirable emotion, I give myself an opening - a chance to stop for a moment and look at what I'm doing. And most of the time, I realize that what's getting me all ruffled is so insignificant! I realize that it must be strange for anyone dealing with me at that point. One minute we could be arguing, and about to tear each other apart, and the next I'm laughing. I suppose I would wonder about such a person's state of mental sanity too. But think about it - what better way to break the tension? How many people get into arguments that literally break up relationships - over petty stuff! One word leads to another and before they know it, its ten years later and they have no idea of why they lost touch. If they backtrack, they realize that it all started over something so insignificant that they're too embarrassed to admit or disclose it. So, even at the risk of looking ridiculous, the next time that you are about to lose your sovereignty over your mind and your body, remember the monk! While you're laughing, explain why. The next thing you know, you'll both be laughing, and then you'll both be able to really talk and listen.
Carmen Colombo

The NY Taxi driver’s story
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. 'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, and returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.' When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?' 'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly. 'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice. I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice. 'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. For the next two hours, we drove through the city. Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired. Let's go now'. We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. 'How much do I owe you?' She asked, reaching into her purse. 'Nothing,' I said. 'You have to make a living,' she answered. 'There are other passengers,' I responded. Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. 'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.' I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away? On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life. We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware-beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
Author Unknown

From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

 1: “Throw them out! Throw them out!” 
The year was 1770, and in a small Italian church, two altar boys prepared for Benediction. Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni entered the sacristy, put on their albs, and grabbed the heavy brass candlesticks. And then they began to bicker.
Arguing over who would stand on the priest’s right for the procession, their quibble escalated into a shouting match. Alarmed parishioners turned their heads to the back of the Church to see the commotion, and that’s when it happened: Castiglioni cracked Della Genga over the head with his candlestick.
Blood dripped from Della Genga’s injury, and both boys began shoving each other. Shocked parishioners screamed, “Throw them out! Throw them out!” So, the embarrassed priest grabbed the boys, led them to the door, and tossed them out of the church. Now fast-forward several decades to 1825. Half a million-people gathered in Rome for the great Jubilee celebration. The Jubilee occurred every 25 years, and its grand climax was the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica. Traditionally, the Pope would knock on the door three times with a large silver hammer and sing, “Open unto me the gates of justice!” On the third knock, the door would swing open, and the Pope would lead his people through. The symbolism was rich: pilgrims from all over the world coming back home to the Church, following their leader through the great porta fidei, the “door of Faith.” That Jubilee year, in front of thousands of pilgrims, Cardinal Della Genga made his way to the door. It was fifty-five years after the candlestick incident. Cardinal Della Genga who had become Pope Leo XII neared the door. Turning to the Cardinal beside him—Cardinal Castiglioni, the Pope said, “Let me have the hammer.” With a sly grin, Castiglioni replied, “Just like I gave you the candlestick?” Amazingly, four years later Castiglioni succeeded his friend and became Pope, taking the name Pius VIII. Now if you told any of those pew sitters back in 1770 that they had two future-Popes in the back of their church, they’d have laughed you out of the building: “Those two boys? The ones shoving and whacking each other with candlesticks? Today’s Gospel gives us the good news that God can change even “weeds” to wheat and that we should be patient. (Rev Greg Willits quoted by Fr. Kayala in his blog). (Fr. Tony)

2) Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a gothic novella by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson first published in 1886. The work is also known as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. HydeDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, or simply Jekyll & Hyde. As a story, it talks about the concept of good and evil that exists in all of us. In the novel, Stevenson creates a hero in Dr. Jekyll, who aware of the evil in his own being, and sick of the duplicity in his life, succeeds by way of his experiments on himself using a self-made potion, in freeing the pure evil part of his being as Mr. Hyde, so that each can indulge in a life unfettered by the demands of the other. After taking the potion repeatedly, he no longer relies upon it to unleash his inner demon, i.e., his alter ego. Eventually, Hyde grows so strong that Jekyll becomes reliant on the potion to remain conscious. Finally, Dr. Jekyll kills himself in order to save his fellow people from the evil of his alter ego Edward Hyde. ( — Today’s Gospel teaches us that we are all a mixture of good and evil and hence how we should be patient and merciful with the evil ones in our families, parishes and society. (Fr. Tony)

 3) “The vine that ate the South.” Kudzu (Pueraria lobata of the Pea family) was introduced to the United States in 1876 at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Countries were invited to build exhibits to celebrate the 100th birthday of the U.S. The Japanese government constructed a beautiful garden filled with plants from their country. The large leaves and sweet-smelling blooms of kudzu captured the imagination of American gardeners who used the plant for ornamental purposes. As an exotic import, it became popular as a shade plant on canopies, and was seen as a God-given solution to the soil-erosion problem, following the Great Depression. Between 1935 and 1942, government nurseries produced 84 million kudzu seedlings, planting them wherever they would grow. By 1943, there was a Kudzu Club of America with 20,000 members and an annual “Kudzu Queen.” So, what’s the problem? I’ll tell you what! Kudzu is a vine with phenomenal growth. Twelve inches in 24 hours is not unusual. And 50 feet in a single growing season is well within the norm. People in the South have a saying: “If you’re gonna plant kudzu, drop it and run.” Which explains why some have called it “the vine that ate the South.” It can cover anything and choke everything. It can twine itself around fruit trees until it kills the entire orchard — which is why the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) eventually demoted kudzu to “weed status” … with the definition of a weed being “any plant that does more harm than good.” The weeds in Matthew’s little parable are “darnel.” Botanists call them Lolium termulentum. They are members of the wheat family, which look like wheat and hide out in wheat-fields, producing poisonous seeds. Darnel is the villain in today’s Gospel story of the wheat and the weeds. (Fr. Tony)

4. Who created the weeds? In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth and populated the Earth with broccoli, cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow and red vegetables of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives. Then using God’s great gifts, Satan created Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream and Krispy Creme Donuts. Satan said, “You want chocolate with that?” And Man said, “Yes!” and Woman said, “And as long as you’re at it, add some sprinkles.” And they gained 10 pounds. And Satan smiled.
And God created the healthful yogurt that Woman might keep the figure that Man found so fair. And Satan brought forth white flour from the wheat and sugar from the cane and combined them. And Woman went from size 6 to size 14. So God said, “Try my fresh green salad.” And Satan presented Thousand-Island Dressing, buttery croutons and garlic toast on the side. And Man and Woman unfastened their belts following the repast.
God then said, “I have sent you heart-healthy vegetables and olive oil in which to cook them.” And Satan brought forth deep fried chicken, fish and chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained more weight and his cholesterol went through the roof.
God then created a light, fluffy white cake, named it “Angel Food Cake,” and said, “It is good.” Satan then created chocolate cake and named it, “Devil’s Food.” God then brought forth running shoes so that His children might lose those extra pounds. And Satan gave them cable TV with a remote control so Man would not have to toil changing the channels. And Man and Woman laughed and cried before the flickering blue light and gained pounds.
Then God brought forth the potato, naturally low in fat and brimming with nutrition. And Satan peeled off the healthful skin and sliced the starchy center into chips and deep-fried them. And Man gained pounds. God then gave lean beef so that Man might consume fewer calories and still satisfy his appetite. And Satan created McDonald’s and its 99-cent double cheeseburger. Then he asked, “You want fries with that?” And Man replied, “Yes! And super-size them!” And Satan said, “It is good.” And Man went into cardiac arrest. God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. Then Satan created HMOs. 

