Infinite Love and Unfathomable Hate

devil sewing tares

This week’s parable comes as a sequel to last week’s. Last week we focused on the sower of the seed in the farm field. [Spanish]

In this week’s parable of the weeds among the wheat, they came to the sower and asked him:

Sir, didn’t you sow good seed? Where have all the weeds come from? We know you scattered some seed among thorns and thistles, hoping for the best. But now we see weeds growing even in the good soil, interspersed with the wheat plants. Who put those bad seeds in with the good?

An enemy has done this.

God made us to grow in healthy fruitfulness, to flower, to reach the fullness of divine love. Out of what did He make us? The clay of the earth, yes. But not only that. With His limitless genius, He formed us in His divine image and likeness. He breathed into us the breath of spiritual life.

He made us for peace, for fair dealings with each other, for friendship. He gave us the talents we need to build cities and communities worthy of children of God.

But we know the field has aggressive, harmful weeds. We know that alongside our talents to build something good together, by God’s Providence, we also have perverse capacities. The capacity to abuse everything good, and to despise God’s Providence.

skinscowboysSometimes it seems that things have gotten so complicated and messed-up in human society that we can hardly hope for the good things God made us for. An enemy has done this. The devil exists. If we didn’t think so before, certainly the year AD 2020 has taught us that the devil prowls about the world, seeking the ruin of souls.

Health-care workers taxed beyond the limits of human endurance. The whole country confused about what will happen next. Will my job be there much longer? Plus, months of summer with no baseball. And the end of the Washington Redskins. It’s like the Cowboys have won. Forever. Satan has triumphed.

Seriously, though. The Evil One has his minions, the legion of fallen angels. They exist. They tempt every human being to sin.

God made us to do good. But our First Parents succumbed, when Satan tempted them to disobedient pride. So we get born in weakness and interior disorder. Doing good comes hard, requires us to organize and discipline ourselves. Doing evil comes easy.

The demons despise us. We have to remember: It is impossible for us mortals to imagine just how much the demons hate everything that is beautiful about human beings. Let me repeat that, because it is crucially important: Our minds do not have the depth necessary to comprehend fully how much the demons hate us.

This explains why the Master told them to wait, rather than try to pull up the weeds. We cannot competently judge the situation fully. It’s not that we might fall into cynicism in our judgments about good and evil. That’s not really the danger. Rather, we will fall into naivete. We will always, always under-estimate the real evil-ness of demonic evil.

the-fallWhy do I say that? We human beings simply cannot help but try to see meaning in things. Because the meaning is actually there. God has a reason for all His works, and His reason is infinite love. Therefore, everything that happens has a kind of infinite meaning. We naturally seek to understand that meaning. We string events together in our minds; we conceive of them as part of a drama, tending toward a meaningful outcome. We believe that strife bears fruit. Because it does.

Satan wills to attack us at that deep, deep level of how we understand life. He wills to render life meaningless. A waste. Fruitless, pointless slavery.

So my point is this: We have to remember that, fundamentally, we are all in this battle to find the meaning of life, together. The Master says, Wait, don’t try to separate wheat from weeds yourselves. Leave that to the experts. Leave that to the holy angels.

The holy angels understand the full depth of demonic evil. They never fall into our human naivete about it. The holy angels will not misidentify human foibles as demonically evil. They will not throw well-meaning, but misguided, human zeal into the furnace; rather, they will purify it. They will not crush human weakness; rather, they will try to heal it. They will not despise delusional idealism; rather, they will try to save the good while purging out the bad.

The holy angels see us for what we are; they see our weaknesses for what they are. They know that fully demonic evil operates much more subtly, much more deeply, and much more destructively. The demons attack the beauty of mankind at its roots.

What’s one thing that the holy gospels certainly teach us? That the Lord Jesus hated pharisaism more than any other sin. He hated people thinking to themselves: We’re on the good team, unlike the dirty people on the bad team.

