Fifth Sunday after Epiphany [St. Scholastica, V]: February 10, 2019
Delivered by Most Reverend Roger LaRade
Beloved Disciple Eucharistic Catholic Church, Toronto
© 2019 Roger LaRade
Colossians 3, 12 – 17; Matthew 13, 24 – 30
Good seed and bad
Recently a Jewish friend of mine bluntly stated to me that Jesus could not be the Messiah because the world was still rife with evil and suffering. This took me aback. It caused me to ponder whether he had a point. It’s definitely an argument that is often presented in questioning our belief in Jesus as the Christ; an argument against religious belief in general. Certainly, from the perspective of the expectation of a heaven on earth, of a promised land flowing with milk and honey, I can understand this perspective. But is this what our faith is about?
During these Sundays after Epiphany, the readings of the Mass present us with an exposition of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven, the kingdom of which Jesus said that it is not of this world.
The Epistle and the Gospel readings for this Fifth Sunday after Epiphany form an interesting duo in this respect.
In the passage from the Letter to the Colossians we have an early baptismal instruction outlining the principles for a life in Christ. We are getting direction about how to live our lives as Christians, as citizens of the kingdom of God, as members of Christ’s Church. We are to be united by the love of Christ. It is our unity in our common love of Christ which reminds us to act in the way described. It’s important to notice that there is no denial in this passage of the potential for and the existence of conflict, of disagreement, and of division. Yet, within this reality, St. Paul does present us with the ideal which we should strive to realize, through our humble prayer and through our intentioned actions. Indeed, our common love of Christ calls us to charity, rooted as it is in God’s love for us shown in Jesus Christ, to which we are called by our Christian commitment, our Baptism in Christ; this Baptismal commitment which we renew at every Mass, and, in fact, in every instance of decision-making in our lives.
Sometimes, in our desire to be “good Christians” we will want to deny the hard reality that we act contrary to our stated commitments. The parable of the weeds which we have in today’s Gospel passage deals with this.
The parable of today’s Gospel passage comes as part of what is known as Christ’s “Seaside Sermon”. Jesus is staying at Peter’s house in Caphernaum and he is preaching a series of parables to the crowd from Peter’s boat on the Sea of Galilee. The parables are about the kingdom of God. Later, after the preaching to the crowds, he will explain the parables to the apostles.
Today we hear the second of the parables of the kingdom, and it focussing on the continuing reality of evil. The interpretation of this parable - which indeed is given in verses 36 - 43 of this same chapter 13 - sees the weeds and wheat as unfaithful and faithful followers of Christ, all members of the same community. But it is not only that there are two separate camps, but also that each one of us is both faithful and unfaithful.
What is presented in the parable as two different agencies of separate beings - the farmer sowing good seed and his enemy sowing weeds - can be understood as being two agencies of one and the same being. And each one of us is the farmer. I sow both good seed and weed. In fact, for those of us who garden, we know that it is all but impossible to have only good seed with no weeds in our gardens. No matter the care we take, weeds always seem to push up. And, it takes a lot of continuous attention to those weeds, identifying and controlling them, so that the growth from the good seed doesn’t get overrun and killed.
The incarnation of God in Christ has not removed our freedom of choice; and it has not removed the reality of our being subject to Original Sin. It is in this that lies the answer to my Jewish friend. As long as we continue to exist as human beings on earth, prior to the Second Coming of Christ in glory, we continue to have free choice and this free choice is subject to the influence of Original Sin, of our fallen nature. But, in faith, we also believe that this free choice is always influenced by the love of Christ, the grace of God.
 See The Letter to the Colossians, Joseph A. Grassi; in The Jerome Biblical Commentary, Raymond E. Brown, S.S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S.J., Roland E. Murphy, O.Carm., editors (Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: 1968), p. 339.
 See The Church’s Year of Grace. Pius Parsch. (The Liturgical Press, St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota: 1957), Vol. 1: Advent to Candlemas, p. 351ff.
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