5.  Political weeds: “Bet she regrets asking Brigitte Gabriel that question:” Click on:
Brigitte Gabriel’s website:, 
Lolium termulentum= the “Bearded Darnel” weed

30- Additional anecdotes:

 1) Disastrous elimination of weeds in history: In an effort to separate “good” from “bad”, or the law-abiding from the insurgents, Claudius forced a separation and commanded all Jews to leave Rome (ca. AD 49-50.). Centuries later, Jews would be similarly expelled from Spain (1492). Later yet, and in an act of unique horror, Adolf Hitler attempted to definitively separate and annihilate every Jewish person in order to construct what he perceived to be a superior race. When he was finally stopped in 1945, only 3,000,000 out of a population of 9,000,000 Jews in Europe remained alive. Millions of non-Jews were also killed during the third Reich, their only crime being the fact that they were judged as different and therefore lesser than their persecutors. During the Middle Ages (ca. 1150) formal investigative tribunals were established with an eye to safeguarding the integrity and authenticity of the Faith. But when Pope Innocent III declared heresy a capital crime in 1199 and when the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) provided secular punishment for heretics, all manner of cruelty and injustice ensued. Inquisitors were ruthless in their prosecution of those whose ideas ranged anywhere from the truly heretical to the merely diverse. Those alleged to be heretics had no rights; they were forced to prove their own innocence without benefit of counsel. Similar attempts at separating those judged to be orthodox from those who were not resulted in the infamous witch trials, which swept Europe from the thirteenth to the early eighteenth century and crossed the Atlantic to take hold in the Americas in the seventeenth century. Religious intolerance perpetrated the torture and deaths of actual practitioners of black magic, necromancy, etc. as well as others who were accused simply because they happened to have red hair, or who, because of nervousness may have stumbled through the Lord’s Prayer. Segregation and separation of peoples because of their different ideas, or social mores, has been a blight on the visage of humanity for centuries. The readings for today’s liturgy proffer a challenge to this gathered assembly that this blight should be eradicated. (Patricia Datchuck S├ínchez).

2) “Your Excellency, your cabin-mate left his valuables with me for the same reason!” A Bishop was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners.  When he went on board, he found that another passenger was to share a cabin with him. After unpacking his bags, he went to the purser and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship’s safe. He explained that he had just met the man who was to occupy the other berth in his cabin and he was afraid that the man might not be trustworthy. The purser smiled, accepted the valuables and remarked, “It’s all right, Bishop, I’ll be very glad to take care of them for you. The other man has just been up here and left his valuables for the same reason!” Today’s Gospel reminds us that we should not judge others hastily.  There is a lot of good in the worst of us and a lot of evil in the best of us. In other words, the best of us are still “weeds” in God’s garden. (Fr. Tony)

3) Elimination of Jewish “weeds” by Hitler: Later still, Adolf Hitler attempted to separate and annihilate every Jewish person in order to construct what he perceived to be a superior race. Prior to and during World War II, Jewish persons in Europe were told by the Nazis that if they boarded the trains provided for them, they would be resettled in comfortable, peaceful areas. But the truth was that the trains were headed for Auschwitz and other death camps. Some Jews who knew the truth tried to warn the others, but the majority hushed them up, saying, “That’s ridiculous. If you talk like that, you will terrorize people.” Today many Christians are being herded aboard another train of false promises called universalism. It is the belief that all persons are bound for Heaven whether they wish it or not. Scriptural verses contradicting this false belief are discarded as spurious additions by early churchmen with hearts full of judgment. But real love does not tell people what they want to hear; real love tells the truth. It does not pretend that a train to Auschwitz is a train to triumph. The recent trial of former Nazi officer Klaus Barbie brings to our consciousness the barbarity of that page in human history. The most infamous of the Nazi death camps was the one at Dachau. A monument there memorializes the victims of the Nazi terror. Alongside, a series of exhibits depict Nazi methods of annihilating the Jews, the wretched detention camps, the extermination ovens, the mass graves. A huge sign proclaims in French, German, Russian and English: “Never Again!” We need to be reminded of Dachau. We need to keep thundering in every generation, “Never Again!” Evil within the hearts of men and women: the hatred, bigotry, envy, bitterness, lust, anger, greed, etc. result in more terrible events than Jewish extermination by Hitler. (Fr. Tony)

4) “Weeds” of pornography and obscenity: Obscenity, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. With words to that effect more than two decades ago the Supreme Court of the United States of America left the decisions regarding pornography in the hands of local communities. During the intervening years states and cities have struggled with the issue, desiring to uphold the basic rights of freedom of speech and expression, and at the same time attempting to establish and maintain what is decent and acceptable to the majority. The latest entry to invade this debate and garner headlines is music. Now, it seems, obscenity may also be in the ear of the beholder. But the issue goes much deeper than “X-ratings” and warning labels on album covers or motion picture posters. If anything, it is symptomatic of a more pervasive problem than simply pornography in theatres or music. So, then, what do we do about the presence of the various expressions of evil in our world – what Jesus would call weeds? Whether it takes the form of dehumanizing depictions of sexual violence on the screen, of suggestive lyrics, of environmental pollution, or of the tragedies of greed and self-serving possessiveness, the presence of evil rears its head seemingly at every turn. So what are we to do? The “weeds” comprise all that is contrary to the spirit and work of Christ, of what is good and decent and upright — in our eyes and to our ears! What are we going to do about them? Can we do anything at all? Historically, the Church has attempted to be a “weed-puller,” zealously trying to eliminate all that is perceived as rotten and wrong in society. The world has, unfortunately, had to face the onslaught of the wrath of well-meaning Christians. It has endured the violence of the Crusades of the Middle Ages and the Salem witch hunts in colonial America. The Church has conspired to commit numerous acts of violence and has violated the lives and livelihoods of countless numbers of persons in an attempt to convert sinners and purge society. In the name of pulling “weeds” and eliminating evil, great harm has been inflicted on humanity. At the other extreme, and just as frightening — perhaps more so — the Church has also been quiet when someone rises to power with a message of hate for those who are different. It has remained on the sidelines while misguided ideas have taken over and wrecked lives and societies.

