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A priest friend of mine, now deceased, often quoted the poet Robert Browning who wrote, “God’s in His Heaven and all is right with the world.” But, really?
We live in a world that was created by God who called it “good” at the very beginning of the Book of Genesis. But something went awry soon after when the devil entered the Garden of Eden. He tempted both Adam and Eve to eat from the fruit that he falsely promised would make them to be like gods. They ate the fruit and sin entered the world. We have been living with the consequences ever since.
Jesus put this truth in the form of a parable of the kingdom of heaven, one that we read in today’s Gospel. He likens it to a farmer (God) who sowed good seed in the field. When everyone was asleep an enemy (the devil) came and sowed seeds that would become weeds among the wheat. It took a while, but as the wheat and the weeds grew together the problem became quite evident. There was something bad growing among the wheat. Servants came to the master and volunteered to pull up the weeds. Unbeknownst to them, however, the roots of the weeds had intertwined with the roots of the wheat. To pull up the weeds would destroy the entire crop. So, the master said they would need to be patient. At the time of harvest, both wheat and weeds would be pulled up and then sorted. The wheat would be stored in the barn and the weeds would be used for fuel for the fire.
What is Jesus trying to say to us? First, evil does exist among us and it will always be something we need to deal with until the final judgement. Second, God is the ultimate judge who will separate the good from the bad. In another parable, Jesus said that God would sort the sheep from the goats.
Then should we just sit back and do nothing about the evil among us? Not at all. We should do what we can to keep the weeds at bay and to slow their reach while we promote the growth of the kingdom among us — but Jesus is also warning us to be careful not to root out everything that is good while we attempt to take care of all that is bad. In another turn of phrase, we can say that we should not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Sometimes it happens that a good cause can begin to rely on evil methods and righteous anger is turned into the desire for revenge. Evil means will never justify a good end. In another turn of phrase, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.
In the two remaining parables we find encouragement from Jesus. He compares the kingdom of heaven to a small mustard seed or to a bit of yeast. God starts out by planting something that is almost invisible among us, yet it grows until it takes over everything else. Ultimately, the weeds that we live with will not surpass the good seed that God has sown among us. This is good news. It is a word of hope, and it is a promise that God will make good on. His garden will eventually look like the pristine Garden of Eden before the Fall, and that is the place where we long to dwell forever. Patience is required for the garden to come to full maturity as God has planned from the very beginning.