The Last Judgement: Leandro Bassano (1557–1622), c.1600; Birmingham Museum of Art

The Last Judgement: Leandro Bassano (1557–1622), c.1600; Birmingham Museum of Art

Fr Neil’s homily at Mass on the Sixth Sunday after Trinity (19 July)

Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!

Our Lord leaves us with more riddles in the parables of today’s gospel. These parables are parables of the kingdom of God; what it is like, and why it is like it is. There are two smaller parables told that teach about the inevitable and irresistible growth of the kingdom from something small and seemingly insignificant. The seed that grows into a large shrub and the little bit of yeast that leavens the whole batch of dough. These should offer us some encouragement. At this particular time in the life of the Church things can seem as if they are falling apart. Yet, however difficult things become the will and purposes of God will be achieved:

And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. (Matthew 16:18)

Either side of these two parables our Lord tells and then explains the parable about the wheat and darnel.

One of the great scandals of the Church, and I am sad to say there are many, is the corruption that is revealed within the community of faith. Rome, the very centre and heart of the Church, over the centuries has had, and continues to have, those in its ranks who behave in a manner that causes scandal to the faith. Despite the best efforts of many a saint over the years, evil actions by some persist.

The Church is holy because it is established by our Lord and not a mere institution. It is through the Church that the Holy Spirit reveals the eternal truths of the Kingdom and provides the sacraments of eternal life to the faithful. How then, if it is holy, is it constantly marred by scandal? Jesus’ parable of the wheat and darnel is illuminating. He goes on to explain that although good seed were sown, the devil has sown weeds alongside the wheat. The weeding out is resisted because the good seed and the darnel look very similar while growing and are only clearly distinguished once the full ear has grown — “by their fruits you shall know them”. This is not a counsel to just shrug our shoulders and turn a blind eye to evil and corruption. We should challenge and whistle-blow whenever it is in our power to do so. Christ is giving us the reason why evil persists. However, our Lord tells us that there is a Day of reckoning when justice will be done and those who seem to get away with terrible things will reap the rewards of their deeds. They will be thrown into the fire to be burned and there will be a great wailing and gnashing of teeth. For those who have ears, it becomes absolutely clear that Christ sees the Devil as real and that, at the final judgement, everyone will end up in one of two final destinies — Heaven or Hell.

In this parable our Lord tells us that nothing that is not of God can enter into his eternal presence. This might cause us some concern. We know that we are marked by both the beauty of goodness and the shadow of sin. However much we transform our lives we will always, like the saints before us, need to find ourselves entering the confessional. How then are we to claim the crown of eternal life when sin so persistently clings so close? Should we fear hell? Absolutely! Yet there is hope for those whose hearts, despite our flaws, long for the things of God. Again as individuals, reflecting on our own spiritual journey in the light of this parable can reveal another truth. The day of reckoning in this parable also hints at the merciful gift of Purgatory — Purgatory being the place where we are finally and forever cleansed and liberated of the burden of our weakness to sin. Here we are clothed and prepared to enter and take our seat in the eternal banquet of the heavenly kingdom alongside all the saints and angels.

This should encourage us to strive by the grace of God to grow in holiness and love in preparation for the day we enter into the fullness of God’s glory. Our view of the confessional will be transformed from an act of shame to a beautiful gift and encounter with divine merciful love, humility before God being the fruit of our contemplation. Our attendance at mass will move from an obligatory duty to a desire and longing to encounter and be fed by the one who is the bread of life and calls us into eternal glory.

“Then the virtuous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Listen, anyone who has ears!’

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