Fr. Bloomfield's Blog

I am a Roman Catholic Priest of the Archdiocese of Detroit, currently assigned to Divine Child Parish in Dearborn, Michigan. When I manage to keep the page updated, hopefully something interesting can be found here!

Monday, July 25, 2005

Homily for 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A (July 17, 2005)

Sixteenth Sunday Ordinary Time – Year A

Our Gospel reading from today continues the selection we had from St. Matthew’s gospel last week. And just like last week, our Lord teaches the people in parables, but unravels some of the mystery of the parable for the Apostles.

Our Lord shares with us this morning three parables, but only explains one. And yet even in the parable that He DOES explain, we can miss His meaning, unless we have “ears to hear”. Let’s examine the meaning of the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares, or the Weeds and the Wheat.

This morning’s parable doesn’t ask us to pull up the weeds, much as we do with our gardens at home. Rather, the weeds that Jesus speaks about are a particular kind of weed that infests grain crops: wheat, oats, and barley. Jesus uses the Greek word for the grass known as “darnel”. Darnel appears soon after the good grain sprouts, but it so mimics the shape and growth of the good seed that it is nearly impossible – even for experts – to distinguish the two. In fact, the roots of the darnel plant intertwine with the roots of the good grain, making it impossible to weed out the bad seeds. Fortunately, the good grain has deeper roots and is able to still grow, even when the darnel is in the field.

Not until the crops are ready for harvest does the darnel become evident; the fruit of wheat, oats, or barley, is clear. Large golden heads of grain, visible and abundant, grace the tops of the shafts of the good seed. But on plants appearing nearly identical, the darnel produces a small, black seed – and no fruit at all. And in fact, the seed itself, when ground into flour, is poisonous: it causes dizziness, nausea, drowsiness, and in some cases, even death.

The message from our Lord is clear: the devil exists; he is real. He is bent on our destruction. Under the cover of darkness, while we are asleep, he sows his poisonous seed among the earth. This sleep, of course, is not physical sleep – it is the moral sleep of indifference, of pride, of compromise with the world. In short, is the sleep of sin, of failing to “watch and pray” as our Lord admonishes.

“An enemy has done this.” The enemy of our souls desires to trick us with his look-alike plant, hoping that we won’t discover it. What are the weeds that our culture is spreading?

The first, and most fundamental weed is RELATAVISM. Relativism looks attractive, looks pleasant, and looks a lot like what Christ teaches. Let’s all get along; don’t judge anyone; be “nice”. But it isn’t – it’s deceptive. Relativism says “truth” does not exist; I can have my truth, and you can have your truth. Truth is what I make it to be: no one has a corner on the truth. Anyone would recognize that this is false when we talk about physics, geometry, or other hard-sciences. Certainly, the mathematician knows the independent truth of the Pythagorean Theorem; gravity is always –32 ft/sec2. But we accept this lie so quickly when it comes to theology, and in particular, moral theology. The truth is quite different: Jesus Christ is the way, the TRUTH, and the life. His life teaches us everything about our own lives. His teachings enlighten our lives, and give us the freedom to REALLY love God and neighbor.

And yet we so often reject His teachings that are handed down through the Church. Our hearts become hardened to the difficult truths of the gospel, and we accept the darnel instead of the wheat. The result:

“The Son of Man will send his angels,
and they will collect out of his kingdom
all who cause others to sin and all evildoers.
They will throw them into the fiery furnace,
where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”

My brothers and sisters, this is not a small matter. Eternity is at stake!

Our culture has accepted relativism. One of the “evil seeds” that this weed has spread is the evil of contraception. Contraception damages our families by promoting a culture that sees fertility as a disease, and children to be avoided. It makes sex outside of marriage the norm, and closes the meaning of the marital act to God. Contraception is so widespread in our culture that it appears to be a great good: a technological advancement that allows greater control over our bodies.

In reality, it is a poisonous seed that fuels a culture of materialism and self-centeredness. The intimate communion between a husband and a wife, shared in the marital embrace, is designed by God to be life-giving and a complete communion of persons. God inscribes the meaning of sexuality on our hearts; the truth is that husband and wife are one flesh, an image of Christ and His Church. Though perhaps not immediately obvious to us, much like the darnel of the parable, contraception transforms the beautiful and sacred moment of total and complete self-giving in marriage into a selfish act that bears no fruit.

The distinguishing mark of the wheat, the mustard seed, and the yeast in this morning’s parables are that they bear fruit. The fruit is good and plentiful; God blesses the kingdom with growth in the truth. God shows His greatest blessing in the creation of a new human person; the husband and wife are “partners” with God in co-creating this new life. Contraception removes God from the equation and closes the couple even to each other.

God has, however, in His providence and wisdom also designed a way to interpret the signs of fertility to make use of period abstinence to space the birth of children. This is known as Natural Family Planning; not only is the practice morally acceptable, it is extremely effective. As an added benefit, studies indicate that couples who practice NFP are happier and have a much, much lower divorce rate as well. Chastity is an essential virtue, not just for the unmarried, but for those who are married as well. It is a great gift, and a blessing from God – true freedom in the Truth of the Gospel.

God is calling us to recognize the weeds of sin that destroy our spiritual lives. What happens if we have accepted contraception – or other sins – as “facts of life”? Our First Reading reminds us that “you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.” We have the great opportunity and gift to repent of these sins and begin a new life in conformity with the truth. By rushing to the Sacrament of Penance – whether for contraception, or any other sin in our life – we receive God’s forgiveness and are reconciled with the Church. Grace is increased in our souls and we reap an abundant harvest, and in turn we will bear fruit that will last.

If you are struggling with this issue in your life, and would like more information about how to understand the Church’s teaching in this area, please call me during the week, or stop by the Offices to chat. Make use of the Sacrament of Penance, either on Saturday afternoons, or again, call at any time.

When we embrace the truth about our lives, repent of sin, and continually strive to live a life of virtue, we live in the grace of Christ, preparing already for the gift of eternal life, Where “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”

May we always be ready to recognize and reject the weeds of the devil, happy to choose the truth of God’s word, and to bear fruit into eternity.