Sunday, July 23, 2017

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle A

Welcome to read homilies for the Sundays of the year. These are sample homilies which you can read with devotion. You may use them in your own homilies without asking my permission. You may also change or edit these to fit them to your audience. A unique quality of these homilies is that they are Christ-filled. From beginning to end they present to us some aspect of Jesus so that beholding his glory we “are being transformed from glory to glory into his very image” (2 Corinthians 3:18 NAB).

No Herbicide, Please!

On March 12, 2000 Pope John Paul the Second led the asking of forgiveness from God for the sins which the sons and daughters of the Church had committed over the last 2000 years, Five cardinals and two bishops confessed specific sins committed by these sons and daughters. The sins included the killing of heretics, those who disagreed with official church teaching.

Last June 22, 2015 Pope Francis in Turin, Italy asked forgiveness from the Waldensians on behalf of the Catholic Church, for the un-Christian and even inhumane positions and actions taken against them. These actions included murdering the Waldensians for their heresies or ideas which were contrary to our Church's teachings.

Then in January 25, 2016 Pope Francis asked Protestants for forgiveness for persecution in the past centuries. This persecution included killing these Protestants for teaching and promoting beliefs different from those taught by our Church.

The killing of these heretics, Waldensians and Protestants is the opposite of what Jesus commanded in our Gospel reading today. He never wanted them to be killed, to be uprooted even if they were as they were supposed to be by Catholics children of the devil for holding on to these heresies or different doctrines.

For us who live in the twenty first century and who do not witness these religious persecution of non-Catholics we do not feel the enormity of these sins. But for the people affected during the time of persecution it was a terrible experience. Here is a passage about what happened during those years of persecution by members and leaders of our church. I will read now excerpts from a passage which depicts these atrocities.

“In the year 1209, When the King of France refused to lead the pope's Crusade, Pope Innocent III put his legate, Arnald-Amalric, the General of the Cistercians (or "Trappist") monks at Citeaux, in charge of the "Christian" forces.  On their way to the Holy Land, they made a stop at the French town of Béziers.

"Arnald called on the Catholics in the town, an Albigensian, (that is heretical,) stronghold, to hand over the 200 or so known heretics.  If they didn't they would suffer with them.  The townsfolk decided to stand together against these foreigners.
“The townsfolk took refuge inside the cathedral and the great churches of St. Jude and St. Mary Magdalene. . .  The command went out from Arnald:  'Kill them all: the Lord will look after his own.'

“Behind the locked doors of St. Mary Magdalene's, the clergy tolled the bells, while celebrants vested in black for a requiem.  The churches, places of sanctuary from time immemorial, were crammed.  In that church alone there were 7000 women, children and the elderly.  To the sound of priests chanting Mass was added that of axes splitting the timber of the doors.  When the doors gave way, the only noise in the church was the Latin of the liturgy and the babble of babies in their mothers' arms.

“The invaders, singing lustily Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come, Holy Spirit) spared no one, not even the babies.  The last to be cut down were two priests in the sanctuary.  It was, said Lea, in his book The Inquisition in the Middle Ages, 'a massacre almost without parallel in human history'.

“The crusaders then destroyed everything in the town, including the cathedral.  'All that was left of Béziers was a smouldering heap under which all the citizens lay dead.'

“In the cool of the evening, the monk Arnald settled down to write to his superior (the Pope).  'Today, your Highness, 20,000 citizens were put to the sword, regardless of age or sex.'  Slaughtering babies was bad enough, but it was an unspeakable crime to cut priests down as they celebrated the ritual sacrifice of Calvary.  It has been reckoned that in the last and most savage persecution under Emperor Diocletian, about 2,000 Christians perished, throughout the empire.  (Yet) In the first vicious incident of Pope Innocent III's crusade, ten times that number of people were slaughtered.  Not all were Albigensians or heretics, by any means.  It comes as a shock to discover that, at a stroke, a pope killed far more Christians than (the pagan emperor) Diocletian.” (from

Now, let us listen to Jesus in our Gospel reading about these people who were murdered by Catholics. 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest.' In other words Jesus wanted them to live and grow together with the Catholics. But the Catholics had uprooted them from the earth, murdered them by burning them or drowning them or by other ways of torture.

