Wheat and Weeds

In 05 Homilies by Fr. Reid on 2016/08/19 at 12:00 AM
  • The cathedral church in Orvieto, Italy, is most often visited because it is the home of the famous, blood-stained corporal that attests to the Eucharistic miracle of 1263 in the nearby town of Bolsena, which led to the institution of the Feast of Corpus Christi.
  • As fascinating as it is to see this corporal upon which a Eucharistic Host began to bleed during a Mass offered by a priest who doubted the Real Presence, in the opposite transept of the church is another extraordinary marvel worth seeing: the Chapel of San Brizio.
  • In the Chapel of San Brizio are the magnificent frescos of The Last Judgment and The Apocalypse begun by Fra Angelico in 1447, but primarily executed by Luca Signorelli between 1499 and 1504.
  • Not only are these frescoes magnificent in their artistic worth and composition, but they’re downright frightening in their portrayal of souls being carried to hell by demons and the events of the end times.
  • Perhaps the most frightening aspect of all is the fresco that shows a Christ-like figure standing on a pedestal amidst a large crowd of people, who have piled gifts at his feet. But to his side is the devil, who is whispering into his ear.
  • When you see this fresco, you’re tempted to ask the question, “Why is Jesus letting the devil whisper in His ear like that?” But upon closer inspection, you find that, though this figure bears many of Christ’s attributes, his eyes and facial expression are not those of our Savior.
  • There is no warmth in those eyes, nor strength or mercy. Only the vacuous and blank look of one in the control of another, more sinister force. This is Signorelli’s depiction of the Antichrist, who masquerades his evil as goodness.
  • He will appear to many – if not most – to speak and act and even appear like Christ Himself, but subtlely he will sow seeds of dissension from the Church’s true teachings, and with his lies and half-truths bring about the persecution of the Church and damnation for many souls.
  • What Signorelli shows us in such masterly fashion in this fresco is that it is often difficult to distinguish evil from good in the world today, for it is a common ploy of the evil one to disguise evil as good.
  • As the Gospel tells us today, weeds and the wheat very often grow together. The problem is that when weeds and wheat first begin to grow, they very often look very much alike.
  • In fact, the weeds referred to in the parable are called darnel, which look just like wheat. When the plants are young, it is almost impossible to distinguish them. And both plants produce a head.
  • The difference is that the wheat head produces fruit: wheat grain, while the darnel head produces nothing. That’s why the people in the parable were not able to recognize the weeds until the wheat crop grew and bore fruit, at which point it was difficult to pull up the weeds without hurting the wheat crop.
  • We can see a real-life example of this parable in the proliferation of federal judges striking down laws banning same-sex unions across our country, despite the will of the voters who put those laws on the books.
  • Disguising the evil of these unions as a civil right and even akin to the natural union of man and woman, this terrible weed is now being sown into the soil of our society.
  • Yet, like the darnel of the Gospel that looks a lot like wheat, in the end, same sex unions are incapable of producing any fruit, which is the primary purpose and good of the marital union.
  • In fact, calling same sex unions “marriages” changes the very nature and purpose for which God designed marriage and the marital act. Trying to redefine something designed and instituted by God Himself is the height of hubris and an act of preposterous pride.
  • Sadly, many people in our society today – even Catholics – say, “What business is it of mine what my neighbor does in his private life.” And believing absolutely in the American value of respect for privacy, we turn a deaf ear and a blind eye and hope that it will all go away.
  • But there are a couple of problems to this approach, my dear brothers and sisters. First of all, the devil is a good farmer, and he will continue sowing his weeds of evil as long as he has fertile ground to do so.
  • Moreover, while respecting our neighbor’s privacy is a good thing, do we not care about his soul? While it may be polite to mind our own business, are we not failing in charity if we do nothing to help our neighbor see the truth?
  • Furthermore, do we not care that God is so terribly offended by sin? Not just by this sin, but every sin! And if we are true in our love for God, should we not try to help others live godly lives while striving to live godly lives ourselves?
  • Most importantly, have we forgotten that there will be a reckoning some day? This is one of the primary points of the Gospel today…and one of the most fascinating and frightening aspects of Signorelli’s frescoes in Orvieto.
  • The weeds and the wheat will be harvested, my dear brothers and sisters, with the wheat being gathering into our Lord’s barn. But the weeds shall be tied into bundles and burned.
  • And so we must choose whether we are going to be weeds or wheat, whether we are going to be the children of God or the children of the evil one.
  • Hopefully we will trust in our Lord’s promises of mercy and become His children. For as our first reading points out, even though our Lord is all-powerful, his “mastery over all things makes [Him] lenient to all.” Our Lord desires our repentance; He is good and forgiving.
  • Yet our faith demands that we be concerned not only with our own salvation. We must care for the salvation of others as well. We must help others along the path to Heaven. This means helping people to distinguish between good and evil, between weeds and wheat.
  • As we live in a country dominated politically by two parties that are often opposed on moral issues, it is easy to sink into an “us-versus-them” mentality when these moral issues come up, and simply write off as enemies those who disagree with us.
  • But that’s not acceptable. In addition to striving to be always children of God ourselves, we must also pray for the conversion of those children of the evil one. And we must also oppose any efforts on their part to sow their evil seeds in our society.
  • The salvation of many depends upon this. If we do not stand up to evil when the seeds are being sown, the weeds may very well overtake the wheat.

© Reverend Timothy Reid

Fr. Reid is the pastor of St. Ann Catholic Church, Charlotte, NC

Homilies from June 17, 2012 onward have audio.
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