The three parable in today’s gospel – the weeds among the wheat, the mustard seed, and the yeast – are all about the kingdom of heaven. The virtue that stands out here is patience. A common reaction when things in our lives don’t go as planned is to quickly make changes without fully considering the consequences. When the farmer first realized that weeds were growing in the midst of the wheat he could have immediately begun to get rid of the weeds so as to protect the wheat. But as Jesus points out, pulling out the weeds would also mean pulling out the wheat. Jesus calls them to be patient. Patience is a virtue that seems to be seen less and less today. The patience to wait at the right moment to speak or act is not always easy. Waiting for God to answer our prayer can be frustrating. We expect ourselves and others to act quickly in making decisions. The pressure is on for the quick fix, not the well thought out solution or resolution. The three parables teach us that the kingdom of God is here, and will take time for it to be fully established. Meanwhile we have to be patient and attentive to how God is working within us and in the world.
The parable of the Sower and the Seeds underscores the inherent fecundity of the seed of God’s kingdom, however, it also emphasizes the responsibility and the positive response to be given by the recipients of the seed of the divine word. The word attests to God’s obstinate faithfulness, long patience and assiduous labor for the unfolding of salvation offered to all humankind. This word comes from God, who created human beings free, and who made with them a covenant of love. Though efficacious and indescribably rich, this word demands from us a willing response made of openness, conversion and ever-renewed trust in Him who speaks it. His word is limited only by the closed ear and hardened heart. It must find a resting place within us so it can do its work. If we are the hardened footpath, or the patch of rock, or the unfriendly briers, the word remains useless a stranger to us. On the other hand, if we become good soils and receive the word in our lives, it will do wonders in us and in the world.
Those who devote their lives to scholarly pursuits have often taken a dim view of religion, and in many cases have rejected faith altogether. They see religion as an enemy of real learning and useful only for those who have not yet been “liberated” by knowledge. Too often the children of deeply religious parents, when sent to secular universities, end up with no faith at all. Today’s gospel speaks directly about this. Jesus is not condemning human learning, even at the highest level, but He is saying that human wisdom will always be trumped in the long run by divine wisdom, because the former was never meant to have the last word. Human learning can co-exist quite easily with God’s wisdom; in fact it will be greatly enhanced by discovering how much is beyond its comprehension. The “little ones” in today’s gospel are not those who are ignorant, much less the anti-intellectual. They are those who are learned enough to know that human beings are not divine and therefore need to be open to the gift of God’s wisdom. This liberation from a false ideal of knowledge without limits will help all of us to lighten our yoke when life turns mysterious and the gift of God is all that really matters.