16th Sunday of Ordinary Time

I used to have a really nice yard.  Jan and I work hard to keep it that way but this year something happened.  This year our lawn is full of weeds and bare spots.  I don’t know what happened.  I’ve spread fertilizer and weed killer and even lime but the weeds keep coming and the bare spots keep getting bigger.  I’m afraid I’m going to have to get professional help.


Since I’m dealing with a lawn and not a wheat field like the man in today’s Gospel, I can’t just wait until the end of summer and gather the weeds up and burn them.  I need to do something now.  But that’s not the big difference between my story and the parable that Jesus tells us today.  The real difference is how the weeds got there.


I’m pretty sure that an enemy didn’t come and sew weed seeds in my yard.  I’m more inclined to suspect the weird weather we’ve been having and my own poor gardening skills.  You’ll notice that neither of my thumbs is green.  But weeds are weeds and one thing we all know is that once you have one, you’re going to get more.


But let’s get back to Jesus story.  There are two things in this parable that caught my eye.  One is that the weeds were planted by “the enemy”.  The weeds represent sins and the enemy is Satan, the Devil, Beelzebub.  In last week’s Gospel Jesus called him “the evil one”.  You know, the guy that most of our society doesn’t think exists.  Even though his name comes up throughout our scriptures, he’s done a pretty good job of convincing us that he doesn’t exist.  Most of us just aren’t afraid of him anymore.  We even name sports teams after him.


To make things more complicated Satan has come up with a way to make almost every sin feel good, or taste good, or look good.  And, like the weeds in my yard, once one sin gets a hold of us, more are going to follow.


The second point that jumps out at me from the Gospel is that the enemy planted the weeds in our hero’s yard “while everyone was asleep.”  He didn’t come in the light of day.  He came under cover of darkness when no one was watching for him.  You and I won’t fall into the trap of sin if we’re constantly on the look out for it.  But the sad fact is that most of us aren’t looking out for sin.  Like I said, sin is almost always disguised as something good.


Missing Sunday mass because you want to sleep in doesn’t seem like such a big deal.  The bed feels so good.  God’s not going to mind if I miss just this once.  I can say some extra prayers this week to make up for it.


Then, when I don’t get hit by lightning during the week I think to myself, “see, it wasn’t such a big deal after all.”  That makes missing mass again that much easier.  Before I know it, I’ve turned into a “C & E Catholic”.  You know, Christmas and Easter.  The seeds the devil planted while I was asleep have sprouted into a garden of weeds.


The best way to keep weeds out of your lawn, or sins out of your heart is to replace them with something that’s good.  If you have a thick, healthy lawn there’s no room for weeds.  If you have a heart full of love, the love that Jesus calls all of us to practice, then there’s no room for sins.  If you spend your time watching good, wholesome television or reading spiritual books, or listening to the right kind of audio material, sin won’t be able to get in.  If you spend your free time helping others, there won’t be room for sin.


One hour a week in church, while it’s a very good thing, just isn’t enough.  When someone falls away from the Church we call them a “non-practicing Catholic.”  The opposite of that would be a “practicing Catholic.”  Like they say, “practice makes perfect.”  You don’t become a world-class athlete by practicing once a week.  You don’t make it to Carnegie Hall by practicing once a week.  An occasional round of golf won’t get you on the pro tour.  You need practice, practice, practice!


Jesus begins today’s parable by referring to “The kingdom of heaven.  That’s what this is all about; getting into heaven.  The alternative is to be burned like the weeds.  Think about that!  How’s your spiritual garden?  Does it need some work?  If so, now’s the time to get started.  It would be a shame to let sin keep you from heaven just because you were asleep when the enemy came.

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