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The harvest matters most PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 23 July 2017: Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Let them grow together until the harvest

Wheat strangled by weeds.  Image courtesy of pixabay.comThe Gospels are full of stories from ordinary life, some told about Jesus and some by him. The beauty of all stories is that they don’t explain themselves: we as readers have to buy into them and find their meaning for our own lives. We always have the unnoticed chair at the table.

The plot of today’s story is very straightforward. It is about a farmer, his enemy and his field. The farmer has sown the field with grain. His enemy has secretly oversown it with weeds. We are invited into the story at the point when some of the farm workers have noticed the weeds and asks the farmer about them. The farmer is very definite in his answers. He did sow wheat; the weeds must be work of an enemy.

The farm workers then ask the central question that Jesus always wants his hearers to ask: what should we do? As usual in the Gospel stories the first answer they come up with is the wrong one. They suggest pulling up the weeds. The farmer, who wants a bumper harvest as possible, disagrees. The weeds are a nuisance, but to eradicate them early will inevitably destroy much of the wheat crop. So best to let weeds and wheat to grow together to harvest time. Then the weeds can be removed and the crop harvested.

Jesus then leaves it to his disciples and to us to work out what the story means in their own situation. The disciples were meeting resistance and division as they were spreading the Good News. They wondered what to do about it. Jesus story asks them what mattered most: to respond to the harm their enemies were causing or to keep preaching the Gospel. Jesus suggests that the harvest matters most. Sorting out divisions, working out who’s to blame and whose heart is in the right place, judging who’s in and who’s out, can wait till later.

Jesus’ story speaks to our own day as sharply as it did to his. In society and in churches there are always personal conflicts and differences about policies and governance. There are also people opposed to what we are doing. They would like to take over.

In such circumstances we can easily focus our attention on the politics of the situation, thinking about how to change personnel and ideas, and how to make people see things in the way in which we do. We gather supporters, find a cause, give ourselves fully to it and turn into a disciplined movement.

That is reasonable, of course, but for Jesus, people matter most. It is better not to judge, not to do politics, but to set out to win people who are our harvest. All the paradoxes of the Gospel – loving the person who hates you, walking the extra mile, returning good for evil come out of that simple focus on what matters.

That is something we always need to keep in mind at Jesuit Social Services. When you are working with people who are constantly badly treated is easy to be caught up in politics and to rage at your enemies. But our job is to focus on vulnerable people and to accompany them on their path into society.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ | Image courtesy of pixabay.com