Tag Archives: Matthew

Wheat or weeds?

parable of the weeds

“The kingdom of heaven is like this: A man sowed good seed in his field. One night, when everyone was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. When the plants grew and the heads of grain began to form, then the weeds showed up.

The man’s servant came to him and said, ‘Sir, it was good seed you sowed in your field; where did the weed come from?’

‘It was some enemy, who did this,’ he answered.

‘Do you want us to go out and pull up the weeds?’ They asked him.

‘No,’ he answered, ‘because as you gather the weeds you might pull up some of the wheat along with them. Let the wheat and the weeds both grow together until harvest. Then I will tell the harvest workers to pull up the weeds first, tie them up in bundles and burn them, and then to gather in the wheat and put it in my barn.’” (Matthew 13: 24-30).

This is another parable told by Jesus, commonly known as the parable of the weed, which He went on to explain:

Jesus explains the parable of the weeds

When Jesus had left the crowd and gone indoors, His disciples came to Him and said, “Tell us what the parable about the weeds in the field means.”

Jesus answered, “The man who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world; the good seed is the people who belong to the kingdom; the weeds are the people who belong to the evil one; and the enemy who sowed the weeds is the devil.

The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvest workers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire, so the same thing will happen at the end of age: The Son of Man will send His angels to gather up out of His Kingdom all those who cause people to sin and all those who do evil things, and they will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and gnash the teeth.

Then God’s people will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom. Listen, then, if you have ears!” (Matthew 13: 36-43).

Jesus’ use of parables

Jesus used parables to tell all these things to the crowds; He would not say a thing to them without using a parable. He did this to make come true what the prophet had said:

“I will use parables when I speak to them;
I will tell them things unknown since the creation of the world.”

Reflections

Jesus likened believers, who live in accordance to God’s commandments as wheat, which after the great harvest will be gathered and put in the farmer’s barn; and sinners to weed, which will be tied up in bundles and burned.

Life is a journey; sometimes we bump into obstacles which weaken our faith and subsequently make us fall from the grace of God. Whatever we do with our lives, we should always remember that at the end of it all, we will stand before God, and we will be judged.

Everytime we’re doing something, we should take some time to reflect; whatever it is we’re doing, does it pull us close to God or further from Him? Will our actions, thoughts, words…etc. have us thrown in the barn or in the fiery furnace?

According to the gospel, there’s good and wrong. That is why Jesus used two examples: wheat and weeds. And from what I’ve been learning since I was a kid, each one of us has the power to curve out our own destiny. We should therefore strive to be in God’s good books, by being kind, loving others and basically, doing what He requires of us.

It’s not easy trying to walk a straight road, but with determination and God’s guidance, we can all secure ourselves places in the farmer’s barn after the great harvest.

What type of soil am I?

parable of the sower

“Once there was a man who went out to sow grain. As He scattered the seed in the field, some of it fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some of it fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The seeds soon sprouted, because the soil wasn’t deep. But when the sun came up, it burned the young plants; and because the roots hadn’t grown deep enough, the plants soon dried up.

Some of the seed fell among thorn bushes, which grew up and chocked the plants. But some seeds fell in good soil, and the plants bore grain: some had one hundred grains, others sixty, and others thirty.”

And Jesus concluded, “Listen then, if you have ears!” (Matthew 13: 3-9)

The purpose of the parables

Then the disciples came to Jesus and asked Him, “Why do you use parables when you talk to the people?”

Jesus answered, “The knowledge about the secrets of the Kingdom of Heaven has been given to you, but not to them. For the person who has something will be given more, so that he will have more than enough; but the person who has nothing will have taken away from him the little he has.

The reason I use parables in talking to them is that they look, but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear or understand. So the prophecy of Isaiah applies to them:

‘This people will listen and listen, but not understand;

They will look and look, but not see, because their minds are dull, and they have stopped up their ears and have closed their eyes.

Otherwise, their eyes would hear, their minds would understand, and they would turn to me, says God, and I would heal them.’

As for you, how fortunate you are! Your eyes see and your ears hear. I assure you that many prophets and many of God’s people wanted to see what you see, but they could not, and to hear what you hear, but they did not.” (Matthew 13: 10-16).

Jesus explains the parable of the sower

“Listen then, and learn what the parable of the sower means. Those who hear the message about the message about the kingdom but do not understand it are like the seeds that fell along the path. The evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in them.

