When I looked at our first reading for today from Jeremiah, I was startled wasn’t all that familiar with the passage. God was intent on making a point! Jeremiah is sent to the gate to the Temple, and told to remind the people that God’s presence there is not dependent on the existence of a building, but on how the people live out their faith: “Put not your trust in the deceitful words: ‘This is the temple of the Lord! …‘ Only if … each of you deals justly with his neighbor; if you no longer oppress the resident alien, the orphan, and the widow; if you no longer shed innocent blood in this place, or follow strange gods to your own harm, will I remain with you in this place … But here you are, putting your trust in deceitful words to your own loss! Are you to steal and murder, commit adultery and perjury …, and yet come to stand before me in this house which bears my name, and say: ‘We are safe; we can commit these abominations again’?” God is calling us to humility, and in the light of recent events, humility before God is what we need.
The challenge continues in our Gospel reading from Matthew, where Jesus tells the parable of the weeds among the wheat. As challenging as this parable is to not become like weeds, I think it also offers us hope. Unlike weeds and wheat, we are not fixed in the way we are. By the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we can be changed! We can let Jesus in to heal us of whatever gets in the way of following Him. We can be freed from the worship of false gods such as greed and selfishness and bigotry and complacency! We can be freed from fear of the resident alien! We can be healed from indifference toward the widows and orphans and the shedding of innocent blood!
Whatever characteristics of being weeds we may have, may Jesus enter our hearts and our lives and change us into wheat.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P., is the local superior at St. Paul of the Cross Passionist Community in Detroit, Michigan.