July 23, 2023
World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly
Today’s excerpt from the Gospel of Matthew is a series of parables about the reign of God. The content of the parables needs to be understood in the light of Jesus’ Kingdom teaching. What we call the Lord’s Prayer (Matt.6:9-13) is a prayer for the full coming of the God’s kingdom.
The purpose of parables is to make the listener or reader think actively about the ultimate topic raised in the story. With his parables Jesus, the wise teacher, meets his audience on their own ground, the everyday lives of people in Galilee. The main theme of the parables in Chapter 13 is the mystery of the rejection and acceptance of Jesus’ teaching of the kingdom by his contemporaries. All the ‘kingdom’ parables begin with the phrase,”The kingdom of heaven is like…”
What are the parables saying to us? The “wheat and the weeds” which is unique to Matthew, seems to be an attempt to explain why God’s world is not in a better shape, think of the wars, corruption etc. The tragic consequence of dividing people into two groups often leads to intolerance and, therefore, to violently resolve the tensions that arise from this. What is God going to do about it? The owner of the field is quite calm in his reaction and allows time for both wheat and weeds to grow up together, but there will (eventually) be a separation. The owner – God- looks benevolently on the mess we have made by sowing our weeds among God’s good crops. Good and evil cannot be separated, they have to grow up together and it will be like this until the end of time because good and evil exists in the heart of every person.
The next two parables, the Mustard Seed and the Leaven, illustrate the same point: the disproportion between the small start and the grand final result. The mustard seed stresses the contrast between the tiny seed and the eventual large shrub that will result from it. God we learn is in no hurry, the divine power is at work and the results will be beyond our imagination. Our task is not to desire instant success but allow ourselves to be moved at God’s pace. God’s powerful work has unexpectedly spectacular results.
The leaven is another tiny parable, daringly comparing the Almighty to a baker woman, again it also illustrates God’s unseen power that works quietly, undetectably at times. The women took the leaven and mixed it until the “whole batch was leavened.”
Finally, the puzzled disciples and us, are given the explanation of the parable of the Weeds, the explanation is given in terms of the unending battle between God and the devil. Although our world may give every appearance evil is victorious, nevertheless God is biding God’s time, we, too, need to be patient.
Matthew is reminding Christians of the seriousness of their lives. God’s ultimate purpose is “the just shall shine out like the sun.” God is indeed in charge.
Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying:
“The kingdom of heaven may be likened
to a man who sowed good seed in his field.
While everyone was asleep his enemy came
and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.
When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.
The slaves of the householder came to him and said,
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
His slaves said to him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weed
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest;
then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
“First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning;
but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
He proposed another parable to them.
“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
He spoke to them another parable.
“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast
that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour
until the whole batch was leavened.”
All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables.
He spoke to them only in parables,
to fulfill what had been said through the prophet:
I will open my mouth in parables,
I will announce what has lain hidden from the foundation
of the world.
Then, dismissing the crowds, he went into the house.
His disciples approached him and said,
“Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”
He said in reply, “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man,
the field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom.
The weeds are the children of the evil one,
and the enemy who sows them is the devil.
The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.
Just as weeds are collected and burned up with fire,
so will it be at the end of the age.
The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.
Then the righteous will shine like the sun
in the kingdom of their Father.
Whoever has ears ought to hear.”