The seeds that fell on rocky ground stand for those who receive the message gladly as soon as they hear it. But it does not sink deep into them, and they don’t last long. So when trouble or persecution comes because of the message, they give up at once.

The seeds that fell among thorn bushes stand for those who hear the message; but the worries about this life and the love for riches choke the message, and they don’t bear fruit.

And the seeds sown in the good soil stand for those who hear the message and understand it: they bear fruit, some as much as one hundred, others sixty, and others thirty.” (Matthew 13: 18-23).

Understanding the parable

In the parable, Jesus talked about the sower. He is the sower; the one who doesn’t choose or discriminate against anyone. He preaches about the Kingdom of Heaven to anyone who cares to listen. He even gives chances to those who might not even listen, and He does it tirelessly; without giving up.

The seeds on the other hand, are the gospel and we are the soil. Some of us are likened to the soil along the path, others to rocky ground, others to thorny bushes and others to good soil, depending on how we understand the gospel, and our faith in relation to it.

This parable used by Jesus helps us reflect on the kind of people we are. How strong is our faith?

“What type of soil am I?” This is the question we need to ask ourselves.

 

Beginning of Lent

Yesterday, 5th March was Ash Wednesday. It was the first day of the forty days’ Lenten fast preceding Easter. The ash used is made from burning Palm leaves from the previous year’s Palm Sunday. It’s then blessed by the priest, who then puts it on people’s foreheads in the form of a sign of the cross. The ash serves as a reminder that human beings came from dust and to dust we shall return.

ash wednesday

Additionally, in the early days before soap was discovered, ash was used for cleaning. In this case therefore, the ash also symbolizes cleansing. In ancient times, the use of ash was an outer manifestation of mourning and repentance. In Job 42:6, after realizing his mistakes about questioning the will of God Job said, “So I am ashamed of all I have said and repent in dust and ashes.” Ash therefore shows that a sombre mood characterises the Lenten season; purple vestments are used by priests.

The three pillars of lent are fasting, reflection/penance and alms giving. It’s a period where people are called to reflect on their relationship with God. Sin separates us from God; it’s precisely for this reason that the need for repentance is greatly emphasized. It’s also a season of self-denial. People are encouraged to give up the things that pull them away from the grace of God; things they feel weaken their faith as Christians. If, for instance, anger makes you do things you regret later, give up on the anger.

The faithful are also encouraged to sacrifice the things they love. Basically this is a time of repentance; therefore we should deny ourselves those things that afford us pleasure in life. Whatever one chooses to sacrifice, they are asked to give it to the needy.

The forty days’ fast is an imitation of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, where He was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4: 1-11), immediately after His baptism. He went there to prepare Himself for the great mission He was about to embark on. During this Lenten season, we are reminded of our mortality, so we can realize the need to reflect on the relationship we have with God and repent our sins before it’s too late.

We are reminded not to put too much attention on bodily things; on material things, because they all shall pass. We’re reminded not to attach so much importance to physical things, because it’s the soul that matters. It’s the soul that carries on with the eternal journey when this life is no more.

Even though I write so much on Christianity and spirituality, I am not oblivious to the fact that not all my readers are Christians. But I hope this post inspires everyone who reads it somehow. I don’t ask that everyone converts to Christianity, but I hope that each one reflects on the lives they lead; one doesn’t need to be a Christian to help the needy, and neither does one need to be a Christian to aspire to be a better person.

Humans are synonymous with sin; our nature predisposes us to imperfections. This period is simply a time to reflect, atone for our wrongs and help those in need. One doesn’t necessarily have to be a Christian to do that.

Love changes people

love changes

The term ‘Christian’ is so common. Basically it refers to someone who is a follower of Christ; someone who is Christ-like; but it so happens that many call themselves Christians, yet they hardly act like it. Personally I’m a Christian and I feel that sometimes we are so quick to condemn others; we judge them, take them to hell before they’re even dead. We shun people who we deem sinners; we refuse to mingle with them:

“She’s a prostitute,” one says. “I can’t be associated with her.”

“He’s gay,” another one says. “I can’t let people see us together.”

“She goes partying in clubs,” another one says, “That’s a sin.” These are some of the conversations I’ve heard. Once there’s this friend who posted on his fb page how he had felt extremely shaken when a guy he’d been hanging out with confessed he was gay. He was seeking public opinion via his page, if he should continue his association with the said gay guy. Out of curiosity, I read the comments, and I must say the things people said were awful. In my head I was like, “Christianity preaches against gayism, but this ain’t right.”

