For the 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Welcoming the righteous prophet, Our Lord Jesus Christ,…
Opening the Word: Another virus, and the wheat and the weeds
Dear friends, there is a virus circulating not only in the world but also in the Church. This virus cultivates disunity, fracturing the communion that Christ has called us to. This virus is spread via blogs and Twitter feeds, infecting Catholics the world over.
Some of you have heard its symptoms:
“Pope Francis (or this bishop) is not really Catholic, because he is secretly a socialist (or conservative capitalist) coming to destroy the world.”
|July 19, 2020 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time|
Wis 12:13, 16-19
Ps 86:5-6, 9-10, 15-16
“Those people say they are Catholic, but they are Catholic in name only.”
“You cannot vote for this or that candidate and remain Catholic.”
“All are welcome, except the conservatives (or the liberals).”
Now, there have always been arguments in the Church. Disagreement is not disunity. Fruitful disagreement is part of a healthy ecclesial life.
What we are experiencing in the present is not fruitful argumentation. It is Catholics who believe themselves capable of assuming the role of God in judging the human heart.
Jesus warns us that this judgment is not our responsibility. We are not the ones to separate the wheat and the weeds.
Sure, we can see the difference between the two. But we lack the ability to pull out the weeds without destroying the wheat. It is God alone at the end of time who will separate the wheat and the weeds. The weeds will be thrown into the fires to be destroyed. But it is not the harvesters, the workers in the field, who are charged with this mission.
It is God.
For, as our Lord reminds us, the kingdom is like a woman who uses just a bit of yeast to leaven a whole batch of wheat flour. The holy man or woman can transform a Church. Just a bit of leaven and conversion is possible.
Ignatius the solider becomes Ignatius the founder.
Oscar the prelate becomes Oscar the martyr.
Dorothy the atheist becomes Dorothy the Servant of God.
What we need, in our present age, is a deeper memory of what it means to be Catholic. The Church is on pilgrimage, moving toward purity, toward total communion with a merciful God.
My task is not to prematurely separate out the wheat and the weeds. The togetherness of the two is part of God’s mercy.
Weeds can become wheat. Wheat can become weeds. God has allowed the Church to exist in history, in time and space, for the sake of conversion.
The virus of disunity seeks to create a pure Church. Membership in this Church consists of the really faithful, the super intentional, those who think and pray just like me. To the rest, good riddance, to hell you go. Little do we know, we damn ourselves in this proclamation.
As Catholics, belonging to a Church that is one, holy, universal and apostolic, we must fight against this tendency.
The only person’s holiness I can judge is my own. I can discern my own infidelity, my own apathy, the weeds that choke the love in my heart. This, I can and should change.
But let the Church preach the Gospel. Let Christ be the judge of the wheat and the weeds.
It is time to stand up against the heresy of Donatism, of creating a pure Church that alone is true, right and just.
We will be saved, as Catholics, together. In a unity that we do not enact but comes as a gift from a merciful God.
Until then, let us pray that all the weeds — starting with myself — may become wheat. And may the leaven of divine love infuse the whole batch of us.
Timothy P. O’Malley, Ph.D., is the director of education at the McGrath Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame.