The “wheat” that Jesus speaks of is “food for nourishment; it is life-giving.” The “darnel” on the other hand chokes life and eventually destroys life. Jesus also says that it is not easy to distinguish between a wheat and a darnel, especially when they are young. There are many angles to today’s Gospel. We could reflect on how we need to live a more discerning life, or how we should not be judgmental on people or even on life after death; the “end times.” However, within the limited time we have, we will focus on the simple theme of how Jesus is challenging each of us to be the “life-giving wheat” to people around us, and also on how He is cautioning us to be aware of the destructive power of the “darnel” in our daily living.
To illustrate what I want to say, I would like to begin with a true story. Jude (not his real name) who is at present 63 years old. Jude is living in a Home for the Aged; suffering from Parkinson’s disease and more seriously from depression. His mother is 88 years old and is in the same home; she can neither eat nor speak. Joan (not her real name) visited Jude as part of her pastoral apostolate. Jude told Joan that he would not want to visit his mother because he says, “I am confused . . . I cannot bear the sight of my mother dying in this way. Where is God? Why is God allowing this to happen to us? What wrong have we done to deserve this? We have been faithful to God and done a lot of good in our lives. So, why is God allowing all these to happen to us in our old age?
Joan did not really know how to help Jude, yet she tried to console him and also prayed with him for a while. Joan then told Jude, “Let us go and visit your mother. . .” Jude’s eyes immediately lighted up and he threw a smile at Joan and agreed to go. The visit brought much comfort, peace and spiritual consolation to Jude, and also to his mother who was visibly touched by the visit.
It is important for us to understand what Jude is going through so that we can also understand some of our similar struggles in life. In this simple true story, we see how Jude was initially absorbed by his depression and the darkness of his pain, that threatened his faith and trust in the Lord. Jude was firmly gripped by the temptations of the bad spirits, the darnel, that confused him. He began to question,
, “How come the God whom loved in my life is now so silent in my illness? Jude’s emotional pains have made him weak and very vulnerable to the temptations and illusions of the bad spirits.
We can safely say that we are the “wheat” and the good people in God’s Kingdom; that’s why we are here in this Eucharist. Jude too was a “wheat” in God’s Kingdom. However, the trials of illnesses drew him into the darkness of pain that threatened to destroy his faith in the divine power, mercy and love of the God in his life. Like Jude, there will be moments of the darkness of pain too in our lives; the pains of rejection, false accusations, disappointments, divisions in the home and the like. For some of us, such darkness too can threaten to destroy our faith in the divine power, mercy and love of God in our lives.
What is today’s Gospel challenging us? Basically, we have each to grapple with the question, “Who am I?” What is our nature and identity?. We are all children of God and are called to be “life-givingwheat” to others who are in darkness and pain. If Joan, in our true story, was not “life-giving wheat” of Christ to Jude’s life of darkness and pain, Jude may have lost his faith in God as the “darnel” of the bad spirits could have choked his faith and trust in God.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, our life as Christians is more than doing good to others. To be the “life-giving wheat” to others, like Joan, even in little ways. We have to go beyond being satisfied with doing the minimum goodness like all other people in this world. We have to go beyond the “feeling good”of doing good, to doing good because God is good. We have to keep doing good even though it means we have to sacrifice our precious time, money and family for the greater good and sake of God’s Kingdom.
Our Lord in the Gospel tells us, if we do good to those who love us, what reward do we expect from God? Even the tax collectors who are great sinners do that. The good we do must be radically different and qualitatively Christ-like.Jesus is our model . . . look at Him crucified on the Cross before our eyes. When Jesus gave life, He gave life not only to His friends and family, but more so to those who mocked, condemned and crucified Him. When Jesus did good deeds to others, He reached out to touch and heal the lepers that society shunned and feared of being contaminated. When Jesus did good deeds to others, He embraced the sick, dying and the poorest of the poor that were marginalized and condemned as burdens of the rich and powerful of society.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, if we want to live today’s Gospel challenge of Jesus to be the “life-giving wheat” of Christ in God’s Kingdom today, we must have a clear identity. We are more than any other human persons who exist in this world; we are all children of God. And as children of God, God has put us here with a great responsibility to make God known through what we say and especially through how we live our daily lives.