5) Recording angels to ascertain the weeds: Michener, in one of his first novels, The Fires of Spring, tells about a couple who are burdened with a load of guilt from their past. They wander into a Quaker meeting. They sit with the others for what seems like hours waiting for something to happen. Finally, an elderly man stands up and speaks. He says, “The most misleading concept in religion is that of the recording angel. I cannot believe that God remembers or cares to remember a single incident of our lives. [Rather] I am the recording angel. My spirit and my body are the record. My good deeds show in me, and my wrong deeds can never be hidden. My spirit either grows to fullness or declines to nothing. God has no need of recording devices. We must not think of [God] as a vengeful or shop-keeping dictograph. [God] has created a better instrument. [God] has made me. [God] needs only to look at me, and all is recorded.” The old man goes on to conclude that with God’s permission we have the privilege of erasing our past mistakes. God offers us repentance, redemption, the opportunity to start fresh and make our lives useful by forgiving our past sin and by opening our lives to wisdom. (http://gbgmchurches.gbgm‑‑ma/s030713.htm). Missionary and best-selling author E. Stanley Jones said that God does not need to punish us for our sins. Our bodies and souls carry within them the record of our sins. “We do not break the Ten Commandments,” said Dr. Jones, “We break ourselves upon them.” (Fr. Tony)

6) Bad choices are “weeds” ruining our lives: You may have read about a 61‑year‑old Massachusetts grandmother who ended up in a mess of trouble sometime back. It was on the first day of her new job as a school bus driver. She took some wrong turns and made some poor decisions as to which roads to take. She got so lost that she wound up in the state of Connecticut. Because she had already picked up ten kids on her route, an all‑points bulletin was issued for her on charges of kidnapping, and, since she had crossed the state line, the F.B.I. was called in. After finally locating the lady and interrogating her, the police and F.B.I. agents concluded that she had made some wrong turns and had simply lost her way. So, they released her. (A few wrong turns. It happens in life. It happens to good people. A few bad judgments and suddenly you are lost, entangled, trapped in the weeds, a golfer might say. Sometimes much is at stake. A marriage. Your health. The safety of others. Pulling weeds is an important part of a successful life.

7) Good folks sometimes do stupid things: Fans of country music revere the name of George Jones. Jones has had enough hit songs on his hundred or so albums to make the careers of ten singers. Sometime back, George was nearly killed in an automobile accident. He was talking on his cell phone. When the news first came out, many of his fans probably assumed that George was off the wagon again. Along with George Jones’ talent and genius came a dark side. Jones had a reputation for wild living and self-destructive behavior. In the past he had struggled with a serious addiction to alcohol and drugs. His addictions were so severe that Jones would literally do anything to fuel his habit. At one time, George was almost outwitted by his then-wife, Tammy Wynette. To keep him away from the local bar, Tammy took George’s car keys. But George’s determination to feed his addiction won out. He hopped on his riding lawn mower and rode ten miles to the nearest bar. [Randy Scott, Country Music Revealed (New York: MetroBooks, 1995), p. 60.] Why otherwise good people allow themselves to get trapped in self-destructive patterns of behavior is beyond our understanding. And where does such behavior come from? Can we get off the hook by saying, “The devil made me do it?” Is it genetic? (Fr. Tony)

8) “Weeds” among dogs: An instructor in a dog training workshop in Salt Lake City noted that a dog’s disposition can be tested by the owner. If the owner will fall down and pretend to be hurt, a dog with a bad temper will tend to bite him. But a good dog will show concern and may lick the fallen owner’s face. Susan Matice attended the class and then decided to test her two dogs. While eating pizza in her living room, she stood up, clutched her heart, screamed and fell to the floor. Her two dogs looked at her, looked at each other, then raced to the coffee table for her pizza. [Associated Press (1-17-91). Cited in Edward K. Rowell, Humor for Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996).] (Fr. Tony)

9) What is it that causes some people to act irresponsibly? Just a few short years ago, we had a President of the United States who was guilty of irresponsible behavior. He was not the first President to behave badly, just the most recent. But somewhere along the way, the American people made a decision that President Bill Clinton was not an evil man. Most people believed him to have a good heart, but even his most rabid fans have to agree he had a serious problem that he did not seem able to control. What causes some good people to lose control of their lives? Even more important, how can we help these people and even help ourselves when we are drawn toward similar self-destructive patterns?

10) “Weed” control: Journalist Bob Garfield specializes in reporting on the quirky and unique aspects of human nature. When Garfield traveled through Santa Fe, New Mexico, in 1992, he thought that he’d hit the mother lode of quirkiness. He met people from all walks of life who were trying to find healing or wholeness through such things as aura-balancing, drum-beating ceremonies, ancient mystical therapies, crystals, astrology, spiritual channeling, and the like. Even in a Santa Fe health food store, Garfield found some highly unusual approaches to medicine. Rather than containing the average mix of vitamins and herbs, this store offered vitamin and herb mixes called, “Luminous Spirit, Positive Attitude, Women’s Courage, Emotional Rescue, Clearing Hate, Clearing Greed, Humiliation, (and) Children of Divorce. . . .” [Bob Garfield, Wake Up Screaming from the American . . . (New York: Scribner’s, 1997), p. 94] If only we could find emotional rescue or spiritual growth in a pill! But it’s not that easy. Where do we turn for help?

11) Positive view enables us to make positive choices: Former President Jimmy Carter often reflects on the changes he sees in people’s lives because of the work of Habitat for Humanity. “We see extraordinary commitments and lives changed among forgotten people,” he says. “A Habitat family that lived near Washington had been living in an abandoned automobile. One of their children was an eight-year-old boy. He was very excited about getting a new house. When the family was chosen, he jumped up and down and said, ‘We won, we won.’ After the home was finished and the family had moved in, the little boy attended a different school. He had always been in a slow learners’ class, but when he moved his records had been lost, and he was put into a regular class by mistake. No one noticed the error, and at the end of the first half of the year, his lowest grade was a B. Now he is still learning with the smartest of students. This is what having a decent home for the first time in life can do.” [From the book Living Faith, by Jimmy Carter, Random House (Audio Books, 1996).] Now, you tell me. Was it the change of houses that made a difference, or did the boy change his view of himself? How we view ourselves is often reflected in the choices we make. If we have a positive view of ourselves, we will make positive choices. If we have a negative view of ourselves, then watch out!

