Homily for July 23rd, 2016:
The suggestion of the farmer’s slaves that they should pull up the weeds in his field was entirely reasonable. The farmer rejects the suggestion nonetheless. There will be a time for separating the weeds from the wheat, he says. But that is later. Until then, he orders, “let them grow together.”
The parable is important for people who are scandalized because the Church contains so many hypocrites: people who come to church on Sunday, but whose lives the rest of the week are inconsistent with the words they hear and speak in church. Jesus knows that his Church will always contain people who, because their hearts are far from God, are not part of his kingdom. Every attempt to create a “pure” Church of true believers has ended in failure. Only God can purify his Church; for only God can see people’s hearts
Which one of us would not like to have a Church in which everyone from First Communion children to the Pope always practiced what they preached? Wouldn’t that be beautiful? But creating such a pure Church is God’s work, not ours. And the time for God’s final purification is not yet.
Note that I said “final purification.” Purification of the Church through suffering, repentance, and forgiveness goes on all the time. The Second Vatican Council said that the Church is “always in need of being purified” (LG 8, end). The time for final purification, however, is not yet.
That “not yet” contains a warning, but also encouragement. The warning is contained in the farmer’s order at harvest time: “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning.” God delays his judgment because he is patient. One day, however, patience will give way to judgment. That is the warning. The story’s encouragement is its message that the Lord’s Church has room for everyone.
I’d like to leave you with a question, for your own reflection: If the Church were really as pure as we would all like it to be, can we be confident that there would be room in it for ordinary, weak sinners like ourselves?