I have often said that the most powerful words in all of scripture follow the statement by Jesus, “The Kingdom of heaven is like…” Jesus uses parables to stimulate our spiritual imagination to bring God’s presence and a corporate, shared experience of faith to light. This is much more than a personal adventure. The kingdom that Jesus espouses is communal, so it is beyond an individual manifestation. He is proclaiming that the kingdom is here, and it is now, and it is close, and it is like a lot of things that we are familiar with. In his short parables Jesus uses at least four different forms of speech: metaphors, comparisons, analogies and, perhaps most significantly, similes that contain words such as ‘like’ and ‘as’ that are essential in this particular form of speech.
In the most popular Christian prayer, the Our Father, we pray as Jesus taught us to pray by repeating, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth AS it is in heaven.” We are hearing a series of parables from Matthew’s Gospel in which Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God/Heaven is LIKE the seed of scripture sown, wheat growing with weeds, a mustard seed, yeast and, this weekend, finding a treasure, searching for a pearl and casting a net into the sea. All four Gospels tell us that Jesus uses parables to further the importance of the incarnation, He becoming one of us and the kingdom at hand in our midst.
The parable of the weeds and the wheat from last weekend’s Gospel passage from Matthew offers a particularly pertinent application to our world now. The wheat is the good that is sown; the weeds are evil, and one of the greatest evils in our world now is racism.
Racism erodes the founding principles of our country such as freedom, liberty and justice. Racism is a sin against our God who created us all equally. The parable tells us that good seed is planted, but an evil enemy plants bad seed when the owner of the farm is asleep. I hope it is not lost on any of you that the slaves notice the weeds first and slavery is an institution that limits freedom and is itself a sinful weed growing in the midst of the larger one of racism. The parable goes on to say that the weeds and the wheat must grow together until harvest. The sinful weed of racism has been growing alongside the many good stalks of wheat in our world for some time now, many say it goes back over 400 years.
At the time of the harvest, both wheat and weeds, good and evil are collected, then separated. The wheat goes into a barn waiting for further potential to feed. The weeds are burned.
I believe that the harvest of good wheat and racist weeds is now. We must burn the evil that is racism so that we can truly be the people God has intended us to be, so that we may realize a unity that racism is holding us back from.
Because racism is such a serious sin, it calls to be burned by profound reconciliation. True reconciliation calls for acknowledging our sin, trusting that God forgives us if we are truly sorry, and making a genuine commitment to change our behavior. We complete the process by putting that commitment into sincere action. Our behavior to eradicate racism will be what strengthens the pillars of our democracy and unites us with a loving God who intends us to be whole. Acknowledging, Forgiving and Change are the same things that make Reconciliation a Sacrament of our church. This is much deeper than “Confession.”
The next era of Holy Family’s history has begun and living out the seven tenets of Catholic Social Teaching and other Social Justice movements are shaping this era. WE are offering reconciliation for the sin of racism through a greater focus on Catholic Social Teaching, particularly four of the seven principles: Respecting the Dignity of All Life, carrying out the Rights and Responsibilities that caring for Life calls for, Community that truly reflects union and unity, and Solidarity – not only standing with those who are marginalized but working to address and eradicate forces that cause that marginalization.
We are offering vehicles to carry out reconciliation in the face of the ugliness of racism including education, formation, discussion and engagement in efforts to heal. Lest you think that we are not in need of such reconciliation here at Holy Family, I remind you of what I, and so many others have learned recently, and hopefully will learn more about. So much of our racist attitudes and behaviors are done subconsciously or unconsciously. We have an opportunity to learn, to discuss and to change, to deepen our awareness and mobilize our understanding and compassion.
The harvest to end racism is now. The harvest to let our best wheat in us shine – is now.