12) Christian cruelty of searching for “weeds”: The English author, C. S. Lewis, in one of his books, points out that when people become Christians, if they are not careful, their sinning often shifts from the overt, outward, visible sins of lying, cheating, stealing, cursing and swearing, to the more inward, hidden, non-apparent, invisible ones … and among them he lists “a critical spirit” … a spirit of judgmentalism, a censorious attitude. In fact, he points out that this sin is one of transgressions which is more commonly committed by Church people than by those who are not. So prevalent is it in Churchly circles that it is sometimes labeled “Christian cruelty.” This squares with Webster’s definition: “Judging is to criticize or censure, to think or suppose … by pretending to know the motives of the person doing the acting.” The sin of judging is dangerous business and should be carefully avoided by those who wish to prevent this sin from becoming part and parcel of their lives. A pastor in a teetotaling denomination in a small Illinois town was seen leaving a tavern at 12:45 AM. “He was with another man, and both were drunk,” swore the informant. When confronted with the accusation, the pastor readily admitted that he had left the tavern with another man at that late hour, but it was not as it seemed. He, at the request of a distraught wife, had entered the place to persuade the husband, who was squandering his paycheck, to go home. His efforts met with success at precisely 12:45 in the morning at which time they both left the tavern. The pastor had not been imbibing. He stumbled while trying to hold the inebriated husband upright. But the story with all its lurid implications would not die. It grew and spread out of all proportion in that small town. The pastor’s Bishop upbraided him for what the Bishop considered an indiscretion, and finally the priest was transferred from his parish. This exemplifies the “Christian cruelty” which is frequently practiced.

13) Seeds for sale: A woman dreamed one night that she walked into a brand-new shop. Much to her surprise, she found God working behind the counter. She asked God, “What do you sell here?” “Everything your heart desires,” God replied. It was incredible. She was talking face to face with God.  “I want peace of mind and love and happiness and wisdom and freedom from fear,” she told God. Then almost as an afterthought she added, “not just for me, but for everyone on earth.” God smiled, “I think you’ve got me wrong, my dear. We don’t sell fruits here. Only seeds.” (Anthony De Mello, S. J., in “Taking Flight”)

14) Here is a “weed-gatherer”: A teenage daughter asks her father, “Why don’t you go to Church?” He replies, “Because the Church is full of hypocrites.” “What do you mean by a hypocrite?” she asks. He thinks for a moment and answers, “A hypocrite says one thing and does something else.” “That sounds like you, Daddy!” she replies. “I’m no hypocrite!” he responds. “Yes, you are,” she says. “You tell me that going to Church is important. You say that I have to go to Church, but then you don’t go. You say one thing and do another. Doesn’t that make you a hypocrite? I wish you could go with me because there is room in the Church for one more hypocrite.”

15. Wheat among the Weeds: One day, when the inimitable Groucho Marx was getting off an elevator, he met a priest who immediately recognized the famous comedian. The excited clergyman extended his hand, saying, “I want to thank you for all the joy you’ve put into the world.” Groucho replied, “And I want to thank you, Father, for all the joy you’ve taken out of it.”–Application: Many of us become so concerned with pulling out the “weeds” we lose the sense of hope and spirit of joy. Do we experience deep joy because we are disciples of Jesus? We often approach religion as a deadly serious business; we lose the spirit of joy and the sense of hope that are part of the promise of the Risen Christ.  We become so concerned about pulling out the “weeds” that we forget to harvest the grain; we become so focused on the evil and abuses that surround us and “threaten” us that we fail to realize and celebrate the healing and life-giving presence of God in our very midst; we become so intent in upbraiding and punishing sinners that our own lives become mired in gloom and despair.  The task of judging sinners belongs to God; to us belongs the work of compassion and reconciliation. (Gerard Fuller in Stories for All Seasons; quoted by Fr. Jude Botelho in Net for Life)(Fr. Tony)

16.“You are a good boy.” A little boy not familiar with an echo thought he had heard in the woods the voice of another boy not far off. He shouted: “Hello, there!” and the voice shouted back, “Hello, there!” He cried again: “Who are you?” and the voice replied, “Who are you?” He cried once more: “You mean boy,” and the cry came back: “You mean boy.” Then this little boy went home and told his mother that there was a bad boy in the woods. His mother understood how it was and said to him, “Well, speak kindly to him and see if he does not speak kindly to you.” The boy went to the woods again and shouted, “You are a good boy.” Of course, the echoing reply came, “You are a good boy.” “I love you,” he said loudly. “I love you,” replied the faithful echo. The story of the echo is the story of the good and bad in life. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives). (Fr. Tony)

17)“Two wolves within.” Have you ever noticed that the people who are bad sometimes are the very same people who are good sometimes? It reminds us of a story called, “Two Wolves.” It goes like this: An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy. “It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.” The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?” The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.” (Anonymous). Today’s Gospel parable reminds us that we are a mixture of good and evil and, hence, instead of judging others we have to lead exemplary Christian lives and leave the judgment to God.

18) The Beauty and the Beast: The film Beauty and the Beast is based on a classic French fairy tale. It tells the story of a beautiful girl who loved books and wanted to live like the characters of the book. Her father Maurice was a petty inventor. Gaston the village tavern owner loved the beautiful girl Belle. In that village there was a prince who was handsome but vain. One day an old lady came to him to ask for shelter but he turned her away. She was a fairy and with her magic wand she turned him into a Beast and gave him a mirror to see the world. She also gave him a rose saying that before the last petal fell he must find someone to love him in his condition as a Beast. One day Maurice went to the woods and was lost and captured by the Beast. Belle went to release him. She was captured and imprisoned for life by the Beast. Belle did not love the Beast but tolerated him. One day she was attacked by a pack of wolves. The Beast saved her life. The beast gave Belle the magic mirror in which she could see her father who was so sick that he was considered a lunatic. Belle went home to save her father and told him all about the Beast. Gaston wanted to kill the Beast. Belle ran to save the Beast. Just before the death of the Beast she told him that she loved him. At these words the beast turned back into a handsome, and loving, prince. –Within every one of us and in the world, there is beauty and there is a beast. There is good and evil, there is virtue and vice. There are wheat seeds and there are weeds. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony)

19) Evil is Deceptive: Albert Speer was an important member of the Nazi hierarchy during Hitler’s reign. He was Hitler’s architect, and Minister of Armament, Munitions and War Productions. After the defeat of Hitler and Germany, he was tried at Nuremberg for crimes against humanity and subsequently condemned to serve 20 years in prison. Albert Speer was one of the most intelligent, educated and principled persons in Germany. How he was captivated by Hitler’s magnetism to accept such bizarre ideologies — the secret policies, the concentration camps, the nonsensical rhetoric of Aryan Supremacy and anti-Semitism — is beyond anyone’s comprehension. During his trial at Nuremberg, he took responsibility for the horrors of the Nazi regime, although most of the time, he was not aware of the happenings around. Later in life, he sincerely regretted his association with Hitler. He could still not explain completely why he had subscribed to Hitler’s evil idiosyncrasies. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony)

