Tuesday, January 6, 2015

The Good Seed among the Bad



Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat and went his way. But when the grain had sprouted and produced a crop, then the tares also appeared.  So the servants of the owner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’  He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Do you want us then to go and gather them up?’  But he said, ‘No, lest while you gather up the tares you also uproot the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest, and at the time of harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather together the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them, but gather the wheat into my barn.”’” (Mat. 13:24-30)

Note that the Kingdom is compromised, at least for now.  The Kingdom ideally and ultimately is of the "good seed".  St. John echoes this.

 God is light and in him is no darkness at all. (1 John 1:5)

But in the same way that the Church on earth is composed of wheat borne of good seed and false-wheat borne of the enemy's seed, so our hearts are also a Kingdom of mixed ingredients, an adulterated slop of light and darkness.  Humility admits this.

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  (1 John 1:8)

When Marlowe's Dr. Faustus reads this verse, he concludes that the Bible is nonsense, so he shuts it and gives himself over to Satan and to the magic arts.

"If we say that we have no sin,
We deceive ourselves, and there is no truth in us."
Why, then, belike we must sin
And so consequently die.
Ay, we must die an everlasting death.
What doctrine call you this? Che serà, serà?
What will be, shall be? Divinity, adieu! (Dr. Faustus, I i, 41-47)

Like too many biblical scholars, he plucks proof-texts out of context.  For the very next verse reads ...

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
The demon Mephistopheles helps Dr. Faustus study his Bible,
a scene played out at many a modern seminary and Bible College.

Faustus,the false divine, has not the humility to put up with this.  He wants a short cut.  He rejects the cross, the cross that is common to all us us, the cross that St. Paul described, "For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do--this I keep on doing." (Rom. 7:19)

It is hard enough that the field of the Kingdom - the Church - is compromised, weeds among the wheat; our very hearts, as Christians, are compromised, and we know how bitter the fruit of those weeds can be.  And while Our Lord admonishes us (via the parable above) not to uproot the weeds of the field (i.e., judging the spiritual state of others and thereby supplanting God's prerogative), He encourages us to prune ourselves rather harshly, chopping off even our very hands if they lead us to sin.  (Mark 9:43)  Thus we are to practice humility and patience with others, ("Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love." - Eph. 4:2), while being ruthless with ourselves and the weeds in our own back yard.

And yet, Mature Christians, it's more complicated than that, for "bearing with one another in love" does not mean that we are obliged to be victimized.  It also does not mean that we are to put on blinders to the evil that's around us.

A reader recently left a comment on an old post of mine about Bishop Finn, in which I suggested that the bishop was not being honest about how he handled the Fr. Rattigan situation (my assessment of what Finn was really doing was affirmed by the criminal court).  The reader told me I needed to go to confession for slander ... for suggesting that a bishop might have been dishonest.

But that's ridiculous.  Bishops lie all the time, and sometimes they get caught, and when they do, they lie some more.  And some bishops are weeds among the wheat, for cassocks and mitres do not make the man; if they did, then Dr. Faustus, who consorts with devils, and who struts about the play dressed in his cassock, would not warrant being dragged down into hell at the end of the drama in Act Five.

For, in Our Lord's parable, when the servants reported to the master, "There are weeds among your wheat," he did not say, "Go to confession!  How dare you point out the obvious to me!"  He admitted that "an enemy has done this" and that the tares were not the stuff of which the Kingdom was made; and while he told the servants it was not their job to uproot the tares, he made it quite clear what the harvester would do with the bad fruit when the time came.  And that is a warning to every reader of this, directly.  We can't control those about us, but we can - and we must - make sure the fruit we bear is what-for-bread and not weeds-for-flame.

The Kingdom is of Good Seed.  God is of light, not of darkness.  We are in a world that is still of darkness, but we have seen a great light.  And we are to hold to Peter's prophetic words - to the truth of Divine Revelation as guaranteed by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church - we are to focus on it "as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts." (2 Pet. 1:19)

For the Kingdom is compromised ... for now.  But the light slowly increases, and the darkness shall not overcome it.  (John 1:5)  And when the stinging fire rages at the End of Days, all will be revealed, our works will be tried, and then that blazing Truth, which we often don't want to see, will stand Victorious before us ... and we will be judged by His light.


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