In an article entitled ‘How Narratives Can Aid Memory’ published in The Guardian newspaper in 2012, it was written that “Stories… are at the root of our ability to communicate and understand what’s going on around us.” I am sure we can identify with this statement recalling how our parents and elders used “stories” (come to think of it… surely some were true, while others may have been “cooked-up”) to teach us some important lessons using the experiences of others or of themselves.
Jesus was a great storyteller. He told stories to different audiences, but His core message was the same in all of them. The stories of Jesus were often in the form of parables because through them, He was able to convey God’s truth in a more concrete and lasting way.
In chapter 13 of Matthew’s gospel, there are a series parables and all of them related to the kingdom of God. There is no better way for Jesus to help His audience understand the kingdom of God other than using images and symbols interwoven into a parable.
The parable of the wheat and darnel (Matthew 13:24-30) is often used to describe the presence of good and evil in the world. What happens when we use this explanation too narrowly, is that we tend to exclude people or even begin to have an ‘holier than thou’ attitude. When we fall into ‘temptation’ then the Church is seen as a place only for the holy and not otherwise.
While making reference to this particular parable, Pope Francis in 2017 mentions that “good and evil are often entwined and the line between good and evil passes through the heart of every person… we are all sinners. No one is perfect but we are all sinners who have been redeemed by Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross.”
In allowing the darnel and the wheat to grow together, it only goes to show that God shows great patience in allowing us to work on those things within each of us that does not assist us on our pathway to Him. In reality, we are often quick to notice the faults of others rather than our own. When we do this, we align ourselves with the Pharisee in Luke 18: 10-13 who looked down on the tax collector. Ironically, it is the tax collector, who did not hide his failings that went home being justified rather than the Pharisee who prided himself before God with a litany of good works.
The Church and her sacraments are not just a “reward” for the good, holy and righteous but it is also a “medicine” for the sinner, weak and wounded. St Thomas Aquinas referred to the Eucharist as “spiritual food and spiritual medicine”… to grow and to heal at the same time.
Since the ‘wheat and darnel’ (good and evil) exists in each of us, we must be humble to acknowledge those weaknesses but yet have the courage to consciously stand before God and work at overcoming them. By ourselves it may not be possible but when we surrender totally to God, “the Spirit comes to help us in our weakness” (Romans 8:26).
May we learn to recognise the ‘darnel’ in each of us and allow God to uproot them so that we may truly be healing channels of His love to others. Amen.