Sunday Sermon for July 20, 2014, the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A

Readings: Wis 12:13, 16-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-43
In the Gospel reading today we hear the parable of the weeds and the wheat. Most of us are quite familiar with weeds: they seem to grow anywhere, they don’t seem to need as much water as your other plants, and they grow faster and look healthier than anything else in your garden. However, we might actually be amazed at the official working definition of a weed: a plant that is growing where it is not supposed to be.

This was explained to me by a priest friend with a background in horticulture. He mentioned an example how one might see a corn plant growing in a field of soybeans. The corn plant, he said, would be considered a weed because it did not belong in that field. This might help us a bit more when we consider the application of the Gospel parable. There is no way that a plant can change from wheat into creeping charlie or some other unwanted plant. However, it is possible for us to change from a child of the evil one to a child of God.

If we use the horticultural definition of a weed, we might feel like we are the weeds because the world is getting more and more hostile toward Christian people in general, and against Catholics in particular. We seem like we are the ones growing where we do not belong.

But God makes no mistakes. You we born into the world at this time for a reason. All of the grace needed to become a Saint in the present circumstances is offered. God knows well our times and our circumstances. Because of this, He not only affords us the grace we need, but He also gives us a lot of leeway and shows immense patience toward us. As we hear in the first reading, God is lenient in His judgments precisely because He is almighty.

This said, we must be careful not to fall into presumption, thinking that because God is merciful we can just go ahead and sin. This is clearly incorrect. The point is that God knows our weaknesses and He knows that we are surrounded by innumerable sources of temptation today. If in weakness we fall, we can trust in His mercy. If we sin while presuming that God will be merciful, we will face a very harsh judgment.

Knowing that we are weak and that we live in the midst of so many temptations, we have to work hard to know and to do the will of God. We have to pray that we will know God’s will but also we have to pray that we will cooperate with His grace in order to do the holy will of God. We have all demonstrated thousands of times that this does not come naturally to us. Even when the grace is offered in abundance we still reject it because we want to do our own will.

If we are resolved to try, even though we may fail repeatedly, we not only have God’s grace and mercy to help us, but St. Paul tells us that we have been given the Holy Spirit. If fact, he says that the Holy Spirit comes to our aid in our weakness. It is important to note, however, what this means. While it is true that God can do anything He wills, most often He does not just infuse virtue into us or simply make us holy without any effort on our part. So, St. Paul says that the way the Holy Spirit helps us is by praying in us and for us since we do not know how to pray as we ought.

Since the Holy Spirit is God, we know that His prayer, even if we do not understand it, will infallibly be answered. This being the case, we have the guarantee of the graces we need to bear fruit for God in the midst of a world that has gone astray. God is giving you the grace to become a great Saint in the midst of our world today! Each of us has to ask the question of whether or not we will cooperate with that grace and become the Saints God wants us to be.

Perhaps we need even to ask the question that precedes this. We need to ask ourselves if we want to do God’s will and become Saints. No matter how weak you are or how many sins you have committed in the past, you can still be a Saint. We may feel like we are the weeds because we are the clear minority, but God is the one Who has planted us here and now, so we are not weeds. Pray, repent, strive to live as a child of God, and you will become a Saint.

Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit