Parable of the Wheat and the Tares

Editor’s Note: Reflection on the Mass readings for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A); Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Psalms 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43 or 13:24-30

At one time or another, we’ve all dreamed of a perfect world.  Imagine a company where everyone is productive, a government full of honest politicians, a church where all are saints.

Dreaming about such things is natural; expecting such things is dangerous.  Unrealistic expectations lead to discouragement, despair, even cynicism. That would be bad enough.  But the expectation that the Church is only for the holy has led people to embark on some very misguided projects throughout history.

Consider those who burned witches and heretics to cleanse the church of evil.  Or the Puritans who were so appalled by ecclesiastical corruption that they planted a purified Church of the saints in a new land, legislating piety and subjecting the lapsed to public humiliation.

Jesus’ own example should have prevented these errors.  First of all, Jesus himself was criticized by the Pharisees for dining with the unclean.  He accepted tax collectors and sinners as disciples.  He knew the flaws in Peter, Judas, and the others, but he chose them anyway.  And just in case his own actions weren’t enough to get his point across, he told the parable of the wheat and the weeds (Mat 13:24ff).

All this is not to say that Jesus was soft on sin.  He commanded the adulteress to go and sin no more and sharply rebuked the apostles numerous times for their pitiful lack of faith.  But he did not dismiss them after their numerous blunders.  He had come for the sick, not the healthy.  His church was to be a hospital for sinners, not a club just for saints.  Of course a hospital exists not to keep people sick, but get them well.  If patients want to be admitted, they must be willing to accept treatment, occasionally even severe treatment.  Harsh medicines must be used to fight deadly diseases such as cancer.  Other times cancerous organs even need to be cut out.  Electric shock therapy has even been employed to bring people out of depression.

This brings up an objection that has caused heated debate in recent years.  If the Church is meant to be inclusive as the parable of the wheat and tares suggests, then why do we still have the penalty of excommunication on the books?  Why do some clamor that Catholic politicians who vote for abortion rights should be denied holy communion?  Isn’t this just a mean-spirited sort of Puritanism?

Not in the least.  Withholding communion is done for two reasons.  One is that the reception of Holy Communion means not only that one wants personally to receive the sacramental body of Christ, but that one is in full, visible communion with the ecclesial body of Christ, which is the Church, fully accepting its teaching and submitting to the authority of its pastors.  To receive communion while living in a state of grave sin or brazen dissent from church teaching causes tremendous confusion.  It could mislead observers into concluding that the sin or error in question is not so serious after all and induce them to also indulge in it.  Secondly, it could also lead the communicant to the same conclusion–that his or her actions or opinions really are acceptable and fall within the boundaries of what is spiritually healthy.

Excommunication is not snotty Puritanism.  When employed, it is intended as a form of shock therapy.  The patient is delusional and needs to be woken up to reality.  If we don’t act to bring the patient back to his senses, he will likely do himself in and perhaps even take others with him.

When to employ such therapy is a matter for Pope and bishops to decide.  Our responsibility is not to worry about how to separate the evil tares from the wheat of the church, but how to uproot the seeds of wickedness from the field of our own hearts.  That task is big enough!


Acknowledgement

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources or info on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

This article originally appeared in Our Sunday Visitor as a reflection on the Mass readings 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A). It is reproduced here by permission of the author.

Please help us in our mission to assist readers to integrate their Catholic faith, family and work. Share this article with your family and friends via email and social media. We value your comments and encourage you to leave your thoughts below. Thank you! – The Editors

Print this entry

About the Author

Dr. Marcellino D’Ambrosio writes from Texas. For his resources on parenting and family life or information on his pilgrimages to Rome and the Holy Land, visit www.crossroadsinitiative.com or call 1.800.803.0118.

Raised in Italian/Irish neighborhood in Providence, RI, Marcellino D’Ambrosio never thought about being anything else but Catholic. But like other Catholic teens, his faith was the last place he looked for fulfillment. Following in the footsteps of his parents, both professional performers in their single years, Marcellino set his sights on stardom, playing bass guitar in several popular rock bands by the time he was 16. At that time he encountered a group of Catholics whose Christian life was an exciting adventure, an adventure worth living for. So he laid his bass guitar aside and embarked on a road that led to a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Catholic University of America. His doctoral dissertation, written under the direction of the renowned Jesuit theologian, Avery Cardinal Dulles, focused on one of the theological lights of the Second Vatican Council, Henri Cardinal de Lubac, and his recovery of biblical interpretation of the early Church fathers.

His writing has been published in the international journal Communio, Abingdon’s Dictionary of Biblical Interpretation, the Tablet, Catholic Digest, Our Sunday Visitor, and Catholic News Service’s syndicated column "Faith Alive." His popular book, Exploring the Catholic Church and video course by the same name (known as Touching Jesus through the Church in the USA) have been used in hundreds of parishes all throughout the English speaking world. The Guide to the Passion: 100 Questions about the Passion of the Christ, of which he is co-author and co-editor, may prove to be the fastest-selling Catholic book of all time with over a million copies sold in less than three months.

Dr. D’Ambrosio, the father of five and a business owner, brings to his teaching a practical, down-to-earth perspective that makes his words easy to understand and put into practice. Audio and video recordings of his popular teaching are internationally distributed. He often appears on the international Eternal Word Television Network is regularly heard on the nationally syndicated radio show "Catholic Answers Live." Dr. D'Ambrosio has been a guest on Geraldo Rivera, At Large on FoxNews Channel, the Bill O'Reilly radio show and Radio America's news program Dateline: Washington.

In 2001 Dr. D’Ambrosio left his position at the University of Dallas to develop the work of Crossroads Productions, the apostolate of Catholic renewal and evangelization that he co-founded twenty years ago, and to more directly oversee the growth of Wellness Opportunities Group a company dedicated to helping people improve the quality of their lives physically, mentally, and financially. He, his wife Susan, and their five children, reside just outside of San Antonio, TX.

Author Archive Page

Post a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *