"The Growth of the Kingdom of God"

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time,

19 July 2020

“But in like manner the spirit also helps our weakness for we do not know what we should pray for as we ought but the spirit himself pleads for us with unutterable groanings.” Rom. 8:26

Today’s readings all help us to understand what the Kingdom of God is like and how we can live our lives in order to enter it. First, in the Book of Wisdom (Wis. 12:13, 16-19), which was written only a century before Christ by a Greek Jew, we see how good and wise God is to His creatures: “For there is no other God but thou who hast care of all, that thou shouldst show that thou dost not give judgment unjustly.” Wis. 12:13 From this passage, we can see that God alone cares for us, and He judges us justly. He is not whimsical like some pagan gods. He cares for all and judges justly. In the second reading from the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 8:26-7), we see how the Spirit of God, who dwells within us all when we are in the state of grace, pleads for us with “unutterable groanings.” Rom. 8:26 Here is an astounding fact: the Spirit of God will help our weakness and plead for us within our souls as we don’t know for what we should pray. Finally, in the Gospel reading (Mt. 13:24-43), we see how God is patient with all, as He will allow the good and evil to coexist together, like the wheat and the cockle, in order not to destroy the good wheat in rooting out the bad cockle. In these parables of today’s gospel, we can learn much about the nature of life and how to live our lives for the kingdom. This is possible because God is so good as to create us, that is, sow the seed and then let us grow according to our nature. With the leaven and the mustard seed, we see how the small seed grows into a great plant and the yeast grows and permeates the whole of society for good.

One of the most important lessons from the “Parable of the Wheat and Cockle” concerns the nature of good and evil. What God sows in the ground is good seed. The enemy, the devil or the evil one, sows cockle in the field. In Israel, this was actually done when some men to get revenge sowed cockle to ruin another farmer’s crops. So, too, the devil tries to destroy the good souls whom God has created. Evil does exist in the world. Some souls actually do the devil’s bidding either willingly or unknowingly. However, some souls who may appear evil may not be evil, and others who are evil may repent. Only when they are fully mature, like the wheat and cockle, can we see which is which. This is why God lets evil run its course. He gives each soul a chance to prove itself. He also allows good souls to gain merit by praying for and working to convert the evil souls. Many of us here can remember when we might have been doing evil deeds. Thanks to God’s patience, we can change and become like the good wheat. “Let both grow together until harvest.” Mt. 13:30

Dissent in the Church

Another added interpretation, which is important for our day, is that of the devils sowing discord in the church with false teachings. They do this to the good seed which is going to produce a hundred-fold, sixty-fold and thirty-fold because the devils have to stop good souls from doing good. They do this “while we sleep.” Thus the injunction of Jesus in another gospel passage: “Watch and pray that you enter not into temptation…”Mk 14:38 Once we have the Catholic faith, we have to beware of false teaching which can corrupt us. Didn’t Jesus also warn us of “false prophets” Mt. 24:11 who would lead even the elect astray. They do the devils’ work by clouding the truth with lies; these half-truths can deceive us all. They say, “God wants you to be happy,” “He would not want you to be in an unhappy marriage or to have so many children,” “Everyone is doing it, it can’t be so bad,” “You have to be free and be good to yourself”; or they will say, “You don’t want to bring children into this cruel world,” “You won’t be able to give so many children the things that they need,” “What difference does it make, there really isn’t any hell,” “What does an old Pope know about these times.” The rhetoric is endless, and unless you obey the Commandments and the teachings (Magisterium) of the Church, you can easily fall into heresy. “Watch and pray” that you fall not into temptation as satan goes about like a “roaring lion seeking someone to devour.” I Pt. 5:8

Existence of Hell

Another point in today’s gospel is the final end of the bad cockle (weeds): “Gather up the weeds first and bind them into bundles to burn; but gather the wheat into my barn.” Mt. 13:30. Jesus goes on to explain that the angels will gather all the workers of iniquity and scandals and cast them into the furnace of fire “where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Mt. 13:42 This proves that there will be a place of torment for all those who do evil. The Church explicitly teaches that it consists of real fire. It is not a very pleasant thought especially, since it will never end! We should often think of this not only for ourselves but also for all of our loved ones.

The Growth of the Kingdom of God

A final meaning to the parables which are in today’s gospel concerns their meaning in relation to the Kingdom of God in heaven. The angels will gather the good wheat at the end of the world and bring them to eternal life: “Then the just will shine forth like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Mt. 13:43. This final joy of the soul with God is also seen with the other two parables: the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but when it grows it will become a great tree. So also, the souls of the just will influence many others and then have eternal life. The yeast also shows the influence of the good soul on others as a little yeast can permeate the whole mass of flour to make bread. The lives of those who live good lives affect the lives of all those around them for all eternity. How blessed we are to be called to God’s kingdom which begins here with our living good lives, and then grows into eternal life both for ourselves and for all for the rest of the Mystical Body of Christ in heaven as the Church Triumphant.

From” “Chastity and Eternal Life” by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.

The Price of Eternal Life: No one who understands Christianity has any doubt that reaching heaven is demanding on human nature. The Saviour tells us: “Enter by the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many there are who enter that way. How narrow the gate and close the way that leads to life! And few there are who find it.” Mt.7:13-14. Christ tells us that we are His followers if we carry our daily cross. During His three years' ministry in Palestine, He never minimized the cost He would have to pay if we wish to reach our heavenly destiny. In His closing discourse before entering the Passion, He spelled out explicitly who would be called to "come possess the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." Mt. 25:34 It will be those who during their stay on earth had loved others with selfless generosity.

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