Wake up and be watchful: A homily for the 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (A)

wheatToday our readings invite us to wake up and look out.  In our collect at Holy Mass, we prayed that we might be “watchful.”  It is a good thing to be, watchful.  And there are two big reasons we must be watchful.  First, to watch out for the devil. Second, to watch out for God.

First, the devil.  The Lord Jesus talks about a plot of land that has wheat in it.  Into this beautiful land of wheat, an enemy comes, and this guy is up to no good. He comes to plant weeds among the wheat.  It is while everyone was sleeping: “While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.”

My friends, the devil works this way.  He comes when we are sleeping to destroy all the good things that we have going on.  He wants to plant his weeds in your houses. In your families.  In our hearts.  In our city.  In our parish.  In our diocese.  When we are tired, or confused, or stressed, or bored, or just plain blah….the devil comes in those moments.  We had better be watchful lest he get away with it.  Thing of it is, I think there are a lot of Catholics who are pretty content to let the devil do what he wants, who don’t really care too much when he enters.  Because we underestimate just how bad his weeds are.  Make no mistake: those weeds cause more destruction than we could possibly imagine.  Let’s not let them come up on our watch.

We must also be watchful because we don’t want to miss God.  All of our readings are about hidden things, small things, seemingly insignificant things. Consider our scriptures today:

  • The kingdom of God, Jesus says, is like a tiny mustard seed. It is hard to see at first, but capable of producing something wonderful.
  • The kingdom of God is like a little yeast, hard to see but without it there’d be no leaven.  Again, a small, seemingly insignificant thing, hard to see, but important and necessary.
  • The kingdom of God is like a field of wheat and weeds, and the reality is that you can’t always tell them apart.  Zizania–the weed discussed here–looks exactly like wheat in the early stages of life. You can’t tell them apart
  • God, says our first reading, is all powerful, mighty…but he hides his greatness in clemency and kindness.
  • And then there are the longings that St Paul talks about in our second reading.  Invisible things, but powerful. Just the other day a woman came and told me God planted a desire in her heart to reconnect with someone she hadn’t spoken to in 5 years.  It started with a longing–a longing you can’t see or even put words to.  Our innermost longings, desires, thoughts….they matter to God.

Point is this.  Sometimes the most powerful things–and the stuff of the very kingdom of God itself–are those things that are hidden, small, seemingly unimportant.  Sometimes they are invisible.  We have to be watchful to see it all and to see and worship God in it.

A last thought.  Those weeds.  They seem to have no value, but to one who is watchful, there is value even there.  Jesus says the weeds are to be used for burning.  Everything has a purpose for Jesus.  I’m reminded of Fr. Charlie, my childhood priest. He said he thought he was the weed of the priesthood. The rest were holier, smarter. But that weed, he was Jesus to me. He changed my life, that man who thought he was a weed.  There is beauty even in our own weedines, even in the weediness of others.  I hope we are watchful to see it.

May be always be watchful!