20) Who is a Saint and who is a sinner? There was this village, which was plagued with sheep thieves, and it was about time they were taught a lesson. Two of them were caught and branded on their foreheads with the letters ST standing for sheep thieves, that would be their punishment for life! Unable to bear the shame one of them ended his life, while the other decided to mend his ways. He set about doing all the odd jobs in the village and would help all those who needed help. Years passed and his misdeed was forgotten. As an old man now he was looked upon as someone who could be relied upon to help anyone in need. One day as he was passing by, he heard little children talking about him. One remarked: “I wonder what those letters ‘ST’ on his forehead stand for?” Another child replied “I am not sure, but he is such a kind man, I am sure ‘ST’ stands for Saint!” (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho).
21) A “self-test” for your patience. “Imagine yourself in the following situation: It’s Saturday at 5:45 PM. You’re flying in a plane at 35,000 feet. The plane is an hour-and-a-half late. People are grumpy; some are angry. Flight attendants are apologizing and offering complimentary cocktails to soothe the raw nerves and roiled tempers. To top it all off, the meal is late and the passenger on your left has a cold and gives out a big sneeze about every ninety seconds.  What would be your response to these problems?” (Fr. Tony)
“Or…imagine another situation. You are at the grocery store; busy evening, long lines ahead of you; your shopping cart has a wheel that drags; the fruit juice aisle is blocked off as two shoppers lean over their carts to chat; you do a U-turn and rush down another aisle; you finally finish and choose a check-out line with only two shoppers ahead of you; the cashier  at the register is new; her hands tremble; beads of perspiration form on her forehead; slowly she begins to tally your total; her cash register tape runs out; she doesn’t know how to change it; she calls for help from the manager.  What’s your response?”
“Or, how about this one: It’s dinner-out-with-the family night in that special place. You have fasted most of the day so that you may eat what you’d like tonight. You’re shown to a table and given a menu but the restaurant is very crowded and the waiters are extremely busy. So you sit there, hungry as a wolf with only a glass of water and a menu that you’ve begun to gnaw on. What’s your response?”
Swindoll in his book Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life insists that in these relatively unimportant situations, “the rubber of Christianity meets the road of proof.”  In other words, it is at such times that our Faith is really tested.  Indeed, the best test of our growth as Christians occurs in situations like the ones mentioned above. Today’s Gospel reminds us of God’s patience, leniency and willingness to wait – to allow time for the wicked to come to conversion and for good people to overcome their small faults. (Fr. Tony)

22) “It is with straw that I start My fires.” (Blessed Anne Garcia and Some Straw (linked to Second Reading): St. Paul understood this and so, as we hear in in today’s Second Reading, he was able to explain how our frequent sense of helplessness in spiritual things is no cause for panic, because “the Spirit, too, comes to the aid of our weakness.” This was an especially difficult lesson for Blessed Anne of St Bartholomew to learn. She came from a poor shepherding family in sixteenth-century Spain. While still young, she became a disciple of St. Theresa of Avila, Doctor of the Church and foundress of the Discalced Carmelite order — one of the most remarkable Saints in the history of the Church. Blessed Anne was one of St. Theresa’s closest collaborators and friends, and St. Theresa actually died in her arms. But then Blessed Anne was sent to Belgium and France to start Carmelite convents, and to be prioress in some of them. She would often complain to our Lord that she was too ignorant and shy to be given such important responsibilities. In fact, she complained so much that finally our Lord appeared to her. She had just tried to convince him that he should choose someone else, someone more intelligent, better educated, and more outgoing to do the work she was being asked to do — she had none of those gifts. So our Lord appeared to her and said, “It is with straw that I start My fires.” He didn’t comfort her by telling her how great she was. He simply pointed out that He is the one who will do wonderful things in and though her, if she will let Him. When we feel helpless to do all that Christ is asking of us, or to bear our crosses, we need to remember that “the Spirit, too, comes to the aid of our weakness.”(E- Priest) (Fr. Tony)

23) St Francis the Crusader: Sometimes we think that the Saints were born with special saint-genes. But that’s not true. Every Saint was a fallen human being just like us. The difference is that they understood God’s greatness, and let their lives become instruments of that greatness. Few people remember that St. Francis of Assisi participated in the fifth Crusade. He travelled to Egypt, where the Crusaders were trying to conquer one of the powerful Muslim strongholds. St. Francis didn’t fight with sword and spear. Instead, after the military effort got bogged down, he and another friar made their way to the enemy lines, dressed in their humble robes, weaponless, and singing Psalm 22: “Though I walk through a valley as dark as death, I shall fear no evil.” Thinking Francis was an ambassador sent to negotiate a truce, the sentries brought him to headquarters, where St. Francis explained that he wanted to speak to the Sultan about the Gospel. The Sultan received him and enjoyed the conversation so much that he invited Francis to stay with them. Francis said he would, if the Sultan would become a Christian. And to prove the superiority of the Christian religion, St. Francis offered to undergo a trial. “Heat a large oven,” he suggested. “Your priests and I will get into it, and you can judge by what happens which of our two religions is more holy and true.” The Sultan said that he didn’t think his priests would climb into a hot oven. So St Francis said, “Very well, I’ll get in by myself. If I die, you can put it down to my sins; but if the Divine power protects me, will you swear to recognize Christ as true God and Savior?” The Sultan would not, and so the oven-trail never happened. St. Francis wasn’t a saint because he was super-smart or super-strong. St. Francis was a saint because he had learned to believe in and depend on the supernatural, all-powerful, smarts and strength of God Himself. (E- Priest).

