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.

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Detachment and the Prize of Eternal Life

Today, I gave my first ever reflection during Daily Mass. It’s the first time I’ve ever prepared such a thing, and the poor parishioners of St. Eugene had to hear it for the first time. I felt like I was able to do a pretty decent job, seeing as though I haven’t had any formal Homiletics prep. Comments and critiques are welcome!

“I have come to bring not peace, but the sword.” Jesus’ message here is confounding. It’s a message that some may feel is even contradictory to the Gospel message. Why on Earth would Jesus say “Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword.” I think it is important for us to not get too caught up in this and to pay attention to the rest of the Gospel.

The Lord tells us “whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” The Lord is asking us to have a sense of detachment, a detachment to all things but God. He asks us to even have so great a detachment that we be willing to lose our lives. This sort of thing is one of the many things that makes it so difficult for us as humans to follow God whole-heatedly. Our lives are something that we cherish and wish to protect. After all, it is something that is given to us by God. But, how many of us chose to be so possessive of our lives that we refuse to let God in? When did it become a risk to let God have control and possession of our lives?

St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus, said in The First Principle and Foundation “We must make ourselves indifferent to all created things, as far as we are allowed free choice and are not under any prohibition. Consequently, as far as we are concerned, we should not prefer health to sickness, riches to poverty, honor to dishonor, a long to a short life. Our one desire and choice should be what is ,ore conducive to the end for which we are created, [and that is] to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save [our] soul” (Puhl, XXIII).

The Christian life is not easy. Some days, it may be a Cross to bear. However, when we are detached from the world, we are able to be more closely united with our Lord, in His joys, in His sufferings, and in His triumph. We should carry our crosses joyfully, knowing that they unite us to Jesus himself, who willingly took up His cross for the salvation of our souls. We should desire to look Jesus in the eyes as he carries his Cross and say to him, “I have joyfully carried my cross to give you glory, to give you everything I have.” To return gift for gift, life for life, love for love. Today, may we take that step, to receive the Lord and to grow closer to Him, abandoning ourselves to Him and availing ourselves to receive the Lord’s reward to us, the prize of eternal life.