16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A
Wisdom 12:13, 16-19
Psalm 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
Today Jesus speaks to us about weeding, a task common to many people. We are fortunate to have a couple of dedicated parishioners who take care of the general gardening for our properties. Just the other day, the lead parishioner was weeding and “offered” to let me help. My response was that won’t be a good thing as I don’t know which are the weeds versus what’s supposed to be there.
I have the same issue at my dad’s. I do yard work like mowing but it’s my dad’s job to do the weeding. I do the pruning of the trees and bushes but even there I’m not a tree or bush specialist. I decide what to prune on the trees by the “hit my head method,” meaning if I hit my head on a branch when I mow, I cut the branch off. I consider that branch “undesirable.”
Isn’t that basically what “weeding” is, removing the plants that aren’t what we are trying to grow? If you are growing a vegetable garden and a tree starts to grow in the middle, you pull it because it isn’t what you want there.
In this sense, weeding can seem necessary or, at the very least, beneficial. So why does Jesus tell us that the master says not to pull the weeds?
Of course Jesus’ purpose in the parable goes beyond regular gardening. He’s using this parable to talk about how we look at sinners. Should all sinners be cast out? Remember, the Jews in Jesus’ day didn’t eat with sinners. We might think of the words in an act of contrition prayer where we promise to avoid what leads us to sin.
Does this mean that we should get rid of all sinners? If we define “weeds” as sins and we pull all the weeds would any of us remain?
So the fact that Jesus says not to pull the weeds might be a very good thing for us sinners. Does that mean that we don’t have to ever worry about our sins? No.
The Book of Wisdom speaks of God as master “over all things” and that God’s “might is the source of justice.” God has every right to punish us for our sins. He could treat us like weeds and ripe us out of his field which would lead to our death but God doesn’t. Instead God chooses to be “lenient to all.”
Does this mean we never face judgment? No. Jesus tells us that at the harvest, the end of the ages, the weeds will be collected and burned (Hell). We need to repent. We need to admit our sins and allow God to forgive us. To do this Jesus has given us the Sacrament of Reconciliation to allow him to cleanse us of our sins before the harvest comes.