The good seed and cockle are mixed together. When a farmer sees some cockles in his field, his first reaction is to remove them. He wants what is best for his crops in order to obtain the best quality, so that he can feed his family with good and healthy food and sell the best products on the market. Our Lord tells us that the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sows good seed in his field. But it happens that cockle appears. The servants spontaneously volunteer to remove it, but they are stopped by the Master. It is not yet the time because lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. They have to wait until the harvest. Today’s gospel, along with the epistle, is rich with teaching and we certainly need to take time to meditate on these texts.
Let us see first the reason of the cockle. From where does it come? It comes from the enemy when the man is asleep. According to Saint John Chrysostom, this concerns the bishops who are overseers of the flock. If they are asleep, which means, if they are not vigilant, the enemy comes and spreads his pernicious teaching. It is really a huge task which is required from the Shepherds of the Church. Their vigilance has to be constant and alert, because the enemy never stops. As soon as he glimpses a little failure, he penetrates into the edifice and then, little by little, he extends his influence. We may not see him immediately, but then, when the blade was sprung up, and had brought forth fruit, then appeared also the cockle.
It is what happens in the Church when the good principles which insure the teaching of the authentic faith are not kept. With time, the good doctrine dissolves itself among the errors. Even the most faithful finish by blurting out blunders on such or such points of doctrine if they don’t firmly hold the good principles. Just to give an example, we hear so many times, even among Catholics who are supposedly conservative, that aborted babies can only be in heaven because God is so good that He can only have mercy on them. This is touching, but what about the reality of original sin and the necessity of baptism?
I do not pretend that there is no way of salvation for these souls who are victims of the most terrible genocide of all times, but we have absolutely no certitude of their eternal destiny. What is sure is that we are all marked by original sin and that baptism is necessary. Faith is not a matter of feelings or emotions but it is a firm assent of our intelligence enlightened by the light of God to the truths revealed by God and taught by the Church. It is a science and as such, it is something precise and well defined. The Bishops have the grave obligation to be vigilant in order to protect and to promote it, in order to impede the enemy to sow his cockle that leads to perdition of souls.
Now, the reaction of the disciples would be to remove the cockle as we said. But Jesus says: no, lest perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. As Saint John Chrysostom explains, our Lord is saying that He wants to prevent wars, murders and bloodshed, because many innocent could be included in such acts. It happens also that the cockle can turn into good seed. Saint Francis de Sales gives us a beautiful example of what we can obtain through patience and love as he brought many Protestants back to the true faith, who were mislead in their errors. We may have a desire for an expeditious justice but we should rather consider the sweetness of Jesus, as Saint John Chrysostom invites us. It does not impede the Church to judge and condemn but it also allows the heretics to convert.
And finally, if they persevere in their malice, they will be judged by God himself and will necessarily fall into the inevitable justice. “In the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn.”
Now, we can apply this parable to ourselves. The man who is asleep could be you or me. If I am not vigilant, if I neglect my spiritual life and my doctrinal formation, the enemy will easily sow cockle in my life. But we recognize a tree by its fruits.
What are the fruits of my life? Saint Paul tells us, that as elected of God, we have to put on the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty and patience. My first reaction would be to check on my neighbor to see if he or she really has the qualities asked for by Saint Paul. It is always easier to find the defects of others, but I should rather check on myself. Am I merciful? Am I humble, modest and patient?
Then Saint Paul wishes that the word of Christ dwell in us abundantly. Well, it is not something that happens by magic without us doing anything. It supposes a constant and regular life of prayer and daily reading of the Scriptures which leads toward meditation. Then, if the word of God dwells in me, it will affect my heart and give me peace. It will make me recognize in my fellow parishionners some brothers in Christ. It will push me to sing with my them, psalms, hymns and spiritual canticles. As Saint Paul says, it will be an instruction for us.
And where is the best place to sing to the Lord if not at church? We should sing with our whole heart and with our most beautiful voice at church, especially Sunday Mass. Saint John Chrysostom, commenting on this passage from Saint Paul, says that we must not content ourselves by singing with our lips, but also with our heart. But if you even do not sing with your lips, how can you pretend that you sing with you heart, unless you are a kind of ventriloquist. And singing is not only rendering glory to God; it is also teaching the people. You can teach good by singing psalms and spiritual canticles. You can also teach evil and I don’t have to give any examples, we already have a lot on TV and radio. For this reason, Saint John Chrysostom warns us to: Teach children how to sing the Psalms full of wisdom. Then we have to teach them the hymns, composed by the Church. Saint John Chrysostom mentions for example the Gloria in excelsis Deo well known by the faithful.
Then, came a little story, but you had to be in North Little Rock this morning to hear it!