‘The Kingdom of God and the end of the age’, by Sue Berry.
Readings: Genesis 28:10-19a Psalm 139:1-12,23-24, Romans 8:12-25 Matthew 13:24-30,36-43
Following on from last week’s story of the sower and the seed. This week’s gospel reading continues the agricultural theme in the parable of the wheat and the tares. A farmer sows seed in his field looking to reap a good harvest. Under the cover of darkness his enemy, intent on ruining that harvest, sows weeds in amongst the wheat.
His servants, upon discovering this wicked act, want to pull up the weeds before the harvest. However, the farmer cautions them to wait until the time of reaping. Then, both will be gathered and separated; the tares to be burnt, the wheat to be placed in his store house.
Jesus was giving more details about the Kingdom of God and the end of the age events, as he shares the meaning of this parable.The farmer is the Son of Man who is sowing the seed. The field is the world. The good seed represents the sons of the kingdom, the weeds or tares are the sons of the evil one. The harvest is the end of the age, the reapers are the angels who gather the tares and cast them into the fire. The wheat is gathered into the barn.
It’s a sobering picture. Jesus explains the events that will come and he is the one that will judge the whole of humanity. The parable appears to describe an ‘us and them’ situation and it is tempting for people to judge and label one another into one camp or the other. But when we take a closer look, we see a call to action to reach those, represented by the tares, who do not yet know Christ.
The one who sows the weeds among the wheat is called the enemy. The term ‘enemy’ is used in three other places in Matthew’s gospel. The first is in the Beatitudes Matthew 5:43-44 where we are called to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. If such people are destined for the furnace of fire we need to pray for them since God doesn’t want anyone to perish and nor should we.
The second reference to ‘the enemy’ is in Matthew 10:36 where the disciples are sent as sheep amongst wolves and told that enemies could even be of their own household. The final reference is in Matthew 22:24 were Jesus speaks of the prophetic words of David about himself: ‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet’ Meaning ultimately the enemies who sow weeds will be defeated.
Looking at this parable again we see a complex picture and even though defeat of the enemy is assured human beings caught in this scenario could end up in a lost eternity without God, known simply as Hell.
The servants noticed what was going on, raising the alarm, so why the delay? Were they too hasty in their judgement? Is the time given as a grace for change. Although justice will come, we are in an age of grace, the window is open to make choices which mean life or death to the soul.
It should be an opportunity for Christians to pray for family, friends and the wider community, for all to meet Jesus while he may be found. This happened to Jacob in our Genesis reading. A revelation of God at Bethel changed his life profoundly.
God was reminding Jacob that his life should not be governed by self-interest but that he needed to become a channel of God’s blessing to others. Jacob has a new vocation given in an encounter with the Living God as angels are dispatched to bring encouragement and blessings.
God working in us and through us gives the ability to break into a world of fear, terror and loneliness, it begins with self and in turn touches others, as we are prepared to share what Jesus can and has done in our lives.
The redeeming elements of all the readings today remind us of a God who wants to produce a good harvest in each of us so that we in turn become agents of change allowing the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to bring the light and life of Jesus to those around us.
God who sows and God who reaps,
God who allows growth even in the hard places,
God who waits patiently for the right time,
send us out now into the fields of your world
to plant hope amidst the weeds and seeds of life.
And may we learn to scatter love wisely
till you gather us in once more. Amen