Wheat and Weeds
When Jesus interpreted the parable of the weeds, He talked about the world with good and evil people and He specified that the task of weeding questionable people out of the community was not part of the disciple’s job description. Every age has religious perfectionists. They interpret precisely how strict rules apply to each situation.
And they strive to maintain themselves in pure virtue. Periodically, there has been the desire for Christians to try to produce a pure church free of sinners. It is a good thing that they do not succeed or there would be few of us left in the church. Yet, this is precisely what Jesus did not do. He gathered around Himself tax collectors, betrayers and adulterers.
He reached out to women Samaritans and persons considered unclean by the culture of the day. He ate and socialized with the less reputable elements of society. If we are truthful with ourselves, we have to admit that each one of us is a mixture of sinfulness and righteousness. We often try to be wheat but sometimes we are weeds. We soon come to realize that the church is not so much a club for Saints as it is a hospital for sinners.
The Son of God became human not to make contact with angels or with cherubim and seraphim. He became human to be with us and not because we are nice people who deserved a visit from our Creator. But, there was no way for us to reach God unless God reached out to us. From the moment the God-Man touched our earth, He literally reached out to us, not only to Mary and Joseph, to all the good people.
But also to those who the world looked down upon. He was reaching out to the weeds of humanity. When the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled to His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered by saying, “It is not the healthy who have need of a Physician, but the sick. I have not come to invite the upright to reform, but the sinners.”
Here’s a warning. When Jesus speaks of sinners on the one hand and the just or upright on the other. He is not saying that these righteousness folk are utterly without sin. They are righteous in the sense that they do all the law commands. Take the elder brother of the prodigal son. He says, “Father, these many years I have served you and never once have I disobeyed a command of yours.” Sounds good, can’t find fault with that.
But, look inside his heart…anger at his father, resentment towards his brother. Look how he separates himself from the party and refuses to go in. They are upright in their own eyes not in God’s. Like the Pharisee praying in the temple, “God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humankind: robbers, evildoers, adulterers or even like the tax collector. I fast twice a week and I give tithes of all that I get.” You know something, he wasn’t lying.
He was telling the truth and still, you have Jesus’ sobering remark. “I tell you the tax collector went down to his house justified rather the Pharisee.” Why? Because for all his good works, the Pharisee did not cast himself in contrition on God’s mercy. He did not cry out with the tax collector, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” These two were sinners, just a higher class, more respectable, not so obvious and a lot harder to reach.
Another story about a sinner is the woman caught in adultery. Picture the scene, a group of men drag this woman down the street, the crowd gathers. They throw her in front of Jesus like a rag doll and they accuse her of adultery. Notice that there was no mention of the man who was also involved in this situation. The whole reason for this charade is to discredit Jesus. They had the perfect question to trap Him.
You can almost hear them thinking, “He cannot get out of this one.” They start, “Master, this woman was caught in adultery. What should we do with her?” If Jesus says to follow the law and stone her, He will lose credibility with many of His followers. If He says to let her go, He is in trouble with the law. But, Jesus is gentle not only with the woman but also with her self-righteous accusers. What does He do?
Jesus did not shout and rave; He did not scream and yell. He simply bent over gently and wrote in the sand with His finger. His action stood out like a clap of thunder in the silence of a summer night. The answer to their question was gentle honesty, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” Jesus is the point of contact between a sinful humanity and a forgiving God.” He said, “I have come that you may have life, have it more abundantly.”
But there are conditions to forgiveness. Both the Jewish and Christian traditions link forgiveness to change. Change in behavior and change in human action. Forgiveness is linked to real contrition. Many times, we may feel more like the weeds in today’s gospel. Many times we may feel more like the weeds in today’s gospel. Than the wheat and more sinner than saint. Just remember the words of the psalms.
“You, O Lord are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and fidelity. Turn towards me and have pity on me. Give your strength to your servant.” But also remember the words of Jesus to the woman caught in adultery. “Go your way and sin no more.”