“‘Do you want us to go and pull them [the weeds] up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest.’”
From Sunday Gospel of Matthew 13:24-43
One of the biggest theological dilemmas has been the issue of theodicy or how we can believe in a good God when evil exists in our world. Our world is plagued with sin, criminal activity, division, conflicts and war. Ultimately, God chose to give us the powerful gift of free will knowing that many would abuse this freedom to choose evil over good. Today’s Gospel from Matthew 13:24-34 speaks of the wheat and tares or weeds being allowed to grow side by side until the time of judgment. Just like last Sunday’s Parable of the Sower in which Jesus offers an explanation for its meaning, so too does he explain the meaning of this parable: the evil one plants seeds that develop into weeds into the hearts of persons who choose to follow evil pathways, while the wheat symbolizes those who follow pathways of faith and righteousness.
The key line consists of why Jesus chooses to not pull the weeds before harvesttime; he resists doing this because some of the wheat would also be pulled out. We are probably not 100% wheat or weeds but a mixture of both. Although we may be mostly on the right path of living lives of faith and charity, we at times have given in to temptation. When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the direct translation is not “deliver us from evil” but “deliver us from the evil one”, which sounds more haunting. Belief in God and angels necessitates belief in Satan and fallen angels or devils. C.S. Lewis wrote a pithy book entitled The Screwtape Letters in which a senior devil, Screwtape, trains his nephew, a junior devil named Wormwood, in the many ways he can strike at the weaknesses of the “Patient”, someone whose soul they are battling to condemn to eternal punishment. The book illustrates how in giving in to seemingly benign decisions and small temptations, the evil one makes inroads in corrupting our beliefs and behaviors. Fortunately, God’s grace helps to protect the “Patient” from eternal condemnation, but what about us? What tares do we need to clear out before our own time of harvest?