If we are doctors our fundamental identity is not being a doctor, but being a child of God serving as a doctor. An ordinary doctor may prescribe medicine to the best of his knowledge for the illness of his patient. But, if a doctor is clear about his fundamental identity as a child of God, then he will know how not only to be professional in his profession, but also Christ-like in his treatment of his or her patients. In being Christ-like, he is essentially affirming the dignity of his patient as another child of God who is in need, and that he is placed in a position of being a “life-giving wheat” of Christ’s goodness, values and blessings to his patient.
Likewise, a lawyer is not just a person with a specific profession to see that justice is served. A lawyer who is a “life-giving wheat” of Christ more importantly upholds the Gospel values of the true Justice that Jesus preached and practiced. It is a justice that gives preferential love for the poorest of the poor. That’s why Jesus, with great compassion and mercy reached out and touched the lepers, the sick, the possessed, the sinners and His persecutors.
A parent who is “life-giving wheat” to their children is more than a provider; they are more than simply ensuring their children have all the material comforts of life, achieve the academic excellence and social status and success in society. Parents as “life-giving wheat” to their children are to bring their children up with the deep experience of what God’s love in the family; God’s mercy beyond the family, and to value and experience the meaning of sacrifice, and also know how to “die” like the life-giving wheat for the sake and good of others. This is important because there is an over focus on “self-gaining” instead of “life-giving” in our secular world.
A priest is also more than a pastor who presides at the Eucharist or someone who does good deeds. He is meant truly and radically to witness the Gospel values of Christ through his life of selfless service and total commitment to Christ in his vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. He is called to witness to Gospel values of how he is radically detached from the secular values of this world, but fully attached to Christ Himself. I could go on to describe more examples, but we would be here till 2.00 pm; so I have to stop here.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, to be the “life-giving wheat” is never easy; you and I know this well.Why is this so? The secular values of the world through the deceitful and dark ways of the bad spirits of the “darnels,” are constantly competing for our attention. They make us feel good, but actually they are illusions. They are never wholesome and never totally fulfilling.
We need to daily discern how to be a “life-giving wheat” for others, in God’s ways. We have constantly to face the challenges like Joan in our true story. At times we may even have to face the struggles and pain that come our way. If we do not strive to do this, we may be dominated by the “death-giving” ways of the “darnel.” These come from the bad spirits and they will tempt us away from God’s ways. However, we should be cautioned, as Jesus too says that it is not easy to distinguish between the “darnel” and the “wheat” as they look very similar, especially when they are young. They look very much alike .
Likewise, many of us may think that just doing some good in our lives we feel we are good enough, and we are well on our way to our eternal life when we breathe our last breath on earth. However, what appears and feels to be “good enough” may in fact turn out to be the “darnel” of a complacent and lukewarm faith in God, which our Lord asserted in the Gospel that He would spit out because it is neither hot nor cold. Jesus made similar demands in His parable of the Talents.
To conclude, let us remind ourselves that to be a true life-giving “wheat” of the Good Spirit of God we have to reaffirm strongly and unequivocally that we are all called to be a true disciple of Christ, whether we are doctors, lawyers, students, parents, priests or maids. The true disciples of Christ imitate His life-giving ways of saving all peoples, even at the price of his own death. This means that our true identity, as children of God is to be the “life-giving wheat” that dares to “die” dailyfor God’s Kingdom as Christ Himself has shown us.
Do we want to be the “life-giving wheat” of Christ or do we want to allow the “deceptive and destructive darnel” of the bad spirits to dominate our daily living? God promises us all the graces we need to be the “life-giving wheat” in His Kingdom, but He respects our freedom and leaves us to make the choice of whether we want to be the “life-giving wheat” or the deceptive and destructive “darnel” that can destroy our lives here on this earth in our eternal lives.
Fr Philip Heng, S.J.