Then in another instance, which was more personal, I was chatting with a guy. The conversation got to a point where he asked if I ‘drink’. I didn’t think there was anything to lie about so I told him, “Yeah, sometimes I do.” Before I knew it he was calling me a sinner; saying how much I was shaming the church…by the time I decided to end that conversation he had told me some pretty nasty stuff. I felt offended that he would presume to judge me, but I laughed so hard, he got offended.

He thought I was mocking him, but I explained to him why I found his criticism hilarious: to start with, I rarely drink, and when I do, I keep it to a maximum of two glasses of wine (except for this one time I took more, but I only got tipsy; by the time my friends and I left the club, after lots of dancing and taking plenty of water, my head was clear). So I wouldn’t be lying if I said I’ve never been drunk my entire life… with that in mind, I found it hilarious when he called me a sinner…and not to mention that I know very many Christians who take alcohol and are wonderful people.

I did a little ‘digging’ about partaking in alcohol being considered a sin; I asked a priest to shed light on the matter. He told me the mere act of drinking isn’t really a sin; what comes out is what matters; you know people acting crazy and stuff because they’re inebriated…

I found it unbelievable that he would blatantly call me a sinner; last I checked, we’re all sinners, but somehow some people end up feeling like they’re lesser sinners than others. Nowadays I choose not to take alcohol, but for me it’s a personal choice; it has nothing to do with being branded a sinner.

Such instances leave me wondering why someone would want to judge others when they call themselves a Christian. The term is derived from ‘Christ’; those who follow Him. If I was to refer to bible verses where Jesus mingles with ‘sinners’, I would be basically making reference to the larger part of the New Testament.

Jesus taught us to love our neighbours without judging: when people wanted to stone the woman who had been accused of prostitution (John 8:7), He said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

In another instance He condemned judging, talking about people seeing specks in other people’s eyes when they had logs in their own eyes (Matthew 7). With respect to this, I know I’ve got huge logs in my eyes, so I prefer to let God be the judge in everything.

Hypothetically, these people we call sinners are indeed sinners; but question is, if we treat them like outcasts, who will change them? Jesus loved everyone; He didn’t look at their occupations, at their sexual orientation…He just loved them. When He visited Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10) for instance, He didn’t condemn him because he was a thief. He said, “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” That’s how we as Christians are called to act; without discrimination. He set the precedent; to love others. I don’t recall verses where He shooed someone off because they were sinners; if we call ourselves His followers, why would we judge? Why would we discriminate?

It’s not our place to judge. We should love even those we feel are straying; because it’s only by showing them love that we can pull them back on track. In my opinion, the only time a person should stay away from someone they consider ‘a sinner’ (pardon the choice of word), would be if one is afraid they’re not strong enough; that they could be negatively influenced by the other person into straying, because it makes no sense if one ends up stealing because they were trying to get a thief to ‘see the light’…

Speaking from experience, it’s easier to change a person by showing them love as opposed to criticizing and condemning them. Personally, I feel more inclined to take someone’s advice if they seem compassionate; if they come off as harsh I get all defensive, and I have reason to believe that’s how a vast majority ‘functions’. No one likes to be judged.

‘What would Jesus do?’ That’s a question I use as my reference when faced with a situation where I’m not sure what I should do…and based on the scriptures, the answer would revolve around love; it’s the greatest of all virtues.

love

Humility

Humility

“My son, perform your tasks in meekness, then you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. The greater you are, the more you must humble yourself. So you will find favour with God. There are many who are noble and renowned, but it’s only to the humble that He reveals His mysteries. For great is the might of the Lord; he is glorified by the humble. The affliction of the proud has no healing, for a plant of wickedness has taken root in them, though it will not be perceived. The mind of the wise man will ponder the words of the wise, and an attentive ear is the wise man’s desire.” (Sirach 3:17-20, 28-29).

This bible verses emphasize on the need to be humble. Jesus is the widely acclaimed King of Kings, yet He mingled with thieves, wasn’t afraid to interact with people who had been shunned by their communities, e.g. those suffering from Leprosy as it was a highly contagious disease… I wouldn’t be able to exploit the endless list of things He did, which most people wouldn’t do if they wielded so much power.

