In the early 1990s, there was a song that captured the attention of the world and was being played by most radio stations. It was the song ‘Heal the World’ by Michael Jackson. The first two lines of the chorus goes… ‘Heal the world, make it a better place, for you and for me and the entire human race.’ These words perhaps best describe the inmost desire of every good willed person in the world today. If any one of us had a magic wand that could change the course of the world, I am sure most of us would want to eradicate war, violence, terror, famine, natural disasters, etc. How we would wish for a peaceful world where everyone could treat each other as brother and sister and live in peace and harmony. However, the world that we live in is neither the ideal world of Plato nor the perfect world that we would envisage it to be.
What is the significance of the parable of the wheat and darnel for us today? This parable is also known in some translations as the ‘parable of the wheat and tares’. What is darnel or tares? “Tares” are actually darnel, a seed hardly identifiable from the wheat seed, and immature wheat and darnel look alike and that is why Jesus in the parable talks about allowing the darnel to grow with the wheat because of its similarity and that the separation can only be made at the time of harvest.
The parable of the wheat and darnel that we have as our gospel today somewhat describes the world that we live in – the presence of good and evil that seems to coexist side by side. It may be too presumptuous on our part to conclude that this parable only talks about the final judgment where the good people will be separated from the evil ones. This parable can also be related to the two characteristics of human nature – good and evil.
Fundamentally all of us are good for that is how God had intended when He created humankind. However, it is through greed that sin enters our lives. In other words, in all of us, there exists both good and evil. Even though we often start or mean to do good but sometimes because of various reasons, whether influenced by internal or external causes, they can turn out not the way it was intended. It is similar to what St Paul wrote in his letter to the Romans, “I do not understand my own behaviour; I do not act as I mean to, but I do things that I hate. While I am acting as I do not want to, I still acknowledge the Law as good, so it is not myself acting, but the sin which lives in me” (Romans 7:15). I am sure many of us can identify with Paul’s expression of good and evil within each one of us.
Why is it then evil still exists in us if good is what we intend? Coming back to the parable of the wheat and darnel, sometimes we do not see the difference. The problem with evil is that it is always presented as good because no one chooses out rightly what is evil. It is because our vision is impeded that we do not see the totality of all goodness. St. Thomas Aquinas’ approach to the problem of evil, similar to that of Aristotle and St Augustine is that he saw many negative things to be an absence of something else. In other words, evil is the absence of the good.
In each of us there is the wheat and darnel and our task is to weed out the darnel little by little – this is a lifelong process. It neither happens overnight nor should we wait for Judgment Day for God to do it. The only way for us to overcome the evil within us is to do the opposite of evil, which is good. In the words of St Paul, “Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
Therefore, if you and I want to ‘heal the world and make it a better place’, a good starting point would be to heal ourselves and learn to conquer evil, both within and without, with love and kindness. It is the same with God… for He conquered our sins with His love manifested with Jesus dying on the cross. In the words of our psalmist today, ‘O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of love to all who call‘ (Ps 85) – omnia vincit amor (love conquers all)!
– 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)