No. We are in the battle against Satan’s hatred together. The angels will separate the teams when Judgment Day comes. In the meantime, in the struggle to find the meaning of life, and hold onto it—we’re all in it, together.

Redemption and Original Sin

devil sewing tares

In everyone, the weeds of sin will be mixed with the good wheat of the gospel until the end of time.  The Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation, but still on the way to holiness.

This is a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church. (paragraph 827)

The parable of the wheat and the tares ends with some drama:  The bundled weeds burn; the sifted wheat fills the barn with the restful smell of harvest-time. And the parable injects drama into our gathering here.  Right here, right now, some of us are good guys, and some of us are bad guys. [se haga click for spanish]

But we don’t wear jerseys to identify which team each of us is on.  Because we are all on both teams.  Good guys, raise your hands.  Bad guys, raise your hands.

God made Adam and Eve good, and He set them up well.  Even though they were made out of nothingness and susceptible to death and decay, God filled them with divine life and made them immortal.  They never would have died; they never would have experienced any evil—if they had not sinned.

the-fallBut…

And they sinned before they conceived their children.  Therefore, when they did have children, the children were born in the precarious state into which their parents had fallen.  Human nature gets handed down in this precarious state. We all received human nature in this precarious state.  In a nutshell, the precarious state is:  We are born mortal and selfish.

Since we sin all the time, it is easy for us to lose sight of just how enormous the guilt of sin is.  If you play in the NBA, and you mutter a bad word at a referee, you can be fined the cash equivalent of a brand-new Mercedes-Benz.  For offending a basketball referee.

What, then, is the penalty for offending God?  The infinitely good and powerful?  The Almighty? Well, the penalty is:  Infinity dollars.  You offend the infinite, you owe an infinite debt. And we don’t have infinity dollars.

So God became man and offered a peace offering of infinite love on our behalf. On the cross, Christ the man offered His divine love to the Father.  Behold:  the fine is paid, by the love of the Son for the Father.

Having redeemed mankind as a man, God continues to move history forward by the birth of succeeding generations of men—born in the way we have always been born. But now we can be adopted into the household of God by the blood of Christ.  Holy Baptism brings about this adoption.

God, being God, could receive us into heaven immediately upon our being baptized.  But, usually, He graciously wills otherwise.  He wills to make us partners in our own salvation; He leaves us on earth into adulthood, under the power of our own free will.  He gives us time to do battle with the lingering effects of original sin. By doing so—by fighting the battle—we come into our own and grow into the people He made us to be.

So: as baptized Christians, we are children of God.  As children of Adam, we are craven sinners.   We know we have been consecrated to become saints of Christ, but nonetheless we are moved by strong desires to do things like plop down in front of the t.v. for hours scarfing down an entire bag of Doritos.

The struggle against the residual effects of original sin sounds difficult, and indeed it is.  But getting a grip on the situation is half the battle. When we know what the battle is, we can fight it.

The Lord in His parable reserved to Himself the right to judge the souls of men on the last day.  It is not my business to condemn my own soul or anyone else’s. As long as we still have two feet above ground, harvest time has not yet arrived for us.

What I must do is weed out of my own interior garden while I still can.  And that is precisely what we are here to do.  We are here in church to praise God for the good in us. And to work to remove the bad. We all know that our own individual souls are gardens where good plants and evil weeds both grow.

And another important lesson of the parable is this: when we reach down into our souls to pull out a weed, we don’t have to worry that we might pull out too much earth and ruin the seed-bed.  Inside us, the good lies deeper than the bad.  The weeds might seem like they go all the way down to the bedrock. But, in fact, they do not. The bedrock of a human soul is God.

First and foremost, I am a beloved child of God; He made me good, and He died on Calvary to save me from condemnation.  He poured out His Precious Blood to pay the price for all my sins.  I need not be afraid, then, to confront them. I can acknowledge that this particular beloved child of God is also a weak and depraved son of Adam—a sinner who relies on divine mercy.

Where sin abounds—and it abounds in me—grace abounds all the more.