In today’s setting, power and fame are associated with cruelty, greed, misuse of power…all the vices one can think of. As Christians, we are called to look up to The Man of Sorrows. He washed His disciples’ feet, when they should have been washing His. He did that to set an example; that the master should treat his subjects with humility; that he should serve them.

Sometimes in life, we find ourselves in situations we wouldn’t want to be in, but those are some of the moments life gives us to be able to reflect on the essence of humanity. When we fail to learn from them, we sink even deeper into the abyss. It is said, that when one finds themselves on their knees-when life feels impossible; when it knocks them down- one is in the best position to pray.

Humility is a virtue which should be practiced by everyone, irrespective of the title one holds. I often wonder, why is it that people who lead/led saintly lives like Mother Teresa, are people from humble backgrounds? Does it mean that it’s impossible for one to be powerful/rich and still practice humility?

I realized people have grown accustomed to seeing leaders/celebrities act with so much derision, so that when one of them does something noble it’s regarded with suspicion. Is it seriously that hard for one to wield so much power and still treat others like fellow human beings? Without discrimination or scorn? Jesus had the power to give life; He is the life, but that never made Him arrogant.

Christ teaches us to serve those under us; to serve others, without expecting anything in return, because then we earn God’s favour, which is greater than anything on earth.

In Matthew 5: 5, when Jesus was giving the sermon on the mountain, where He gave the beatitudes, He said, “Happy are those who are humble; they will receive what God has promised.” This just shows how much God Values humility.

The Narrow Door

narrow door

Jesus went through towns and villages, teaching the people and making His way to Jerusalem. Someone asked Him, “Sir, will just a few people be saved?”

Jesus answered him, “Do your best to go in through the narrow door; because many people will surely try to go in but will not be able. The master of the house will get up and close the door; then when you stand outside and begin to knock on the door and say, ‘Open the door for us Sir!’ He will answer you, ‘I don’t know where you come from! Then you will answer, ‘We ate and drank with you; you taught in our town! But He will say again, ‘I don’t know where you come from. Get away from me you wicked people!’ How you will cry and gnash your teeth when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, while you are thrown out! People will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down at the feast of God. Then those who are now last will be first, and those who are now first will be last.” Luke 13: 22-30

In not so many words, this verse emphasizes that not everyone who calls themselves a believer will enter the kingdom of God.

Faith is like a two-sided coin. One side of faith is where one sings, praises God, attends mass/service and tithes… And the second side of faith is doing works of mercy: clothing the naked, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless, taking care of the sick…etc.

For one’s faith to be deemed ‘complete’, one must practice both sides; serve God, worship Him, and extend a helping hand to others; preach what one learns in church/from the scriptures. In the bible verse above, Jesus refers to the entrance to heaven as the narrow door, and He goes further to explain that not many will be able to go in.

In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says, “Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do what My Father in heaven wants them to do.” This is because, when it comes to matters faith, many practice only one side; attending mass every Sunday, but the instant one leaves the church premises they forget everything they learned. For instance, one could be so faithful when it comes to tithing, but if a hungry man was to walk up to them asking for food, they would chase them away heartlessly. This is why Jesus calls it the narrow door.

Jesus asks us to go through the narrow gate, because the gate to hell is wide and the road that leads to it is easy, and there are many who travel it, whereas the gate to life is narrow and the way that leads to it is hard and there are few people who find it (Matthew 13-14).

Faith is all about synchronizing one’s action with their firm belief in God. In 1 John 4:20-21 he says, “If someone says he loves God, but hates his brother, he is a liar. For he cannot love God, whom he has not seen, if he does not love his brother, whom he has seen. The command that Christ has given us is this: Whoever loves God must love his brother also.” We are asked to love our neighbours as much as we love ourselves, but above all, to love God with our whole being; that is the definition of a true believer.

What do you seek? Perfection or Holiness?

holy

I was watching the breaking news on CNN, when my phone rang. I looked at the caller ID; it was my mom, and I immediately figured what she wanted to tell me.

“Have you heard?” She jumped straight to the point the minute I picked up, skipping all the usual pleasantries. “The Pope’s resigning!” Her voice was frantic.

“Yes, I have,” I replied nonchalantly. I was glad my voice didn’t betray me; I was in extreme panic mode, as I tried-with immense difficulty-to wrap my mind around the shocking announcement. I had figured it wouldn’t do any of us any good if I also let my anxiety take over. One anxious person was enough, so for sanity’s sake I chose to act calm. “They say it’s for health reasons,” I added.

