Fifth Sunday after Epiphany
In today’s Gospel we learn that the Lord sows good seed in the world. What is this good seed? Quite simply, it is the Christian souls with whom He shares His divine life by means of adoption into His own family through Baptism and the other sacraments. It is the pure and sacred doctrine that has been given to these Christian souls and which is a sure guide upon which to base one’s life. It is every word of Holy Scripture given for our instruction and consolation. It is every aspect of sacred Tradition, that body of teachings and practices handed down in the Church, though not necessarily written in Scripture, as already St Paul had admonished the Thessalonians: Therefore, brethren, stand fast: and hold the traditions, which you have learned, whether by word or by our epistle (2 Th 2:14).
Let’s pause for a moment to consider the tremendous benefit that all this has been and is to the world. Imagine a world without Christianity. Imagine a world without the teachings of Our Lord. Imagine a world without the Sermon on the Mount or the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son or the conversion of Magdalene…. Imagine a world in which the teachings of Christ were all up for grabs and in which we would have nothing handed down to go by, a Christianity reduced to a sort of course in archeology in which each century would refashion its faith in accordance with the most brilliant findings of its best experts in the field.
In reality, the faith has been handed down to us with great precision. Anyone who wants to, can find out not only what Our Lord said, but also what it means and how it fits in with other things He said or did. This doctrine keeps the world together, it assures stability and peace. Without it, the world would long ago have destroyed itself. An ancient author writes this: “Truly great and wonderful is their teaching to him that is willing to examine and understand it. And truly this people is a new people, and there is something divine mingled with it. And I have no doubt that the world stands by reason of the intercession of Christians. But the rest of the peoples are deceived and deceivers, rolling themselves before the elements of the world, according as the sight of their understanding is unwilling to pass by them; and they grope as if in the dark, because they are unwilling to know the truth, and like drunken men they stagger and bump against one another and fall down” (Aristides, Apology 16). Let us offer thanks to Our God for all that has come to us trough His Son and through the Holy Catholic Church He founded.
What then is the bad seed? The bad seed sown by the devil is any false doctrine, corruption of the truth, scandalous word or action that leads souls away from the truth and from the practice of virtue, in other words from salvation and towards damnation. It is anything that in itself is evil or that leads to evil. It is anything that leads to a diminishing of fervour, watering down of truth, lack of clarity in the expression of truth leading to confusion in minds. It is not hard today to see the effects of evil seed in the world and in the Church. But let’s leave that for the next few weeks when we will attempt to understand the debacle we find ourselves in.
For today, let’s ask ourselves why it is that the Lord allows the evil seed to be sown at all. Why doesn’t He prevent so much harm? Why doesn’t lock up the devil in hell and remove from the scene his satellites on earth, all the liars and murderers that pull the strings in our world and cause so much grief, all the heretics who confuse the minds of God-fearing Catholics? Why doesn’t He stop the enemy from sowing his weeds while the good are asleep? There are three main reasons.
The first is that God, in His mercy, gives time to sinners to repent. He continues to give them rain and sunshine; He offers them good examples and inspirations in order to draw them back to the fold, to convert them before it is too late to the true faith outside of which there is no salvation. God shows amazing patience with sinners, as He has shown with us. We must imitate God’s patience with them.
The second is for the elect themselves. By allowing the evil to tempt the good, God is giving the good the opportunity to grow in virtue. For there is little merit in being good when the very opportunity for evil is never there, when there are never any temptations to draw us away from the good. By allowing the weeds to grow in the midst of His Church, the Lord gives us the opportunity to become saints. What saint was there ever who was not sorely tried by temptation and trial? As St Augustine says: time is given to sinners so that they may convert or so that through them the just may be tried and so reach perfection. Think for a moment of the dazzling crown of glory that martyrs won thanks to their persecutors. Had they not been so tortured, their merits would have been fewer and their reward less glorious. In the same way, heresies provide the Church with an opportunity to delve deeper into Divine Revelation and articulate the faith with every greater precision.
There is a third reason for which the Lord allows the wheat to be surrounded by weeds, and it concerns the discernment of spirits. St Ignatius gives us precise rules on how to determine the influence of the various spirits. Among them he gives a detailed description of what he calls desolation and which he identifies as diabolical efforts to lead us away from the peace and joy of life in the Lord. It is of no little help in the spiritual life to be aware of this, for when we recognise the enemy at his tail, we know not to follow him down that path of eternal sadness.
In this way we can see that being placed in the midst of tares is actually a grace. A tremendous crown awaits us, one which is being woven now by our efforts and which may not be woven at all if we did not have to deal with the numerous temptations of the enemy. All this it is very important to keep in mind in times of crisis like our own. We can easily get discouraged when we see the evil prosper, when we realise that so little progress is made for the good. We can wonder if the world has any good in it at all. Remember the parable of the wheat and the tares. We are not alone. There are many that stand with us. We need only dig deeper roots into the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. We know through faith that eternal life and joy is reserved for those who stand firm in fidelity to God and that eternal fire is reserved for those who do not. In the end, God will separate them, and in the mean time we must live with the evildoers, we must pray for their conversion before it’s too late.
A final point. Being wheat in the midst of tares is to be a sign of contradiction, an immovable witness to what is true and holy. Today, there are two areas in particular in which we must strive to overcome evil. One concerns our life in this world, which becomes less and less human by the day. The other concerns our faith and our church. As signs of contradiction we must resist anything that either dehumanises us or decatholicises us.
What dehumanises us? Abortion, contraception, homosexuality, forced vaccination, preventing people from admiring the image the God has imprinted on your countenance. Our clearcut duty in that context is not to comply with anything that degrades us or dehumanises us: no compromise with baby-killing, onanism, sodomy; no compliance with the degrading and totally useless disfiguration of the image of God imprinted on our human face; no handing over to anyone of fundamental medical decisions that concern us personally, etc…. As regards our faith: no one needs permission to be a Catholic. No Catholic needs permission to live according the faith that has been handed down by tradition. No one needs permission to go to church. No priest needs permission to open his church or to offer the sacred rites of the Church, handed down by sacrosanct tradition from time immemorial.
Part of being good wheat today is to remain firm, fixing our eyes on the Sun of Justice, letting Him draw us ever more towards Himself. My eyes are always towards the Lord, says the Psalm (Ps 24). In that way we will grow and prosper, and His strength shall be given us in abundance.
May Mary Immaculate, Virgin most powerful, she who crushes the serpent’s head, be the star that guides us in the present darkness as we make our way to the heavenly shore.