The Fruit vs. The Weeds

Today’s reflection given at St. Eugene’s Catholic Church on the Memorial of Sts. Joachim and Anne and on the day of Fr. Jacques Hamel’s murder:

Today’s Gospel fits perfectly for today, not necessarily because it is the Feast Day of Sts. Joachim and Anne, the parents of Mary, the Theotokos, but because of its significance in today’s current events.

This Gospel is Jesus’ explanation of the Parable of the Weeds. The Parable of the Weeds occurred just a few verses earlier in Mt. 13:24-30. Jesus is surrounded by a huge crowd and he teaches them about the Kingdom of Heaven using parables. As a Sooner, my favorite among these is the Parable of the Sower, but what the Lord gives us in the Parable of the Weeds is just as rich. Jesus teaches the people that when the fruit of the earth, the good wheat, is mature, it will be harvested, but only after the weeds are gathered and burned. The imagery is quite rich, but the disciples desired further explanation after the crowds were dismissed. They didn’t fully understand, and they desired more. The Lord goes into detail with them, explaining each character or setting and equating it to reality. The sower is the Lord, the enemy who sowed weeds is Satan, the wheat is the faithful (hopefully us…), the weeds are those who do evil, the harvesters are the Angels of God, and the furnace is Hell.

Anyone who has ever worked in a garden can relate to this Gospel very well. The Weeds can very easily take over. Just as weeds can take over a garden or field, so can evil in our lives.  We can see that in the world today.  Thanks to relativism, our world struggles to even discern between right and wrong.  With obvious problems, such as murder, the consensus of people is still that murder is not right in any circumstance. However, the lines begin to become blurred past that.  Things that were immoral just a decade or just a century ago are somehow morally acceptable now.  Relativism has captivated our culture and is slowly taking it over, just like weeds in a fruitful garden.

This morning I was able to visit St. Ann’s and to visit some of our parishioners there. I was also able to see some of the priests that live there.  As I was talking to Fr. Marvin Leven, he looked back on his life as a priest and told me “I would have done things differently if I had known what I know now” (paraphrase).  We learn from our experiences that the Lord has given us.  Each experience is an invitation to growth and a deepening of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love, even the difficult experiences.  However, the Lord will not force us to grow.  He allows us to choose what we do.  Satan wants our relationship with the Lord to degenerate.  He wants the weeds to cut us off.

Today in France, Fr. Jacques Hamel, an 84-year-old priest who has served the people of God since he was ordained in 1958, was killed at the altar as he was saying Mass. Evil has no limits.  Maybe it’s disguised in something that is good.  Other times, it is obvious.  We continue to hear story upon story of evil occurring in our world.  It thinks that it can choke out the good.  Yet, the priest Tertullian says “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church” (Apologeticus, ch. 50).  It’s not too late to take back our field.  It’s not too late to turn our trust back to God and to further His kingdom in this fallen world.  We can look to the saints and martyrs as examples of how to live our lives for Christ.  We can ask them to help us, to help convert our hearts and our world.  We can be the Light of the World to a world of darkness.  All we must do is trust, believe, and live our lives as Christ asks us to.

Fr. Jacques Hamel, Pray for Us.

Sts. Joachim and Anne, Pray for Us.

Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs, Pray for Us.

Reflections on the Feast of St. Agnes and the Vigil of the March for Life

Wednesday was my first full day in our Nation’s Capital. Overall, it was a great day. DC is such a cool city. I had so many misconceptions about it (like it bring crime-ridden). Its been a great experience so far.

Tonight, I attended the Opening Mass for the National Prayer Vigil for Life. To get a seat, we had to get there very early (I was there about 2.5 hours early and barely got a spot in the main church). I had plenty of time, so I decided to do the Office of Readings. The Second Reading from the Office of Readings was from St. Ambrose. Here is an excerpt:

It is the birthday of Saint Agnes, who is said to have suffered martyrdom at the age of twelve. The cruelty that did not spare her youth shows all the more clearly the power of faith in finding one so young to bear it witness.

A new kind of martyrdom! Too young to be punished, yet old enough for a martyr’s crown; unfitted for the contest, yet effortless in victory, she shows herself a master in valor despite the handicap of youth. As a bride she would not be hastening to join her husband with the same joy she shows as a virgin on her way to punishment, crowned not with flowers but with holiness of life, adorned not with braided hair but with Christ himself.

This was a perfect thing to reflect upon the day prior to the March for Life. Just as St. Agnes, was innocent, so are the victims of abortions. We must work to protect the innocents of our time. Much of this will be exemplified tomorrow, when hundreds of thousands descend upon Washington, DC to March for Life. Very fitting, the US House of Representatives will be voting on H.R. 36, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. Pray for the marchers, legislators and politicians, and the unborn!

St. Agnes, Pray for Us!

Reflections on Capital Punishment After an Oklahoma Botched Execution

Oklahoma State Representative Mike Christian told reporters this week that “he doesn’t care whether inmates are executed by injection, electric chair, firing squad, hanging, the guillotine or “being fed to the lions”.” Rep. Christian is also calling for the impeachment of the Oklahoma Supreme Court because they wanted to halt the executions. I find this deplorable. Number one, he is sworn to protect the Constitution of the United States. Yes, that includes Amendment 8 and the prohibition of cruel and unusual punishment. Number two, the system of government we have here in the United States results in a “checks and balances” model, where one branch (in this case, the judicial branch) can intervene to block another branch from abusing its power. Over the past week, I have heard many people comment on the (botched) execution of Clayton Lockett by saying “rot in hell,” “he deserved it,” or “he didn’t suffer enough,” among many others.

Capital punishment in this country was never instituted for the purpose of revenge, as that is immoral. Rather, it was instituted when the United States was a developing country and did not have the ability to adequately protect the population from evildoers. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul says “Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says The Lord” (Romans 12:19 NABRE). We must trust in The Lord to judge and not take matters into our own hands. The Catechism of the Catholic Church has this to say about Capital Punishment:

CCC 2267 Assuming that the guilty party’s identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people’s safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.
Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm – without definitely taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself – the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity “are very rare, if not practically non-existent.”

“[The cases] are rare, if not practically non-existent.” I looked up both condemned men’s DOC records. Neither of them had committed any other crimes while in prison. It seems to me that it is not an “absolute necessity” to execute these men.

Finally, The Lord said in the Gospel of St. Matthew that “Stop judging, that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1 NABRE). How are we to know that these men did not repent, and come in faith to God? Isn’t that the ultimate goal? We are all sinners! Sure, some people are capable of much more heinous offenses to the people and to God, but God forgives all sins, not just the meager ones. Also in the Gospel of St. Matthew, The Lord says “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Matthew 7:4,5 NABRE). Finally, in St. John’s Gospel, we hear Jesus say But when they continued asking him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7 NABRE).

Are we really perfect enough that we can adequately judge whether someone is guilty or innocent? Much less whether or not they should be executed? I urge everyone to stop playing God and focus on “removing the wooden beam from your own eye.” Oh, and pray for the souls of the victims as well as the condemned.