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Gospel Lectio Divina for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 23, 2023

Gospel Lectio Divina for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 23, 2023

By David Kilby

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit, did instruct the hearts of the faithful, grant that by the same Holy Spirit we may be truly wise and ever enjoy His consolations, Through Christ Our Lord, Amen.

READ

Mt 13:24-30

Jesus proposed another parable to the crowds, saying: "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?' He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."'

MEDITATE

His enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat.

What’s so bad about weeds, anyway? They’re all over nature. Wild fields have plenty of weeds, and not even Solomon in all of his splendor was dressed as beautifully as they are. All of God's nature is beautiful. Weeds are not intrinsically bad. I let them grow on my lawn and just cut them down with my mower and weed wacker. I then get a diverse and natural look for my lawn. It may be unconventional, but it causes me to reflect upon and appreciate God’s handiwork more than my own. So yes,  I let the weeds grow among the grass, and then if there are any weeds that become so stubborn that they try to take over, I pull them out. 

Some flora, like ferns and shamrocks, grow well with the grass. This assimilation reminds me of the way many different cultures have assimilated into the Church. At first, many Catholics were opposed to the idea of certain cultures becoming part of the Church’s culture. For instance, in the Middle Ages, the Romans did not like Gothic architecture. They thought its pointy edges were grotesque and too different from the smooth edges of Romanesque basilicas. But now Gothic architecture is a cherished part of the Roman Catholic architectural tradition. I’m sure at first the Romans considered Gothic architecture to be like weeds in the Church that needed to be plucked out, but God let it remain and over time it showed to fit in quite well.

So, what’s so bad about weeds? Some of them look quite interesting, and I marvel at God’s design when I see how unique many of them are. The diversity of growth in a wild field is God’s design. That diversity is not what Jesus is aiming to prevent in his Church. We can see similar diversity by just looking at all of the different ethnicities that are very much at home here in Catholicism. 

Nonetheless, Christ is building up a Church that walks together in conformity to and uniformity with his teachings. In this parable of the wheat and weeds, Christ is warning us of those who enter the Church with ill intent. Like intrusive weeds that do not wish to grow harmoniously with the rest of the wheat crop, these people are not bad themselves, but they enter the Church with the intent to break it down and possibly even take it over with their own plans. Their intent is to fill the Church with their own ideas, ideas that do not promote unity according to God’s plan. If wheat and intrusive weeds grow together, less wheat will grow—resulting in a less abundant harvest. Jesus wants us to live as abundant of a life as possible. However, there are some people in our lives who intend to stymie that growth. There are people in the Church who want to stymie its growth as well. These are the weeds growing among the wheat.

Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, "First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn."

Christ holds out hope even for those who wish ill for the Church. He lets them enter and grow, hoping that the grace of God leads them to conversion and they become part of the wheat crop. Weeds are not bad in and of themselves, but they are not in conformity with the rest of the crop. Some weeds may even turn out to be saplings, and those saplings could turn into trees and seriously interrupt the growth of the wheat field. We see many similar threats of rupturing in our Church today.

It’s interesting that Jesus uses the example of a wheat crop in this parable. He uses this analogy because wheat is also used in the Eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. So, wheat here could be seen as representing the Body of Christ, his Church. Anything that does not resemble the Body of Christ by following in his footsteps interrupts the communion of that Body and therefore must be plucked out. 

A person who does not believe in what the Church teaches can go on not believing while not being part of the Church. But once he decides to enter or remain in the Church while still believing in something contrary to its teaching, he is like a weed in a field of wheat. Such a person harms the unity of the Church and therefore harms the Body of Christ

PRAY

Dear Lord,

You are a blessing to my life. You have filled the world with signs of your designs from the beginning. The earth itself praises you and declares your plans. Help me to be part of the abundant wheat harvest of your Church, and not an intrusive, noxious, divisive weed like I often am. Forgive me for the times I have failed to promote unity in the Catholic faith. You are the way, the truth, the life, the light, the vine, the Good Shepherd, the Bread of Life, and the Lamb of God. You’re all the things I am seeking. My greatest hope is to participate in a great harvest that brings as many souls as possible to you. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

LISTEN

When Jesus offers a parable, it is an opportunity to listen not only to his words but the world around us as well, because he is pointing out a precise way in which God has already written the gospel all of the natural world he created. In this Gospel passage in Matthew, he is telling us to be patient with those to whom we evangelize. The early stages of their walk with God may not look the way we expected them to look. Remember The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Anderson, who often placed subtle Christian themes like this one in his stories. An ugly weed may turn into a beautiful flower, just like an ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan. So let a person’s faith life develop naturally, and see what happens. God may have different ideas than our own. Sometimes the harvest does not turn out as we planned. Our idea of unity and uniformity may not be what God had in mind. So when we evangelize, it doesn’t hurt to be patient. God will reveal in time those weeds that are truly harmful to the harvest, but if we condemn those who do not conform to our idea of what the Church should look like, we may disenfranchise those who have good, creative ideas that actually fit into the Church’s teachings quite well—without contradicting the eternal truth God has already taught us. 

Kilby is a freelance writer from New Jersey and managing editor of Catholic World Report.  He received his undergrad degree in humanities and Catholic culture from the Franciscan University of Steubenville. In addition to working with the Knights of the Holy Eucharist (knights.org), he has served as a journalist for Princeton Packet Publications, and the Trenton Monitor, the magazine for the Diocese of Trenton. Some of his published work can also be found in St. Anthony Messenger, Catholic Herald (UK), and Catholic World Report. For the latter he is managing editor. Find more of his writing at ramblingspirit.com.

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