HOMILY – 16th SUNDAY [A] 2017                                [Matthew 13: 24-33]

Fiona, our Lay Pastoral Leader, has shared an important insight in today’s newsletter: that the good, the bad and the ugly in each of us need not be a barrier to living with or loving ourselves.  My mother used to tell us there was a saint and a devil in every person and that she loved both.  She explained to our puzzled looks, that it was only by loving the devil that you got rid of him.  “Devils can’t stand love,” she would say.  “You kill them with love!”

Fiona’s insight and my mother’s home-spun philosophy fit well the parables of Jesus about the kingdom or reign or God.  Perfection escapes us in this life.  Success is always tempered by the realisation that I could have done better; reaching a goal only opens the path to another goal to strive for.  Complete satisfaction is an illusion.  So we must learn to live with incompletion – or at least appreciate that life does not always depend on everything going well.

In the story Jesus tells, good seed is planted but an enemy contaminates the field with “darnel”, which is described as a noxious weed that closely resembles wheat, making it hard to identify the good from the bad.  There is much here that’s helpful for our own life situations:  All relationships have to be worked at as we cope with differences of opinion, conflicting habits, understanding right from wrong and filtering out helpful from unhelpful advice.  We have to learn to live side by side with conflict, misunderstanding, and the fact that not everyone gets on with everyone else.

The servants wanted to weed out the offensive plants but the landowner told them to wait till the harvest.  It’ll be easier to tell the difference when the good seed has ripened.  This parable encourages us to live with our contradictions – just as last week’s Gospel encouraged us to live with uncertainty.

Last Thursday I was part of the first formal meeting of the New Zealand Roman Catholic/Lutheran Dialogue.  A small group came together to listen and learn; to study the history of our separation; to examine what keeps us apart and explore how what we hold in common can be further developed.  In recent years, the warming of relationships between Christian denominations and the opening up of pathways into each other’s camp, are perhaps showing us today’s Gospel parable in a new light.

500 years ago the Christian world found itself embroiled in argument and accusations that left it scattered and broken.  Over these five centuries this brokenness developed a life of its own, many offshoots resembling one another despite notable differences.  The opening up of dialogue and growing good will towards one another, could signal an approaching harvest where the goodness in each group allows the Spirit to help us in our weakness, enabling us to love the devil in us to death!

Waiting till the harvest is also a warning against making judgements about people.  How can we judge the actions or motivation of others when we so often struggle to understand or make sense of our own.  Realising the good and the bad are closely linked in my makeup, and that I cannot reach perfection before the harvest, can pave the way to tolerance and patience, the parents of kindness.

Treating one another with kindness may at first seem as powerless and pointless as a grain of wheat, a tiny seed or a piece of yeast – but what a harvest they bring!