16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

In today’s Gospel Our Lord teaches us that evil will be present in the world until the last days of Judgement, when the fruits of all are measured. Evil festers in hearts; it is not always seen on the surface. Holiness is characterized by meekness and humility, so it is not always seen on the surface either. Like wheat, holiness is in the world trying to grow into something good. Like weeds, evil is at work doing the opposite, preying on the good in parasitic way to serve nothing other than itself. It can be hard to tell the difference and, therefore, we need to be on guard against a holiness that is only skin deep.

Today’s First Reading reminds us that we can try to be masters of moral disguise, but the Lord sees beyond the surface and measures us by our deeds, not just appearances. The Lord never misjudges anyone, yet people still try to deceive him, if they believe in him at all. The Lord gives the unjust time to change their ways, to seek his forgiveness, usually for far longer than we would, because he truly cares about them. The Lord is willing to put up with a lot of things, but in justice he cannot ignore insincerity. When we sincerely try to do good and to be good, even with moments of weakness, he forgives and helps us, and that gives us cause for hope. If we’re insincere we don’t trust him, and all that’s left is justice. The Lord shows us justice is necessary, but that doesn’t put kindness on hold.

In today’s Second Reading Paul reminds us that holiness is something that comes from the depths of our soul, because it consists of making the Spirit of God our spirit. The special ingredient in a Christian life is that even when we’re weak the Holy Spirit helps us to be holy. The Spirit is the protagonist in our sanctification, from the sacraments we receive to the prayers we say. If the “one who searches hearts” finds the Holy Spirit there, he knows he has found one of the “holy ones.”

The three parables in today’s Gospel teach us that holiness is often hidden, even small in the eyes of the world, but makes good things spread and grow, unlike parasitical weeds. The moment of harvest is a moment of reaping fruits. Our Lord’s listeners in Matthew’s Gospel have just heard the parable of the sower (see the 15th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle, A), and now they hear their lives compared to wheat, leaven, and a tiny mustard seed. Wheat is not very glamourous, but if we want bread, a symbol of life, it is essential. When we eat a sandwich we don’t think much of the wheat that went into it, but we certainly enjoy the sandwich.

Leaven is useful not only for baking bread, but for baking delicious bread. When we receive the Eucharist, made from unleavened bread due to Passover traditions, we note the difference from the bread we eat every day. Leaven does its job by quietly being sifted throughout the flour used to make the bread, but it makes a big impact on the recipe.

Mustard seeds average between 1-2 millimeters in size and may seem small and inconsequential, but on a hot day the shade and shelter of a tree that grows up to twenty feet tall and wide is not to be ignored. The mustard seed in today’s parable also shows that the Church may start small and seemingly insignificant, but is meant to spread far and wide.

Today’s parables present us with two things representing two opposed lifestyles: yeast that leavens and weeds that feed. Which one am I? Leaven is often hidden and unappreciated, but as an ingredient it makes recipes go from good to great. Weeds sprout where they don’t belong and engender other weeds, choking out the lives of the plants around them. The parable of the weeds and the wheat doesn’t leave room for weeds becoming wheat, but the Lord does, as the First Reading reminds us. It’s never too late to be a leaven for good in the Church and the world.

Readings: Wisdom 12:13, 16–19; Psalm 86:5–6, 9–10, 15–16; Romans 8:26–27; Matthew 13:24–43.