Wisdom 12. 13, 16 – 19
Psalm: 86
Romans: 26 – 27
Gospel: Matthew 13. 24 – 43
There were people in Our Lord’s time who wanted him to separate the bad from the good as
well. Among them were people who claimed the moral high ground, the Pharisees whose name
means “the separated ones.” Even John the Baptist expected Jesus to separate the cream from
the skim, to have only holy people around him. John foretold that Our Lord would separate the
chaff from the wheat. He said (Mt 3:12) “He will gather his wheat into his barn; but the chaff he
will burn in a fire that will never go out.” That’s precisely what Our Lord didn’t do. He had all
sorts of people around him, a rainbow coalition of people, the learned, the ignorant, the good-
living, the bad-living, tax-collectors, prostitutes, the lot. What in God’s name is he doing, they
said. Why doesn’t he get down to business? Why doesn’t he weed them out?
As any gardener knows, weeding can be the greatest threat of all to the life of the young
seedling. At first, the problem is one of identifying which is which. The weeds must be left until
the seedling can be clearly recognised. Even then, removing the weeds may pose an even greater
threat. It might sever the seedling’s root system. Often the weed brings the seedling away with
In the case of human beings it is an even more risky business. “Weeding-out” has no history of
success which doesn’t seem to curb people’s passion for it. Seventy years after Hitler’s final
solution, the horrendous weeding out of six million Jews in concentration camps, the Bosnian
Serbs are attempting the brutal policy of “ethnic cleansing.” Race, religion, colour, sex, politics
are still considered ready-reckoners for identifying society’s weeds. Increasing power over
nature provides new and sinister instruments for weeding out. The unborn child, the seed of life
is threatened with abortion. At the other end of life, euthanasia is proposed as the final solution
for the new Jews, the old, the maimed, the incurables and the burdensome. Right through life,
the weeding-out continues remorselessly. The handicapped axe institutionalised, the delinquent
are penalised, the deviant are ostracised and the poor are patronised.

Weeding out is not confined to faceless bureaucracy. We’re all tempted to try our hand at it. We
are sharp at spotting the undesirables, the troublemakers, the misfits. One shudders to think of
the people who might have been weeded out if God had not chosen to intervene. Probably most
of the saints in the calendar. Peter, after his triple denial in the crucifixion crisis should have
been weeded out for failing the leadership test. Strange isn’t it, that Christ never weeded out
Judas? The church did not always show her master’s tolerance. Galileo could testify to that. The
spirit of the Inquisition lives on. Excommunications and anathemas may be out of fashion but
old habits die hard.
The parable of the weeds is starkly simple and yet widely ignored. To the question “Do you
want us to go and weed it out?” the answer of Jesus is a categorical “No.” And the reason is self-
evident. Only God has eyes sufficiently discerning and fingers sufficiently gentle for this job.
Weeding out is God’s prerogative. Life would be so much better for everybody, if only we
would leave it to him.
The ‘seed’ is obviously the good we do, the ‘darnel’ is the evil in the world, the ‘sower’ is God,
the ‘enemy’ is Satan, the ‘servants’ are all those who want to do good, the ‘harvest’ is the end of
the world, the fire where the darnel is to be ‘burnt’ is ‘hell’ and the ‘barn’ is heaven. All clear
and simple until we get to the conclusion and realize what Jesus is actually saying. “Let them
both grow till the harvest…’
Now, slightly fearful, you will want to reread the parable, certain that you must have got it
wrong. “Yes…” you discover,”… the darnel will be burned and evil will not win. The wheat
will be gathered into the barn and good will triumph.” All’s well that ends well!
The only trouble is that the ‘harvest’ is the end of the world and that’s an awful long time to
Is it possible that Jesus is really telling us not to interfere with what is ‘bad’ in the world – to let
good and evil grow together until the end of the world? Difficult as it is to accept, and against
evrythi8ng we are told to do by the world, there can be no other conclusion, “Let them both
grow till the harvest…”
The good seed and the darnel (good and evil) both exist and are growing together. Intervening
in this reality even for good motives, will inevitably cause harm to some who are innocent, and

may lead to something far worse. It is such good advice, such wisdom to say, “Let them grow
together until harvest, then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “first collect the darnel
and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.’
However, we must not fool ourselves. Living in a way which trusts enough in the victory of
good to let it grow with evil all around it, is counter-cultural and will be uncomfortable. Society
expects us to solve problems and be strong. We are taught to stand alone, to fight and to win.
Our duty, we are told, is to protect society by destroying what is defined for us as evil. Trusting
in anything or in anyone is an alien concept. We are told that politicians lie to us, that the media
spreads ‘false news’, that all institutions are dishonest, and that God is only a delusion.
Living a positive life, a life that is focused on trust and affirmation, leaving condemnation and
judgement to God alone will test us often. May be returning to this simple parable of the ‘wheat
and the darnel’ will help us not to worry.
The Prophet Micah, in the Old Testament, summed up the way we must live in a simple and
beautiful way. “There are …” he said, “…only three things God asks for : That we act justly,
love tenderly and walk humbly before our God. And that’s it, and all positive. Things for us to
do, rather than things for us to condemn others for doing.
God bless.