Saturday, July 16, 2011

Judge not lest you be judged

A business man was sailing for Europe on one of the great transatlantic ocean liners of the last century. When he boarded the vessel, he found out that another passenger was sharing his cabin with him. After checking out the accommodations and meeting his cabin-mate, he went the purser's desk and inquired if he could leave his gold watch and other valuables in the ship's safe. He explained that ordinarily he never felt a need to do that, but after meeting the man who was to occupy the other berth, he felt it was a wise move. Judging from his appearance, he was afraid that he might not be a very trustworthy person. The purser accepted the responsibility for the valuables and remarked, “No problem at all, sir. I'll be very glad to take care of them for you. In fact, the other man in your cabin has already been here and left his valuables with me for the same reason!'"

We heard in our Gospel passage today, “His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull the weeds up?' He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest.”

Jesus gives us, through parable, these two images to consider: wheat and weeds. What is the Lord trying to tell us today about the nature of goodness and evil in our world? And, how does Jesus want us to respond to that evil? Jesus today is addressing the sometimes unfortunate side-effect of following Him. When we have been blessed enough to truly come to know God in our lives and at last give ourselves totally to Him; it also can make us aware of the sin that still surrounds us in our communities and in our world. The unfortunate side-effect comes in the form of the stereotypical “holier-than-thou” person who takes on, as a personal responsibility, to pull up the sinful weeds in the world.

History is filled with attempts by people to create the perfect society. We seem to have a natural human desire to root out and destroy all that is different. We seem to sense that those who are different pose some kind of threat to our way of life. Even those who have come to love and follow the Lord can fall prey to this mind set with the best of intentions. After all, don’t we all desire to be part of a society where sin is absent and everyone lives in unity of mind and heart and faith, dedicated to Jesus and His teachings? Isn’t this the promised Kingdom of God?

But, Jesus warns us today against just such behavior. When we become aware of all the weeds around us, we can be tempted to become warriors of the Lord intent on rooting out the evil in our midst. But, Jesus offers a different response. He says, “Let them grow together until the harvest.” Why does Jesus tell us to do this?

Jesus recognized – especially in the Pharisees – that even our holiness can become a temptation to sin. Our own experience of God’s goodness can become a temptation to judge others. We all know the type – we’ve all probably been like this at one point or another in our lives – we decide that we can condemn people to the eternal flames. Whether it is someone whose had an abortion, someone who committed adultery, someone who is just mean and hateful, someone who is gay or lesbian, someone who has stolen or even committed a horrible crime – we decide they’ve been consigned to Hell; we become the Judge and Jury; and that’s that. But, where is God’s mercy in that type of response? Where is God’s opportunity for reconciliation and forgiveness and healing in that type of response?

You see, we are not meant to be Warriors of the Sword, but just take away the “s” and you’ll know what we are called to – we are called to be Warriors of the Word; of God’s Word. It isn’t our task to cut down the weeds in our midst. Our job is to take that time until harvest to share God’s Word; to more importantly live God’s Word, giving good and holy example – all in the hopes that the weeds will want to become wheat too. Trust that God is in charge; that evil will not prevail. That in the end, only good will endure and it is God’s job, not ours, to take care of the weeds. Our job is to be holy and kind and loving and compassionate and giving.
Examples of overzealous servants trying to get rid of people they perceive as evil but who ended up doing more evil themselves abound. Just think of the young Saul. Before becoming St. Paul, he undertook a personal crusade to root out Christianity itself because he believed it was a bad idea and he committed many evil acts himself in the meantime in the name of this holy crusade.

The message of today's gospel is loud and clear: If we want to be faithful servants of God we must be ready to live alongside those we perceive as weeds and pray for them. Judge not lest you be judged. "Let both of them grow together until the harvest.”

God’s Kingdom will always bear the imprint of God’s patient desire that everyone repent and turn back to Him. God is both patient and lenient with all of us. He doesn’t seek to condemn anyone, but rather gives everyone the time to repent and be forgiven. And we should do the same.

Jesus reminds us that if we become too concerned with rooting out the weeds, in the end, we might just become one of them. Jesus reminds us that everyone - wheat or weed – has a chance at salvation; so let’s not short circuit that chance. Oh, there’s a deadline – you’ve only got until the harvest, but until then, there is always a chance for conversion, renewal and holiness - even for the biggest sinner among us.

Building up god’s Kingdom requires time and has a rhythm all its own, as human hearts transform under God’s love just as yeast turns dough into bread. What it requires of all of us – wheat and weeds alike – is that our hearts be open and receptive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. That is where the seed of God’s Word can grow, ripen and blossom.

“His disciples approached him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.’ Jesus said, ‘The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. The Son of Man will send his angels to collect the harvest…Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear.’”

May God give you peace.

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