It was indeed a great sin for Catholics to have persecuted and killed thousands of non-Catholics or people who held different beliefs than us. And the two popes, John Paul the Second and Francis, asked forgiveness for this great sin which we have committed against them and against God.

Incidentally one of our best theologians, a very great doctor of the Church, unfortunately has taught something opposite to what Jesus commanded in our Gospel reading today. This great Church doctor is held up as a model theologian by the Church. He is the Patron Saint of theological studies. His name is St. Thomas Aquinas, a Dominican. It is most unfortunate and very sad that this passage is found in his writings: "Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death." (Summa Theologica).

Jesus completely disagrees with such statement of St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the reasons why our recent Popes have asked pardon for the killing of non-Catholics or would be non-Catholics. This statement of that Saint had sanctioned the killing of thousands of heretics.

But we must be fair. This is not the sin only of our leaders and brothers and sisters in our Church. The Non-Catholics, Protestants, Anglicans and Lutherans and others had also killed Catholics for believing differently than them. We rightly expect that they too reciprocate the actions of Pope John Paul the Second and Pope Francis by asking forgiveness from us for killing our Church leaders and members.

The Lord Jesus does not want to spray us with herbicide in order to kill the weeds among us. He wants the weeds to grow with us.

This parable of Jesus is very instructive because in Palestine the wheat and the weed called darnel look the same as they grow. The Forerunner Commentary says that wheat and darnel are exact in their appearances during growth. Both plants are lush green and can be distinguished only when they mature and produce fruit: Wheat berries are large and golden, while darnel berries are small and gray. Thus, if the farmer attempted to uproot the tares before maturity, he would wreak havoc on his wheat. (

And that is the real situation among us. The real Christians and the fake Christians are very difficult to distinguish. Both are baptized. Both receive the sacraments. Both do good works. Both appear to love their neighbor. Both seem to be children of the Kingdom of Jesus.

The great difference which cannot be seen is in the heart. The real Christians are motivated by love of God. They do everything for the glory of God. While the fake Christians are motivated by love of self. They do everything for themselves. Both of these Christians may dress the same, even the smile may be the same, but their hearts are worlds apart. Since the difference is in their hearts we cannot really distinguish them.

Sometimes we can distinguish them, but only by their fruits. As the Commentary we cited said, the grains of the wheat are large and golden, while those of the darnel are small and gray. The real Christians are meek and good mannered, while the fake Christians are irritable and abrasive in their manners. But who are we to judge and decide who are the fake and the real?

The message of our first reading is very clear: to have mercy, even on the fake Christians. It is a prayer addressed to God. It tells God that he judges with clemency, and with much lenience governs us, permitting repentance for our sins. He is indeed a God who does not desire the death of the wicked as the Bible tells us.

Some of these fake Christians may be sitting beside us now. They may even be daily church goers. But they do this to be seen by men and to be honored as religious so that on election time people will vote for them.

Jesus tells us, Have mercy on them. Do not kill them as churchmen had killed heretics before. In our parlance Jesus would have said, do not spray them with herbicide. You may kill the real Christians along with the fake Christians.

And that is what actually happened. People have killed saints. King Henry VIII killed Thomas More, venerated by us as a saint. Pope Innocent III killed thousands of real Christians in the time of the Crusades.

And our Responsorial Psalm confirms this view of God. We said to God, Lord, you are good and forgiving, abounding in kindness to all who call upon you.

Our second reading tells us that it is God who knows what is inside us, for he searches hearts and knows the intention of the Spirit. He only, knows who are the wheat and who are the darnel among us. He alone knows who among us are the children of the kingdom and who among us are the children of the devil.

Let us pray as we bow our heads.

Jesus, you want us to live with disciples who are fake, as you lived with Judas whom you called a devil. May your Spirit bring to fruition your life in us so that we will later on be gathered into your barn after we have lived with those who claim they are yours but are not. Amen.

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Note for the readers:

The Mass readings are from the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). This is where our Lectionary gets the readings.

NAB stands for New American Bible (before it was revised). This is the translation I use. Unless otherwise stated the text I use is from this translation.

AV stands for Authorized Version of the Bible. It is more commonly referred to as the King James Bible. It is the version most used in English literature, therefore it is the one known more by the English speaking world.

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