This Sunday’s gospel for the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time is the next in a series of parables that present Jesus as a master teacher. His words offer a glimpse of how our God faces down evil and the destruction that comes from it (Mt 13:24-43). In the parable that Jesus tells, the kingdom of heaven is likened to a man whose field is infiltrated by an enemy. The owner had planted good seed, but the enemy came at some point and sowed weeds in his field. The plants were indistinguishable at first, and it is only when the crops have matured that their true identity is known. If the weeds are pulled up at that point, which the servants suggest doing, the good wheat will also be destroyed. The wise owner of the field commands his servants to wait until the harvest. Then, the wicked weeds will be destroyed and the good wheat kept.

Jesus gives us all the elements of this extended allegory. He explains what the different parts of the parable symbolize. He says, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are the angels.” Interestingly, in this parable, the followers of Jesus have two roles. They are the servants and, eventually, hope to be reckoned among the children of the kingdom at the close of the age. It would be too easy to presume that because a person is a Christian, he or she is automatically a son or daughter of the kingdom. First, we are servants, and we serve the one who sows the seed, the Son of man. Only at the end will we be shown to be either children of the kingdom or children of the evil one. Right now, our role is to learn from the master of the household how to interpret and handle the evil that confronts us. 

The answer, surprisingly, is to wait. Even when the weeds appear, when evil men are showing up, the Lord instructs us not to take it upon ourselves to destroy. In doing so, we might do more harm than good. The servants’ zeal has to be properly focused — not on destruction, but on service. To be like God, we are not to eradicate our enemies, but bear with them patiently and prayerfully.

This way of dealing with perceived wrongs or injustices does not come naturally to us. We like to be on the right side; we like action. That desire, however, might be springing from an overly enthusiastic self-righteousness or even an inflated self-image. As Saint Paul writes in today’s second reading (Rom 8:26-27), we do not always know how to pray as we ought. We do not always perceive what the best thing to do is, even though we may have good intentions.

The first reading for today (Wis 12:13, 16-19) gives a profound explanation for the motivation of God’s patience with us and, consequently, why we, too, should be patient. 

God’s strength is so great that He need not make flashy displays of His omnipotence. Rather, He shows humankind His greatness through mildness and forbearance. God invites us into that same way of dealing with our neighbors — not because we are so powerful, but because He is. The words from the Wisdom of Solomon read: “(Y)ou have taught your people that the righteous man must be kind, and you have filled your sons with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.” Therefore, it is in the imitation of God’s merciful dealings with all of us that we find the strength to withhold judgment, withstand evil, and persevere as His children to the end.