Living among the weeds.
In today’s Gospel Jesus offers three parables, or three different stories to describe the Kingdom of Heaven. He also explains why he speaks to the crowds in parables and he interprets the parable of the sower for the disciples. This reading is a continuation of Jesus’ discourse that we began reading last Sunday.
All three parables use commonplace experiences to describe aspects of the Kingdom of Heaven. The first parable alerts us to the reality of the Kingdom of Heaven with the image of a good farmer who sows good seeds in the field and a bad one who comes along and sows weeds alongside the good seed. The master allows them to grow up together until the harvest time. They will be separated then: the good from the bad.
The second and third parables call to our attention to the abundant outcome that will result from the small beginnings of the Kingdom of Heaven. Just as a mustard seed (the smallest of all seeds) will become a large bush an as a small amount of yeast will leaven the entire batch of bread, so too God will bring about the expansion of his Kingdom.
Contained within these parables are words of encouragement, as well as words of consolation. Each parable starts with the phrase: “The Kingdom of Heaven is like…”
How often we have heard this introduction. How often we have heard the words of Jesus, teaching us in parables. Jesus uses many images in his parables: images of the ordinary like a farmer sowing seed, of growth from small to large, of mystery and of contrast. And he tells us clearly that we should expect the unexpected – that we are to be open to the mystery of God who is welcoming of all, without exception. He never said that it would be an easy task. In fact, he showed us by example just how difficult and uncomfortable it could sometimes be.
All of us at the beginning of 2020 probably had many expectations and plans for the year ahead: plans for ourselves, plan for our families and our friends. We hoped that 2020 would be a year of blessings with many good outcomes. We may have expected 2020 to be the year of happiness and pleasure, the year that many of us would experience the kingdom of God on earth. Unfortunately, it has turned out completely opposite.
The Covid-19 virus has changed everything. It forced us into the first lockdown. Only recently we were able to get back, slowly, into a new normal and then suddenly, it now brings us to a second lockdown. The year, 2020, we expected that should bring blessings, happiness and encouragements to each one of us and our families has brought so many frustrations, challenges and uncertainties. This year of 2020 and our current situation reflects quite closely with the first parable of this Sunday Gospel. The good and bad always come together.
But it is important for us to understand that the Kingdom of God is not about separating ourselves from everything the world throws in front of us. It is about dealing with evil, and living our lives alongside evil with a positive attitude.
Jesus tells us in the parable of the sower that evil is ultimately destructive, and that the final stage of the kingdom is when all that is evil is rooted out and destroyed. It’s not so important for us to worry about how that will happen or unfold; however, what is important is that we always choose to live in the way: God has called us to live – to be in this kingdom and to try to be fruitful.