July 19, 2020
Revised Common Lectionary
Genesis 28:10-19a or Isaiah 44:6-8
Psalm 139:1-12, 23-24 or Psalm 86:11-17
Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Lectionary for Mass (RC)
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16 (5a)
Matthew 13:24-30 (31-43)
My mother loved to work in the garden and took great care to keep it free of weeds. The hours that she spent outside rooting out unwelcome invaders gave her a great deal of satisfaction. In this small world over which she kept watch, only the “good” plants would be safe. She returned to the house with confidence that all was well in the garden.
As we look around the garden of our lives or the field of this world, it’s pretty clear that my mother is not in charge. There is good and bad both within and around us. Like the communities for which Matthew’s Gospel was written, we often struggle with those among us who are causing injury or sowing discord and we sometimes feel the impulse to rid ourselves of their presence.
Today’s parable suggests that just as the wheat and the tares are so tangled together at their roots that they cannot be easily separated, so distinguishing good from bad in our communities is not as simple as we might think. That judgment is something that God will sort out in God’s own time.
How does this parable apply to twenty-first century Christians? Living with others who don’t necessarily share the same values or beliefs—whether in a family, a neighborhood, a church, or a nation—can sometimes lead to feelings of frustration and anger. Does today’s parable suggest that we should merely stand aside in the face of evil?
Like all the individual teachings of Scripture, this parable needs to be read in the context of the whole. Sure, Jesus was quick to welcome anyone. He delighted in eating with sinners and tax collectors while also accepting the hospitality of the rich, including people who were not his followers. On the other hand, like the biblical prophets, Jesus was quick to condemn injustice and hypocrisy and to take the side of the weak against the powerful. In modeling and preaching mercy, Jesus never suggested that one should not leave an abusive situation, endure unfair working conditions, or be silent in the face of racism or injustice.
The teachings of Jesus call us to cultivate healthy growth in ourselves and in those around us, to speak and act with conviction for justice, and to do our part in preparing the field of this world for God’s reign. Today’s parable reminds us that the field belongs to God, and at the same time it also offers us assurance that God will sort things out in time, bringing to completion the reign of justice and peace.
So go ahead and pull the weeds in your own garden—and leave the rest to God.
A Hymn for Today: “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”
In English-speaking North American communities, the harvest imagery of this hymn has led to its association with the Thanksgiving holiday. It is actually based on several related teachings of Jesus, including the one we hear in today’s Gospel. While it alludes to the separation of wheat and tares, this hymn text is dominated by expressions of joy, thankfulness, and hope for the coming of God’s final harvest.
Come, ye thankful people, come;
raise the song of harvest home.
All is safely gathered in,
ere the winter storms begin.
God, our Maker, doth provide
for our want to be supplied.
Come to God’s own temple, come;
raise the song of harvest home.
All the world is God’s own field,
fruit in thankful praise to yield,
wheat and tares together sown,
unto joy or sorrow grown.
First the blade, and then the ear,
then the full corn shall appear.
Lord of harvest, grant that we
wholesome grain and pure may be.
For the Lord our God shall come,
and shall take the harvest home;
from each field shall in that day
all offenses purge away;
give the angels charge at last
in the fire the tares to cast,
but the fruitful ears to store
in God’s garner evermore.
Even so, Lord, quickly come,
to thy final harvest home.
Gather thou thy people in,
free from sorrow, free from sin,
there forever purified,
in thy presence to abide:
come, with all thine angels, come;
raise the glorious harvest home!
Text: Henry Alford, 1844, alt.
Image Credit: Sower and the Devil, Albin Egger-Lienz, 1868-1926
“Word and Song: A Lectionary Reflection” is written by the Executive Director of The Hymn Society, Rev. Dr. Mike McMahon. For his full bio, click here and scroll down to the “staff” section.