YEAR A: HOMILY FOR THE 16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: FROM TARES TO WHEATS: GOD’S UNFATHOMABLE PATIENCE.
BY: REV FR GERALD MUOKA
HOMILY: R1- Wis. 12:13, 16-19
Resp. Ps.- 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
R2- Rom. 8:26-27
Gospel- Mtt. 13:24-43
In 1770, a story was told about two little altar boys in a small church in Italy, Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni. They entered the sacristy, with the view of serving at the Benediction.
Having put on their cassocks, they grabbed the heavy brass candlesticks. And then they began to argue over who stays at the right side of the priest. The argument metamorphosed into quarrel and consequently, fighting which attracted the attention of the parishioners.
Castiglioni hit Della Genga over the head with his candlestick. Guess what:
Blood dripped from Della Genga’s head, and both boys began shoving each other. Shocked parishioners screamed, “Throw them out! Throw them out! Throw them out!” Some, shouted: Banish them! Banish them!” Some others roared, “Expel them! Expel them!” So, the embarrassed priest grabbed the boys, led them to the door, and tossed them out of the church.
In 1825, 55 years after, the Vatican was agog with pilgrims from different parts of the world for the great Jubilee celebration.
The Jubilee occurred every 25 years, and its grand finale was the opening of the Holy Door at St. Peter’s Basilica.
Traditionally, the Pope would knock on the door three times with a large silver hammer and sing: “Open unto me the gates of justice!”
On the third knock, the door would swing open, and the Pope would lead his people through. It symbolizes the pilgrims across the world coming back home to the Church, with their leader through the great porta fidei, the “door of Faith.”
That Jubilee year, in front of thousands of pilgrims, Cardinal Della Genga made his way to the door. It was fifty-five years after the candlestick incident. Cardinal Della Genga who had become Pope Leo XII neared the door. Turning to the Cardinal beside him—Cardinal Castiglioni, the Pope said, “Let me have the hammer.” With a sly grin, Castiglioni replied, “Just like I hit the candlestick on you, 55 years ago?” Amazingly, four years later Castiglioni succeeded his friend and became Pope, taking the name Pius VIII.
Pause a while, had it been those worshipers vehemently chanting: “throw them out”, “banish them” and ” expel them”, even the priest who led them out of the door, back in 1770 knew that they had two future Popes at the back of their church, they would have received fairest deterrent measures or probably learnt to patiently give them second chance. “Imagine, Pope Leo XII and Pope Pius VIII were those two boys, quarelling and shoving and whacking each other with candlesticks.
Beloved in Christ, the readings of today’s liturgy are indeed GOODNEWS for us. They wish to remind us that our God is not a God of ” THROW THEM AWAY” “BANISH THEM” “EXPEL THEM” OR ” CHULAA HA, HA EMEGO ARU”, even when we are not at our best. But the God who can transform “weeds” into “wheats. ” Yes, from weed to a wheat. Imagine, transforming 2 altar fighters into instruments of salvation, Popes.
(Song: The steadfastness of the Lord never ceaseth….)
In the Gospel reading, Jesus presents us with the parable of the wheat and tares. Indicating that our God is a patient God who allows both the good and bad to coexist, leaving room for the bad to turn a new leaf and repent.
Whereas, the first reading, describes God as a merciful and patient father, who is not interested in our ability but our availability.
The readings of today, explain why we experience evil is a world designated with being “very good” and why God sometimes grants leverage and “amnesty” to “evil men”, who thrive beyond our comprehension and imagination: “Chineke igbara nkiti.” (God are you silent?)
BRIEF CONTEXTUAL SIGNIFICANCE OF WHEATS AND TARES
Jesus uses the imageries of wheat and tares in oder to adopt the physical properties of these two different plants. He seeks to reveal a depth of the parable’s significance which emphasizes how different in quality the wheat is from the tare.
WHEAT (CHRISTIANS BEARING FRUITS OF THE KINGDOM).
Wheat is a grass widely cultivated for its seed, a cereal grain which is a worldwide staple food.