24) St. Victoria Wins the Victory over the “weeds” of pagan religion: If all religions were the same, Jesus should never have started a new religion — plenty were already available. And if all religions were the same, the Church would never have survived its first three centuries of existence, during which believing in Christ instead of the false pagan gods of the Roman Empire was a capital crime. The martyrs who gave their lives for Christ in those times did so only because they recognized that Jesus was different from Jupiter. Take St. Victoria, for example. Victoria lived in North Africa in a pagan family, around the year 300, when severe, legal persecutions against the Christians were frequent and violent. As a teenager, she converted to the Christian Faith, though her family stayed pagan. Soon she fell so in love with Christ, that she desired to give her whole life up to him, and made a vow of virginity. Her parents were furious, because she was their only daughter and they had arranged a profitable and honorable marriage for her. They refused to accept her refusals and forced her to go through with it. But when the wedding day came, she put her trust completely in Jesus, and instead of going downstairs to be received by her husband, she said a prayer and then escaped, unhurt, from the upper story window of her room. She fled to a nearby Church and started serving Jesus and his Kingdom full time. One Sunday morning some years later, when she was in her early twenties, she was with a group of about fifty Christians attending a Mass being celebrated in a private home. Suddenly, a platoon of Imperial soldiers burst in, broke up the Mass, and arrested the whole group. They boldly stood trial, professing their Faith courageously and eloquently even after being tortured. Victoria’s brother (still a pagan) attended the trial and pleaded for her release on the grounds of insanity, but she debated so intelligently with the judge that she disproved the charge. The judge, in fact, was so impressed with her valor and wisdom that he stepped down from his bench and pleaded with her merely as a friend not to throw her life away. She responded, “I have already told you. I am a Christian. And I attended the Mass.” Eventually, all the Christians having firmly held their Faith, the authorities lost patience and threw them into prison, where one by one, through long hours and longer days of suffering born with love, they entered into the joy of the Lord. This is one example of thousands from the history of the Church. If all religions are the same, then Victoria’s brother would have been right, and all these canonized saints were really just insane. (E-Priest). (Fr. Tony)

25) Reincarnation vs. Resurrection: Let’s take one example to make this clear. Most of us have heard about the doctrine of reincarnation, a common belief among the ancient Hindu and Buddhist religions that originated in the Orient. Reincarnation teaches that at death, unenlightened human souls transmigrate from our body into another body, either of an animal, vegetable, or mineral. That process of transmigration is repeated over and over, until the soul (Athman) is completely enlightened and fit for communion with God (Brahman). No good and evil here, no Heaven and Hell – just a forced recycling process ending when the enlightened individual self finally dissolves into nirvana (which means “nothingness”). Some people who say that all religions are the same claim that reincarnation is just an eastern version of what Christians in the west call resurrection. Really? In the Bible we read, “Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people” (Hebrews 9:27-28). Once. Christ died once, and rose again once. We will all die once, and will be judged, and then spend eternity either with God or without God. Jesus says the same thing in today’s Gospel. At the end of time there will be the harvest, and the “weeds,” unrepentant sinners, will not be planted again to see if they come up as wheat, but will be “thrown into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.” But the “wheat,” the righteous, who spent their brief earthly lives resisting the seductions of evil, repenting of their sins, and battling against selfishness in order to follow Jesus Christ, will enter into the joy of eternal life, shining “like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” That doesn’t sound like reincarnation at all. To claim that they are the same empties both doctrines of their real meaning. That’s why this approach is so tempting. If doctrines don’t really mean anything, we have a good excuse to just go around doing whatever we feel like, instead of trying to follow a clear moral code. It’s easy to say all religions are the same; it’s hard to follow Jesus Christ. (E- Priest).

26) The Kingdom of God is always growing: It started small when Christ established it, like a mustard seed as told by Jesus in today’s Gospel. Just a few disciples gathered in a room on the first Easter Sunday. And it starts small wherever it goes. St Augustine of Canterbury had only a handful of monks when he crossed the English Channel around the year 600 to evangelize the barbaric Anglo-Saxons. Just over a century earlier, St Patrick had gone to the even more barbaric land of Ireland, which even the Roman Empire had never conquered, all by himself. It starts small inside our souls as well. The voice of conscience, God’s voice within us, is often only just a whisper, like a tiny breeze. Christ’s Kingdom starts small, like a mustard seed, like a little bit of yeast in a huge batch of flour – but it’s alive, and so it is always growing. And so, 100 years after St Augustine and a couple of buddies arrived in England, the English Church was exporting hundreds of saints and missionaries back to continental Europe to evangelize the new waves of barbarian invaders. And so, by the time of St Patrick’s death, an entire nation of primitive tribes had begun to be civilized and united under the Christian Faith. And so, even if God’s voice is only a whisper in our conscience, when we follow it, He works wonders. Some critics of the Catholic Church say that today’s Church is too big and developed to be the descendent of that small group of fishermen that Jesus started with. But when you plant a mustard seed, you expect something to happen. You expect to go back and find a vibrant bush (mustard shrubs grow to about 10 feet in height) which doesn’t look anything like the seed. Christ’s Kingdom is always alive, dynamic, always growing. And so, if we ever find ourselves bored with our Christian Faith, it’s simply because we have wandered away from Jesus. (E- Priest). (Fr. Tony)

27) The Kingdom of God’s impact is out of proportion to its size: How odd, for example, that St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), was as famous as the world’s great Kings and Queens, Presidents and Prime Ministers, business tycoons and movie stars. A tiny nun from Albania, working with the poorest of the poor in Calcutta was the commencement speaker at Harvard University’s graduation. She was the keynote speaker at the United States’ National Prayer Breakfast. She was nominated for the Nobel Peace prize. This is way out of proportion. A little leaven makes the whole loaf rise. As if to make this point abundantly clear, Jesus specifies the amount of flour being used in the parable: three measures. That would make a colossal amount of bread – enough to feed 100 people. And that huge lump of dough is penetrated and transformed by a pinch of yeast. Just so, a little bit of Christian courage sends ripples far and wide. One act of forgiveness, of mercy, can put an end to decades of bitterness, hatred, and resentment. One young man saying yes to God’s call to the priesthood can send tidal waves of truth reverberating throughout the world – as it did with Pope St. John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and as it is doing with Pope Francis. Just so, the faithful mom and dad, lawyer, business person, and teacher who let Christ reign in their hearts and actions are spreading God’s saving grace far and wide. Just how far-and-wide will only be known at the end of the age, when everything is revealed. The impact of saying yes to Christ can never be exaggerated, as explained in today’s Gospel parable of the mustard seed and the yeast. (E-Priest). (Fr. Tony)

28) Lighting a light rather than cursing the darkness: Terry Fox was a 22 year of student at Simon Fraser University in Canada. In 1977 he contracted bone cancer and had to have his right leg amputated. When his old high school basketball coach heard about the tragedy, he sent Terry a newspaper article about an amputee who ran in the New York Marathon. The article triggered Terry’s imagination. He knew he had only a few years to live, and he wanted to do something significant with them. He decided he would try to run across Canada from Newfoundland to British Columbia, a distance of 5,000 miles. He would ask people to sponsor him and give the proceeds to cancer research. For 18 months, Terry practiced running on the artificial leg. Finally, on April 12, 1980, he began his run. He dipped his artificial leg into the Atlantic and set out across Canada. In his pocket he had pledges totaling over a million dollars. Then 114 days and 3,000 miles into the run, Terry suddenly collapsed. The cancer had spread to his lungs. He would be unable to complete the run. When news of Terry’s collapse broke, people from all over Canada began sending pledges to him in the Hospital. In hours, over $24 million was pledged. A few days later, Terry died. If anyone had a right to curse the darkness, it was Terry. But he was too big for that. He decided to light a candle. And that light has been shining ever since. A movie has been made of his life. A stamp has been issued in his honour. And he is the youngest person ever to receive his nation’s highest honour, the Order of Canada. To this day, Terry still excites the imagination of people. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony)

29) Light a candle: Rascals in Paradise is a book written by James Michener. In its introduction, the author tells how in the late 1930s, a learned Australian saw World War II coming. He got out a world atlas and looked for the safest place to be when the war came. He decided on a little-known island in the South Pacific. One week before Hitler invaded Poland, the Australian moved to his safe haven. The island was Guadalcanal. As fate would have it, it was destined to become the site of one of the bloodiest battles of World War II.

