You will have noticed over the last few Sundays that the gospel of Matthew is full of parables. A parable is a story that Jesus tells to challenge his listeners. He wants his disciples to make an effort to understand the kingdom of God better and to help to make God’s kingdom come by making good decisions. Today Jesus addresses the issue of those who don’t do what is right and lead others astray and give Church and country a bad name. For instance those in power seem to be against the Church, popular opinion is fickle and there are failures within. How can you get rid of those bad influences?
In the parable Jesus asks us to have patience when the darnel of evil spoils the growth of goodness. In each one of us personally there is good and bad. Sometimes you can get frustrated with a personal weakness or sin that won’t go away. The darnel becomes an obsession and makes you scrupulous. It can absorb all attention to the detriment of continuing growth. Jesus advises you to focus on what is going right in your life and in the Church as well as asking for God’s assistance to overcome failures. When irritated by opposition or addiction do not worry excessively. Failure is a reminder that you and I are not perfect and need to ask for mercy especially in the sacrament of Penance and so get help to persevere. We must get used to leaving complete solutions to the mercy of God.
In each family or community there is good and bad. Laziness, greed, selfishness and bad example tempt us to launch into criticism and conflict. Not a good idea, suggests the parable. By harping on about bad behaviour we allow disappointments with family members or community leaders to drive us astray. We are allowing the darnel to choke the wheat.
In correcting wrongdoers it is possible to damage what is good and healthy by becoming too judgemental, too vengeful, too similar to those we criticise. Jesus advises us to keep doing the right thing ourselves and create the right conditions for family members to begin again to live a good life. We are to stand up for the truth but, as the book of Wisdom says, the virtuous person must be kindly to his neighbour. We have to pray for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and wisdom to know the difference.
We pray for wisdom because making progress in justice, love and peace in God’s kingdom is painstakingly slow. In our society there is so much unfairness and inequality, so much scandalous cruel behaviour, so many wars and unnecessary conflicts. Experience teaches that heavy-handed interventions can cause far more disasters. For example, on its hundredth anniversary it is clear that the First World War was the war that ended peace. An imperfect peace was shattered due to pride, boastfulness, fear and the demonization of the enemy. Today’s gospel assures us that justice will come in God’s time. Jesus is explicit about God’s final judgement of the wrongdoers who cause scandal and provoke others to do wrong. Here and now he asks us to allow space for conversion and concentrate on our own tasks in His kingdom as we work with him for peace, justice, forgiveness and love. We become his friends by dialogue, honest conversation, patience and respectful tolerance. Among life’s ambiguities and compromises you and I are called to work without obvious recompense for the benefit of others and the glory of God. Today Jesus makes an appeal for us to keep faith in his mercy. Do not let the darnel of evil blight your confident hope that he will fulfil his promises of a joyful kingdom to come. Thy will be done is our prayer.