Wheat, which Christ uses to symbolize His true children, has always been a vital, life-giving substance, bearing enormous fruits, possessing both nutrition and healing properties. During most of human history, it has most commonly been used for bread and other edibles that serve man’s domestic and industrial needs.
TARES (COUNTERFEIT CHRISTIANS)
Tares are plants that look just like wheat and parasitizes on wheat until Harvest time – when it turns out that they were counterfeit.
The Tares (weed), Jesus spoke about was “Darnel”- also known as “false wheat” which grows plentifully in the whole region around Israel.
They bear no fruit, other than engage in a competitive streak with the wheats.
Beloved in Christ, from the above contextual analysis of wheat and tare, we realize that on several occasions, we have become wheat-like and at other times, become Tare-like and darnel-like. That is why the scripture says, “If God should mark our iniquities, who would survive”(Ps. 130:3), since “we have all sinned and gone short of God’s glory” (Rom.3:23).
If that is the case, should we like the sowers, have the impetus to question God’s patience by asking Him to eliminate evil men from the world? Since we shall be affected in one way or the other if God should mark our guilt.
Do we still feel cheated when evil men prosper at the expense of the “righteous” who feel cheated by God? God’s UNFATHOMABLE PATIENCE calms such agitation.
GOD’S UNFATHOMABLE PATIENCE
One of the outstanding lessons of today’s liturgy is patience. We see God manifesting such an unfathomable patience that would not only discourage but scandalize the wheats (His children) making efforts to bear good fruits.
Today, God reminds us not to panic, that he still cares and he is always patient, even in our weaknesses. That is why he tells us in the second reading that “the Holy Spirit will help us in our weaknesses.”
IMMITATING GOD’S PATIENCE
Inasmuch as we cannot match God’s patient endurance with us, there are two ways we can tap and identify with God’s life of patience
(1) BEING PATIENT IN OUR LIVES
The second and third parables in the Gospel reading, exhort us with some patient way of life. It takes a process for the mustard seed to grow into a shelter and host birds of the air. The same thing is applicable with the mixing of the yeast with three measures of flour. It takes a process to actualize it. Such processes require time and consequently, patience.
We now live in age of “ego mbute”, (fast money), and an era where a level 8 civil servant wants to compete with a level 15 colleague or where a politician or public servant wants to become as rich as the wealthiest business tycoon; an age where a school certificate owner or university undergraduate wants to flaunt the latest car in town. “Chetakwa na onye butere Chi ya uzo, ogbagburur onwe ya na oso” (never run faster than your shadow)
The scripture encourages us to patiently wait upon the Lord, “but those who wait and hope patiently in Yahweh will regain their strength, they will sprout wings like eagles, though they run they will not grow weary, though they walk they will never tire” (Is.40:31)
(2) BEING PATIENT WITH ONE ANOTHER
Ours is a generation that believes in replacing or destroying, other than fixing and amending.
Most often, we do not believe we can be patient with each other, even in our mistakes. Most marriages and relationships are crashing today because, we do not believe we can fix it again, other than changing it. It takes patience to fix broken items. Fixing is more difficult than destruction.
Finally, two most deadly agents of genocide and ethnic cleansing the world has ever produced, Adolph Hitler and Joseph Stalin, were both expelled from mission schools. They may have been pruned from tares into wheat if they were given chances to thrive more amidst wheat, or rather, rehabilitated and guided to a veritable vocation in life. Unlike Annibale Della Genga and Francesco Castiglioni, who later became Popes in the history of the Catholic Church.
Why throwing them away? Why banishing them? Why expelling them? Allow them, like the master of the vineyard. Change and fix them, other than throwing them away. Only patience can heal that family, relationship, marriage and misunderstanding.
ULO OBUNA UDI DI, ONYE NDIDI NO NA YA.
MAY THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TEACH US HOW TO PRAY AND STRENGTHEN US TO OVERCOME ALL TARE-LIKE ATTITUDES AND BECOME WHEAT-LIKE, BEARING FRUITS THAT WILL LAST UNTO ETERNITY.
GOD BLESS YOU.
FR GERALD MUOKA