“I don’t know what’s supposed to happen, this has never happened before.” She said, still anxious.

I didn’t know what to tell her; I was beside myself with anxiety and that was interfering with my reasoning. I took a while, dug deep into my heart then replied, “Relax mom, just believe it has happened that way because that is how God wills it. So everything will work out eventually. We just have to wait and see.”

To my relief, that eased her angst. We talked for a while before hanging up. As I sat there staring blankly at the TV screen, my mind drifted back to when I was small. I always felt the Pope was the holiest person on earth; subconsciously I likened him to Jesus, so I had this eerie thought that the world would come to an end the day he died.

Apparently, He-Pope John Paul II-died in 2005 and the earth’s still rotating on its axis, everything’s still intact; I was wrong, obviously. Nonetheless, that didn’t erase my earlier presumptions, that the Papal throne has a very sacred significance to it. Its first occupant was St. Peter (referred to by many as Simon), who was given the keys of the kingdom of Heaven by Jesus…(Matthew 16:18) and watching the process of electing a new Pope only confirmed what I already knew; it is an intricate process, with a divine touch.

I couldn’t understand how/why the Pope would resign from a post I always thought was a till-death-do-us-part thing. Was it even allowed? I had many thoughts running through my mind, and the more I thought about it the more I got nervous. The last Pope to resign was Gregory XII, in 1415, almost six hundred years ago, so who/what had inspired Pope Benedict XVI to make that surprising move? I imagined the Holy Pontiff was supposed to hold on to his post until he breathed his last. As far as I was concerned, it wasn’t normal.

I thought about what I had told my mom; if God didn’t want him to resign, he wouldn’t let him, so if it was happening, God really wanted it that way. I focused all my attention on those words, to calm any negative thoughts. The announcement was made on Monday, 11th February, and the lent season was starting 13th February, on Ash Wednesday, two days later.

Of all lent seasons, it’s during this year’s season that I feel I learnt a lot. I’ve learnt to look at things differently. Normally, those who know me think I’m a real optimist, but truth is my everyday life is a constant inward battle; I’m constantly trying to quell pessimistic thoughts which flow in my head, without me even trying.

The Pope had about two weeks before resigning on 28th that same month. I was waiting anxiously to see how things would unfold, as I had nothing to reference his resignation to. When the lent season started, I made a personal commitment to travel the way of the cross every Friday evening. Basically it entails retracing the final steps Jesus took before His crucifixion; it’s like a miniature pilgrimage to the actual places in Jerusalem. It was particularly the 13th station, which opened my eyes regarding the Pope’s resignation:

The Thirteenth Station: Jesus is taken down from the cross.

My Jesus, it was with deep grief that Mary finally took You in her arms and saw all the wounds sin had inflicted upon You. Mary Magdalene looked upon Your dead Body with horror. Nicodemus, the man so full of human respect, who came to You by night, suddenly received the courage to help Joseph take You down from the Cross.

You are once more surrounded by only a few followers. When loneliness and failure cross my path, let me think of this lonely moment and total failure-failure in the eyes of men. How wrong they were-how mistaken their concept of success! The greatest act of love was given in desolation and the most successful mission accomplished and finished when all seemed lost. Is this not true in my life, dear Jesus? I judge my failures harshly. I demand perfection instead of holiness. My idea of success is for all to end well-according to my liking.

As I read this prayer, the one thing that came to mind was the Pope’s resignation; how I’d felt he wasn’t doing the right thing by resigning. I realized sometimes God doesn’t intend for things to end the way we think they should.

That thought subsequently reminded me of the times I felt disappointed when things didn’t turn out the way I’d hoped they would. I realized that sometimes we achieve so much more when we feel like we’ve lost; sometimes there is success in failure.

For most people, success is measured in terms of how much/long one can endure a difficult situation; our pride makes us feel like giving up on a difficult task would be deemed a failure, so we keep tolerating things we don’t like, afraid that people will judge us. I learnt that so long as one is doing what’s right in the eyes of God, it is okay to  ‘call it quits’ sometimes. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect, He only expects us to lead holy lives.

So instead of feeling like the Holy Pontiff had made a wrong move, I applauded his courage. He resigned when he knew people would judge him for it; he did something rare, but the thought that he said he was at peace with himself after seeking God’s guidance on the matter, made me feel it was okay too.

God doesn’t expect us to be perfect; He knows we’re only human.