How many jokes rely on the “two kinds of people” opening?
Our Gospel this Sunday isn’t funny, but Jesus presents a story in which humanity is divided into two kinds of people: children of the kingdom and children of the evil one.
In today’s Gospel story, Jesus represents the children of God’s kingdom as wheat and the children of the evil one (that is, the devil) as weeds. You can’t tell them apart much of the time. The wheat and the weeds of the time and place where Jesus first told this story look alike until the weeds bloom and can be identified as a toxic plant.
We are prone to shrug off some types of evil and say, “Hey, I’m (or he’s or she’s or they’re or we’re) only human.” The plants in the field in Jesus’ story are like that – they all look like wheat until a ripe moment in which the true nature of each plant is revealed.
Because of that, Jesus warns us against trying to rip out the weeds too soon. When the slaves (they represent the church, by the way) want to go pull the weeds, Jesus says, No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.
Jesus promises a day when he will give the order to angels to separate the children of the evil one to go “home” to the fires of hell, and preserve the children of the kingdom in “God’s barn,” the peaceful and abundant heavens.
Meanwhile, we are to be patient and gentle in dealing with the human race, knowing that some sinners will turn out to be saints and some saints will turn out to be sinners beyond salvage.
While we wait for the great revealing, there are some qualities for which to watch in ourselves and others, indicators of those who are bearing the good fruit of the Spirit as children of the kingdom and those who are toxic with works of the world, the flesh and the devil.
Drawing from our lesson from Romans and the Gospel, here are some of those qualities:
- Children of the kingdom are led by the Spirit of God; Children of the evil one live according to the flesh. The Apostle Paul explains this in detail in Chapter 5 of his Letter to the Galatians,
- Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
- Children of the kingdom often suffer while doing right – Paul says we share Christ’s sufferings; children of the evil one seem to get away with murder.
- They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from common human burdens; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace; they clothe themselves with violence. (Psalm 73:4-6)
- Children of the kingdom long and hope for the kingdom, in fact, we pray thy kingdom come every time we offer the Lord’s Prayer to our Father in heaven; children of the evil one care only for their current gratification, as the struggling and misguided priest in the British series Grantchester preached in a disastrous sermon, This is the life we are here for, we owe it to ourselves to live it.
- Children of the kingdom practice patience, going gently in the world as we wait for Jesus to return and render the justice that he alone is fit to dispense; children of the evil one inflict all kinds of harm on the world, often while claiming to do good, even justifying their actions as “the will of God.”
That’s stuff we can see in the here and now. We won’t see the final verdict until Our Lord returns. At that time,
- The children of the kingdom will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father; the children of the evil one will burn in the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
I had a visit from a long time friend last week. He shared about his experience in a church that appeared to be full of children of the kingdom – and, in fact, probably is – but which also practiced the rash judgment against which Jesus warns. It was one of the Protestant churches that is harshly anti-Catholic. My friend had a Catholic grandmother who, by his new church’s statements, was an idol worshiping child of the evil one.
His objection, although not in these exact words, pointed out how his grandmother showed all the signs of a child of the kingdom:
- She was led by the Spirit, starting every day early with prayer, especially prayer for other people. Yes, she prayed using Rosary beads. But her daily routine and attitude were clearly fruit of the Spirit.
- She suffered while doing right. Illness and age took a toll on her, but her focus remained on the well being of others.
- She longed and hoped for the kingdom, praying daily for it’s arrival and inviting others into the Christian life as she understood it through the Roman Catholic Church.
- She was patient and gentle in a world of family squabbles, harsh judgments and her own pain.
My friend and brother in Christ understood intuitively (or, more accurately, in the Spirit) that his grandmother was one who would shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father – in fact, that light was shining from her mortal life as well.
May we be guided by the Spirit to hear Jesus’ story and Paul’s teaching and live our lives in the Gospel’s truth, with acceptance of our share of suffering, even when it seems unfair, with hope for the kingdom to come and with patient gentleness toward others, praying for them to shine like the sun in the perfect kingdom without end.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
On the other hand, there’s Clint’s advice,