Weeds and Wheat

The Seeds Have Been Sown

Admittedly there has been great focus placed on Catholic schools every time we talk about Catholic Education. However, there is a danger of becoming myopic in regard to Catholic Education by believing that it is the sole responsibility of the schools. Indeed, the schools have become an icon of Catholic Education but we must take great care of limiting the discussion to schools alone. Often lost in the conversation is the fact that the parents are the primary educators and formators of their own children. Priests, religious, educators, and catechists must always accept their secondary status in the process. However, the latter are tasked with the preservation of the Truth in the overall education process, which requires an ownership of that Truth in daily life.

In the thirteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel we find a series of parables and Jesus’ explanation of them. This chapter marks a midpoint for the Gospel of Matthew. In this chapter are two parables regarding the sowing of seed. The first deals with the soil in which seed is sown and the second with an enemy who secretly sows weeds among the wheat. In the first parable, responsibility is placed upon the cultivator of the soil to ensure the soil is properly disposed to receive the seeds of Grace sown by Christ. In the second, the fruit of what is sown by Christ must be preserved amidst the deceptions of the enemy.

For many decades, the devil has been sowing weeds within the Church. Obviously when dealing with parables it is imperative that we keep in mind the Truth the story is communicating. Wheat and weeds are not interchangeable yet Jesus makes it clear that the good seed are the children of God and the weeds the children of the evil one. Those who get the point can easily see that the difference between the two has to do with morality and Truth -- virtue and vice. Anyone can be a child of God through Baptism. But to remain in that state requires a virtuous life that is frequently infused with Grace. What constitutes a virtuous life is not under the domain of Man as in the objective order its content has been established by God. The wheat is all who are in a state of Grace and remain committed to a life of virtue as established by God.

Anyone can be a child of the evil one by renouncing the Grace of God and rupturing the connection to Him through Sin. Only a repentant soul can receive Grace and bear fruit in virtue. The enemy sowing seeds does so by using deceit. In the field of the Church, the seeds of deceit have been sown and many even believe that the weeds are good. Yes, there are those who today point at weeds and call them wheat. As silly as that sounds, there are those who uphold sins that are clearly contrary to God’s Commands as something good. Easy examples today are abortion and contraception, sterilization and in vitro fertilization, divorce and remarriage, homosexuality and fornication, etc. All of these are contrary to the Law of God and yet many Catholics embrace them as normal and good.

Thus, it is not necessary to look beyond the walls of our own Church to see that such is the case and that it has been documented repeatedly over the last few decades. The doctrine of the evil one begins with the loss of a sense of Sin. But notice also how this loss is also connected to the loss of a sense of God and a later apathy toward the Church and Truth. Today, many Catholics simply do not care about what is True virtue and what is Sin. If seeds of deceit are to be sown, then it would require weeds to be convinced that they are wheat, even though they are not.

Today more than ever Catholics need to work on purging themselves of the doctrine of the evil one that has them convinced they do not sin and have no need for reconciliation. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is central to providing wheat with what it needs to be wheat. Yet the evil one has even weekly churchgoers convinced that they do not need the Sacrament of Reconciliation as only about 12% go to confession more than once a year and only 2% monthly. It is not that this situation developed overnight or that it will disappear overnight. The seeds have been sown and have grown over time. But the first step to turning this trend around will have to come through the priests and religious who will have to regain control of the Catholic Education process by themselves becoming wheat. One cannot give what one does not have.

As noted previously, to get the education process on track, the messenger needs to own the message. Priests and religious must own the message of reconciliation and the only way to do so is to be regulars of the Sacrament themselves. Without frequenting the Sacrament themselves they fall prey to the doctrine of the evil one and may eventually become the weeds of deceit. From the priests and religious who own the message, then the educators, the primary ones being the parents, the catechists, and the faithful will also come to own the message. To own the message, priests, religious, educators, and the faithful must all be making a concerted effort to being wheat themselves, first and foremost. Without such a commitment, the spiral downward will continue.

Particularly in the post-scandal era of the Church, we must become more aware than ever of the need for repentance and the lingering effect that Sin can have on a community. It is not that priests sinned or broke the law that need to be highlighted any longer as that has been documented. It is the ensuing call to repentance and a return to Grace that should begin to form the message today. Without repentance and the Grace of Reconciliation the weeds will continue to strangle our Faith and impede the ability of the Church to bring souls to Christ, which is what must be at the heart of all Catholic Education. Those entrusted with the formation of souls to be wheat in the field -- priests, religious, parents, educators, and catechists -- must be wheat themselves. As Jesus tells us, “why worry about the speck when there is a plank of wood…”

And so we hear the Baptist’s cry from the wilderness, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths.” The message of repentance issued by John the Baptist is as imperative today as it was then! Before any reform of Catholic Education can take place, those tasked as leaders in the formation process must heed the call to removing the plank through the Grace of the Sacrament. And the key to the whole process is to remember that we are never done repenting…