HOMILY: The Parable of the Darnel

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World prior to a given Sunday. To see the archive of all his posts, just click hereSalesian Sermons

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 19/20, 2014

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the Sunday readings here. This homily focuses on the Gospel reading.

Sometimes translations just don’t do a parable justice.

I don’t know about you, but this parable used to really perplex me.  I mean, let’s be honest. How could a trained farmer not be able to identify weeds from the crop he was growing?

I hate gardening.  And yet, even I can tell a weed when I see one.

So every time I heard this parable, I was left questioning the farmer.  Was he incompetent?  Or was he just not willing to do the hard work of removing them?  And what did this mean for my understanding of God?

This was all before I had a professor who taught me that Jesus actually names a particular weed in his parable.  The darnel seed.  And the interesting thing about this seed is that it looks exactly like wheat in its initial stages.  It is only at the end that one can truly tell whether the plant before you is a weed or wheat.

Suddenly, I gained a whole new perspective on this Gospel.

And frankly, it is a much more difficult one to live out.

See, I have found that it is much easier to place people into recognizable labels from the get go.  Don’t we often find ourselves quickly assessing a person and dropping them into any number of boxes that we have built?

We assume we know someone because we know their skin color or their ethnicity, their sexuality or their political ideology, their zip code or their profession.

We define a person by a single mistake that they have made.

We struggle to acknowledge that people can change.  That there is gray area in life.  That someone may not fit easily into the box we wish to put them in.

But what if we’re wrong?  What if we are seeing weeds, when they might just be wheat?

As some of you may know, I spent the last two weeks of my summer running a summer camp at DeSales University.  And as you can imagine, the stress of managing students for 24/7 for two weeks can leave you a tad drained.

So I was not at my best, when this one student messed up for what felt like the umpteenth time.  I was done.  I looked at him and said . . . I don’t know why we keep talking because you don’t even care what I say.

He looked at me with tears in his eyes and said, “Fr Brian, you are the only reason I stayed at this school last year.  I may not always be able to live up to what you want me to, but I always listen to you.”

I had seen a weed my friends, when here was a beautiful stalk of wheat.

After that conversation, I found myself thinking about this Gospel a lot.

Maybe the farmer was wiser than I had ever given him credit for.

For the farmer realized that it takes time before one can tell what a seed will become.  Time for the seed to grow.  Time for the seed to bear fruit.

See I am convinced that each of us is a good seed.  That our heavenly farmer made no mistakes.

But I am also convinced that there are many days when we must look like weeds.

Those days in which our stress causes us to lash out at those we hold most dear.

Those days in which we choose to nurse our anger until it poisons us.

Those days in which we choose to exert our authority to control or manipulate another.

Those days in which we choose to be cruel and deceitful , vengeful or arrogant

Maybe that is why this Gospel gives me so much hope.  For our lives need not be defined by those moments when we fail.  There is still time for us to  grow.  We can still become that wheat that we are destined to be.

And yet, this Gospel also challenges me.  To see beyond the categories and the labels.  To see individual human beings on the same journey that I am.

To seek to understand the other who holds a different opinion than I do.

To seek to forgive the other who wounds me with their ignorance or their malice.

To seek to lift up those who have given up hope.  Who have forgotten the seed that they are made of.

To seek to nurture the next generation of seedlings so that they become a rich harvest for the Lord.

To see the wheat, even when I am confronted with the weed.

Once again my friends, Christ offers us a call.

To see the best in ourselves.  To find the best in the other.  So that all of us may bear good fruit to the farmer who nurtures us, nourishes us and loves us to the end.

May God be Praised.

Image courtesy of http://www.cruzblanca.org/hermanoleon/

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