Merton and Weeds among the Wheat

devil sewing tares

Satan operates in this world, resulting in evil weeds growing among the wholesome plants—that is, good, holy lives.  Therefore, we undergo strife and struggle during this pilgrimage.  The final sorting-out of good and evil has not yet come to pass.  So the battle rages, and we find ourselves in the middle of it.

We do not doubt, though, that, in the end, it is the good God Who will do the sorting.  The Good will sort good from evil.

Thomas Merton gave a little retreat to some cloistered nuns in Alaska 48 years ago this September, not long before he died.  He said to the sisters:

Never has the world been so violent and in many respects so insane, and so given to pressure and agitation and conflict.  Although men have made brilliant technological advances, they cannot handle them or use them for good.  They even seem to turn against man’s good…

In such a society there have to be specialists in inner peace and love…

It is not that society is bad or wrong, but that it is extremely complicated and fast-moving, and there is a tendency to get confused in it.  They key word in this regard is ‘alienation.’

What is alienation?  …A person who is never able to be himself because he is always dominated by somebody else’s ideas or somebody else’s tastes or somebody else’s saying that this is the way to act and this is the way to see things.  We live in a society in which many people are alienated in that sense without even realizing it.  Their choices are made for them, they don’t really have ideas and desires of their own; they simply repeat what has been told them…

What happens to a person in this condition is that, without realizing it, he does not have any real respect for himself.  He thinks that he has ideas and he thinks he is doing what he freely wants to do, but actually he is being pushed around, and this results in a sort of resentment, which in turn leads to hatred and violence…

Good father Merton could preach the same words this September, and they would ring with just as much truth, wouldn’t they?

The Lord gave us the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares for a very precise reason.  Not to inspire us to judge others or do violence in the name of weeding the garden.  Quite the contrary.

The parable instills in us the absolute, serene confidence that good will win in the end.  For those who love God and obey His commandments, the struggle with evil will pass, a merely temporary phase.  The specialists in inner peace and love continue loving–fighting alienation, and fighting the devil, by peacefully loving–until the Good Judge judges all on the Last Day.

Two Kinds of Evil

“While everyone was asleep, his enemy came.” (Matthew 13:25)

devil sewing taresDoes God sleep? Sometimes God appears to sleep, and the Enemy sows weeds.

One of the questions our contemporaries ask us: How can you believe? When bad things happen all the time, and God does nothing? How can you believe in such a silent, absent, sleeping God?

The Enemy has sown weeds up and down the face of the earth. Smog chokes the air. No jobs for people with Masters degrees. More refugees living in squalid camps right now than at any time in recorded history. More conflict, less understanding. Immigrant children unwelcome. Unborn children unwelcome. Gridlock here, bombs exploding there. Hope on the wane.

And all the while, God sleeps—as the Scriptures themselves, in a parable told by the Son of God, relate!

Do we have a sleeping God Who doesn’t care? Who lets good people get cancer, because He can’t be bothered?

Continue reading “Two Kinds of Evil”

Which Garden to Weed

In everyone, the weeds of sin will be mixed with the good wheat of the gospel until the end of time. The Church gathers sinners already caught up in Christ’s salvation, but still on the way to holiness. (Catechism 827)

The parable of the wheat and the tares ends with shimmering drama: The bundled weeds burn; the sifted wheat fills the barn with the restful smell of harvest-time. In the end, Christ, the truly just Judge, will forever separate good from evil.

The parable also injects drama into our virtual, interweb gathering. Some of us, dear reader, are good guys, but some of us are bad.

We do not, however, wear jerseys to identify which team each of us is on. We can’t. Because all of us are on both teams.

Beautiful baptized Christians, raise your hands. Sinners, raise your hands.

This would seem an opportune moment to try and expostulate the doctrines of original sin, Christ’s satisfaction for sin, the effects of baptism, and the quest for holiness. Got a couple hours? Just kidding.

Continue reading “Which Garden to Weed”