Therefore, instead of running away from evil or remaining indifferent to it, the Lord is calling us to do our bit to remove evil wherever we can and, if we can’t remove it, at least protest against it. Instead of cursing the darkness, He is calling us to light a candle. A little boy not familiar with an echo thought he had heard in the woods the voice of another boy not far off. He shouted: “Hello, there!” and the voice shouted back, “Hello, there!” He cried again: “Who are you?” and the voice replied, “Who are you?” He cried once more: “You are a mean boy,” and the cry came back: “You are a mean boy.” Then this little boy went home and told his mother that there was a bad boy in the woods. His mother understood how it was and said to him, “Well, speak kindly to him and see if he does not speak kindly to you.” The boy went to the woods again and shouted, “You are a good boy.” Of course, the echoing reply came, “You are a good boy.” “I love you,” he said loudly. “I love you,” replied the faithful echo. The story of the echo is the story of the good and bad in life. (Vima Dasan in His Word Lives; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony)

30) Schindler’s List is a 1993 biographical film which tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a businessman, who saved the lives of more than one thousand Polish Jews during the Holocaust. The film was based on the novel Schindler’s Ark by Thomas Keneally. The film was both a box office success and the recipient of seven Academy Awards. Oskar Schindler, a successful businessman, arrives in Krakow (Poland) from Czechoslovakia hoping to use the abundant cheap labor force of the Jews to manufacture goods for the German military. Schindler, a nominal Catholic and an opportunistic member of the Nazi Party, lavishes bribes upon the army officials and Nazi leaders and acquires a factory for the production of army mess kits. But he is a mixture of good and evil. Unfaithful to his wife, he certainly knows how to enjoy the so-called “good life” -cigars, drink, women. He exploits his Jewish workers as a source of cheap labor. But as he witnesses the horrors endured by the Jews, the good elements in his character wake up. So, he starts saving Jews, using his immense wealth and his political influence. At great personal risk, he protects his workers from the death camps, thereby showing that he is undoubtedly a courageous man with basic goodness. In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the wheat and weeds, explaining how we all are a mixture of good and evil and why God tolerates evil in the world. (Fr. Tony) L/20


Last week we talked about planting seeds. This week we're talking about pulling weeds. The two go together. Every gardener knows that planting seeds is the easy part of having a successful garden. It is much more time consuming to weed that same garden. And it's hard work. As someone has said: "When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it. If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant." 

There is a corollary to that truth: "To distinguish flowers from weeds, simply pull up everything. What grows back is weeds."

Some of you can relate to one unknown homemaker who wrote: I don't do windows because . . . I love birds and don't want one to run into a clean window and get hurt. I don't wax floors because . . . I am terrified a guest will slip and get hurt then I'll feel terrible (plus they may sue me.)I don't disturb cobwebs because . . . I want every creature to have a home of their own. I don't Spring Clean because . . . I love all the seasons and don't want the others to get jealous. I don't put things away because . . . my husband will never be able to find them again. I don't do gourmet meals when I entertain because . . . I don't want my guests to stress out over what to make when they invite me over for dinner. I don't iron because . . . I choose to believe them when they say "Permanent Press." And finally: I don't pull weeds in the garden because . . . I don't want to get in God's way, He is an excellent designer! 

I doubt than anyone likes pulling weeds, including God. In today's lesson Jesus tells a parable. "The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared...

There comes a time in every child's life when he or she entertains two possibilities. One: your parents are from Mars. Two, you must have been adopted. Usually these revelations occur in tandem . . . after a huge fight with Mom and/or Dad; or after a sibling beats us up or puts us down. It dawns on us that no way could we really be related to such mean, bossy, completely opposite people. 

We must be adopted. 

Remember when adoption was a highly confidential, even secretive, process? That made it a great source for childhood fantasies. "Closed adoptions" were the norm from the 1920s through the 1960s. The birth mother didn't know and couldn't know who the adoptive parents were. The adoptive parents didn't know who the birth mother was. The adopted child didn't know anything - especially if their adoptive parents chose not to tell them. Even if they were adopted. 

In the 1970s, the legalities behind adoptions began to change. A massive shift toward what are now called "open adoptions" took place. In open adoptions all the parties know who they are dealing with. And at least hypothetically, there is the possibility for communication and connection at some later time. 

As with every other social scenario in the last ten years, science and technology have changed everything. Nobody respects a "legal screen." Nobody has to live with no information about their past. The advent of Facebook has allowed thousands of birth parents and adopted children of all ages to search for and connect with their families of origin. The birth of DNA testing enables uncertainty to be eliminated.

In fact, almost all officials in the hierarchies of state and federal adoption laws admit the same thing: "the jig is up." Adoption information and biological identities are no longer capable of being protected in any way, shape or form. For some adopted children and for some biological parents this is a great advance. For others, it is hard knocks and heartbreak.

 Almost all ancient religions and cultures had legal means whereby orphaned or abandoned children could be legally incorporated into a new family. Both the law-loving environments of first century Judaism and the Roman empire had a laundry list of adoption laws, policies, rights, and regulations. Whether it was done for economic, political, or emotional reasons, in the world Paul inhabited, "adoption" was a well legislated procedure. 

So when Paul used the language of "adoption" to describe the startling, new relationship enjoyed by followers of Jesus, he was speaking to an educated audience... 
 Two Wolves

One of my favorite theologians, Mr. Rogers, used to say: "Have you ever noticed that the very same people who are bad sometimes are the very same people who are good sometimes?" It reminds me of a story called, "Two Wolves." It goes like this:

"An old Cherokee once told his grandson about a fight that was going on inside of him. He said it was between two wolves. One was evil: Anger, envy, greed, arrogance, self-pity, gossip, resentment, and false pride. The other was good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion and faith. The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, 'Which wolf do you think will win?' The old Cherokee replied, 'The one I feed.'" (Anonymous)

Philip W. McLarty, The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares 

Know Your Weeds

I learned more about weeds than I ever wanted to know as a boy in Iowa. Walking through the soybean feels to cut out the weeds was my summer job from age 13. A wise farmer once taught me that all weeds were not the same and could not be destroyed in the same way. A cockle burr had shallow but widespread roots and had to be pulled out to get all the roots. If you hacked it off at the ground level with a hoe it would be back in a week. A milkweed had a very long tap root that could not be pulled out. If you did try to pull it up, three separate sprouts would be back in a week. Milkweeds had to be hacked off with a hoe and would "bleed" and die as the sap ran out. If you didn't handle the weeds right, hours of backbreaking work in the sun would be completely wasted.

