Matthew 13: 24 – 43
This reading gives us practical hints on how to pray with the scriptures.
It is important to divide the text into parts. Read this Gospel passage and make your own divisions.
Now compare your divisions with mine.
24 – 33 Three parables
24 – 30 Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat
31 – 32 Parable of the Mustard Seed
33 Parable of the Yeast
34 – 36a The Purpose of using parable.
36b – 43 A possible explanation of the Parable of the Weeds
It is possible that Matthew is the author of this explanation of the parable. This is Matthew’s response to problems in his community. He also changes the parable into an allegory which, while useful, moves away from the original meaning and purpose of the parable as told by Jesus. 1
Chose one part of the text for your prayer.
There is just too much in this reading to be handled at one time. I have selected the first of the parables, ‘The weeds among the wheat’, for this reflection.
In the early stages of growth wheat and darnel look almost the same and can easily be mistaken.
Sowed good seed
On hearing these words our thoughts turn to, “God looked at everything he had made, and he found it very good.” Gen 1: 31 Is this surprising to you? Are you challenged to think differently about people? What does this say about the way God relates to us?
Let us now concentrate our attention on the parable of “the weeds among the wheat”.
Parables were addressed to a specific audience who were in no doubt as to how it applied to them.
24 “Jesus put another parable before the crowds”:
We are told exactly who Jesus was addressing – everyone in the crowd. They were challenged on how they look at good and evil in the world and in their lives. Is their thinking the same as Jesus’? Do we look upon good and evil as Jesus did?
“At the time of Jesus the people believed that the coming of the Messiah would be the start of a Kingdom where there would be only good people. And what about evil? What was going to happen to the wicked? Simple: they would be burnt up by fire from heaven! Do you remember John the Baptist? Speaking about the coming of the Messiah, he said, ‘His winnowing fan is in his hand; he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn; but the chaff, he will burn in fire that will never go out’. Mt 3: 12 Even the disciple shared this thinking. Lk 9: 54
But Jesus did not approve of it or share this kind of thinking at all. He, not only, never intended to destroy the sinners, but he welcomed them into his house, he invited them to share his meals, he kept company with thieves, heretics, prostitutes.”2 In short he (Jesus) was not the Messiah everybody expected and many still expect today. Where do you stand?
In your first reading look for repetition. What picture does this paint for you?
24Jesus put another parable before the crowds:
“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seeds in his field. 25While everybody was asleep, his enemy came, sowed darnel all among the wheat, and made off. 26When the new wheat sprouted and ripened, the darnel appeared as well. 27The owner’s servants went to him and said, “Sir, was it not good seed that you sowed in your field? If so, where does the darnel come from?” 28“Some enemy has done this,” he answered. And the servants said, “Do you want us to go and weed it out?” 29But he said, “No, because when you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. 30Let them both grow till the harvest; and at harvest time I shall say to the reapers: “First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”
The scattering of “good seed” and “darnel” throughout the text reminds us of the state of our society and our own lives. Are we all not a mixture of good and evil. “Good and evil, says the owner, cannot be separated, they have to grow together and it will be like that to the end of time (always).” Can anyone draw a clear line between good and evil. Is there any group of people who are completely lacking in goodness? The separating good and evil passes within the heart of every person. We find good and evil in every person, ourselves and others. Even the most wicked of people have, together with a lot of darnel, some good grain in them. “Why risk destroying the good along with the darnel by burning it”, says the owner?3
“First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.”
In the final sentence we have the assurance of Jesus that God / Goodness will triumph. All the darnel of our lives will eventually vanish and we with the goodness we have been given by God will be gathered into “my barn”, union with God.
Does this challenge your understanding of God – it certainly challenged the people of Jesus time? It ran counter to the thinking of the time.
The purpose of a parable is to turn our thinking upside down or better expressed;
“To turn our thinking right side up.”
Lord, we thank you for those who educated or guided us from youth. They saw that we had bad traits as well as good ones, that darnel was mixed in with the good wheat they sowed in us. There were people who wanted to weed out the darnel but they said, “No”, lest the wheat be pulled up also:
– If they did not let us mix freely with others, we might no longer be open and generous;
– If we were not allowed to make mistakes, we would never take risks;
– If we did not feel free to ask foolish questions, we would never learn.
We thank you for those who let wheat and darnel grow till harvest time, and now we have gathered the wheat and can let the darnel be burned.
Here, we have just experienced one way of praying with the words of scripture. We are encouraged to move from praying in our own words to using the words of scripture.
Lord, forgive us for writing off people as if there is nothing to them but;
– Their selfishness
– Their insincerity
– Their arrogance
We forget that they are good seed that you sowed in the world. The evil in them is only weeds that some enemy sowed while others were asleep. Those sins which colour our judgement about them will be tied up in bundles and burnt, while you gather them like precious wheat into your barn.4
1. Armellini, F p219
2. Armelline, F p217
3. Armelline, F p219
4. De Vertueil M p186