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The Wise Householder

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Today's Gospel presents us with three more parables from the Gospel of St. Matthew. The most prominent of the three is another agricultural allegory involving wheat and tares (weeds). All three of the parables speak of the fact that our community is not a monochromatic aggregate of individuals. The parables speak to the issue of differences within the community. There is a danger implicit in reading this parable with a mindset that pits the wheat against the tares. We could easily fall into the trap of trying to determine who in our community represents the wheat and who represents the weeds. The apocalyptic emendation or redaction that comes after the parables seems to point us in that direction. Yet the words of Jesus themselves lead us to think about our own lives and the weeds that lie in them.

The householder or landowner realizes from the very beginning that the presence of wheat within his fields is the work of an enemy. The servants come to him once the weeds are discovered and make it clear that they are not responsible for sowing the bad seed. If we read the parable from the perspective of the servants, we can almost feel their fear at the possible retribution their master might level against them. He, however, calms their fears by recognizing the work of an enemy.

The act of sowing the bad seed would have been considered a slap in the face of the householder, an act by which he could have lost face, could have faced the scorn of his neighbors. Retaliation against enemy would have been the normal response to such an act. However, the householder conceives a plan whereby he can not only save face but also turn the tables on his enemy. Figuratively speaking, he turns the other cheek. He allows the weeds to grow with the wheat. Then at harvest he gains a twofold profit. Not only has the wheat survived the threat, but he has also gained a harvest of weeds that he has his servants bundle up and store for use as fuel. Burning the weeds will provide warmth for his household and fuel for his oven. His neighbors will recognize immediately that he has "one upped" his enemies. His status within the community will be enhanced by his willingness to bear the insult without retaliation. His patience and his tolerance are rewarded.

As we sit in the pews this morning, we can read these lines as a parable of "them" against "us," the good versus the bad. Or we can recognize that each of us is, at times, a weed in the wheat field. None of us is perfect. All of us are sinners. Our response to the parable asks us to see the same dual nature in our neighbors, to drop the pretense of being "better than." God alone is the judge. When the angels gather the wheat into the barn, the weeds, both ours and our neighbors, will be left behind.

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