Jesus knew his weeds as well. The meaning of Jesus' parable about the wheat and the weeds becomes clearer when we look at the specific kind of weed he talks about. Tares are "bearded darnel, mentioned only in Matt. 13:25-30. It is the Lolium temulentum, a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then the difference is discovered. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine." The problem with taking our hoe to the evil weeds of the world is that good and evil sometimes look so much alike. It only becomes clear later. 

Todd Weir, Wheat and Tares
Better to Have Weeds than Nothing at All

I asked the people at my last church to imagine what would happen if we adopted a policy of weed-pulling, if we drew a circle around the little town of Wingate, North Carolina, and made a vow that no evil would cross that line, that no weeds would grow within that border. I said, "You know, you and I could spend the rest of our lives protecting that boundary, standing shoulder to shoulder with pitchforks and clubs, making sure that we kept drugs and alcohol and pornography and gambling safely on the other side. I think it would take all of our energy and most of our time. But what if we did it? What if we succeeded? What would we have? We would have a town characterized by the absence of evil, which is not the same as a town characterized by the presence of good. And maybe this is what Jesus was talking about all along, that it's better to have a wheat field with weeds in it than a field with nothing in it at all.

When a church in Wingate, North Carolina, began a ministry to the children of a nearby trailer park, they had to decide what kind of ministry it would be. They could have chosen to root out all the sources of evil in that place-to chase down the drug dealers and the deadbeat dads, to confiscate handguns and arrest child abusers. Instead, they chose to put up a basketball goal, to tell stories from the Bible, to put their arms around little children, and sing songs about Jesus. And two years after they started that ministry, two years of going out there Saturday after Saturday to do those things, the pastor got a note in his box at church with five words on it: "Adrian wants to be baptized." Adrian. The terror of the trailer park. That little girl who had made their work most difficult during the previous two years. Who would have guessed? Instead of pulling weeds in the field where she lived, they just tried hard to be wheat, and somehow Adrian saw that and fell in love with it and wanted it for herself. After she was baptized, there was a little more wheat in the field. And because she was there, soon, there was even more.

 James Somerville, A World Full of Weeds
 If You Are a Preacher of Grace  

How can you and I live our everyday lives with an awareness of the hiddenness of the good among the weeds, without getting unhealthy in our cynicism, without going crazy? Again Martin Luther offers a profound insight. He put it this way once in a letter to his friend, Philip Melanchthon:

"If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a pretended grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a pretended sin. God does not save people who are pretended sinners. Be a sinner and sin bravely, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more bravely...."

Mark Ellingsen, Jesus' Vision of a Fun, Free Life, Not Driven by Purpose, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
A Line Through Every Heart

I have colleagues who continually want to cull the field, making decisions on the basis of belief ... behavior ... even baptism. As many of you know, my wife is into genealogy. She's traced portions of her family back over 500 years. Just a few months ago, we learned that she had a relative who was burned at the stake in Switzerland. Why? Because he had the wrong understanding of baptism, that's why. They weeded him out. Then they burned him up.

As for me, I don't always know whether I am weed or wheat. Wasn't it Alexander Solzhenitsyn who said: "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." Which, I suppose, includes my heart. For all I know, I may even be the weed in somebody else's garden. Perhaps in your garden.

Collected Sermons, William A. Ritter, ChristianGlobe Networks, Inc.
I Wrote My Books on Tuesdays

There was once a great Quaker leader by the name of Rufus Jones. Jones wrote and published one book a year for over fifty years. He did this while attending countless meetings, making frequent speeches, editing a magazine and taking care of countless other chores that his position required. Someone once asked him how under these circumstances he found the time to write so many books he answered, "I wrote my books on Tuesdays." Throughout his career he set aside Tuesdays as his one "free" day accepting no appointments that could be avoided. He began after breakfast and wrote until dark. He might be thinking about his next project all week long, but he did not put it on paper until Tuesday. By following that simple plan he left behind a great body of work.

You have heard it before because it is true: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Jesus talked about the foolishness of those who build towers without first sitting down and figuring the cost. Successful living requires that we give some thought to the future. We have a vision of the beautiful garden we hope to be. Now we sit down and make a plan. What would I have to do to make my dream a reality?

King Duncan, Getting Rid of the Weeds, Collected Sermons,
You Need 100 Points

There is a story about a minister who had a strange dream. He dreamt that he had died and was trying to get into heaven. When he approached the pearly gates, St. Peter told him he needed 100 points to get in. Proudly the minister said, "Well, I was a pastor for 43 years." "Fine," said St. Peter, "That's worth one point." "One point? Is that all?" cried the minister. "Yes, that's it," said St. Peter.

"Well," said the pastor, "I visited lots of shut-ins." St. Peter responded, "That's worth one point." "I worked with young people," said the pastor. "That's worth one point," said St. Peter. "I developed a number of excellent Scout programs," said the minister. "That's worth one point," said St. Peter. "You have four points now. You need 96 more." "Oh no," said the minister in a panic. "I feel so helpless, so inadequate. Except for the grace of God, I don't have a chance." St. Peter smiled and said, "Grace of God--that counts for 96 points. Come on in!"

There will be a final judgment. God's justice and our freedom of choice demand it. Every person will spend eternity in heaven or hell. Our passport to heaven is simple. It's just a matter of saying to God sincerely, "I am a sinner for whom Jesus died. I claim him by faith as Savior and Lord." If you haven't taken that step in faith, do it today! Do it now! 

Bill Bouknight, Collected Sermons, 
Clean the Glass Shade Daily

Pastor Cecil Williams tells of growing up in Texas. They didn't have electric lights in their house. They had two oil lamps with wicks that had to be lit daily. Once they were lit, a glass shade fit over the flame and they glowed.

Cecil's mother kept telling her children, "Ya'll clean the shade before you put it over the lamp. If you don't, you won't get as much light." Young Cecil didn't like cleaning the lampshades. It took a long time and lots of elbow grease to scour off the sticky, gray soot. But when the shade was clean, one lamp would be bright enough to light up the whole living room.

Back then, cleaning the lamp shades was Cecil's job...