Wheat, Tares, Fear of the Lord and Working on Wisdom

(Now that I have your attention.)

Last Sunday’s homily included mention of the ‘wheat and tares’ parable. Or was it Sunday before last? Either way, that parable didn’t fit the Gospel reading.

But the off-season reference put wheat, weeds and questions on my mind’s front desk. And reminded me of a ‘Wheat and Tares’ post I wrote about a half-dozen years back.

Then, a few days ago, I was told that the Catholic Church is a terrorist organization.

I started writing about that, added a revised version of the old ‘wheat and tares’ post, and wound up with this:

Belonging to an (allegedly) “Terrorist Organization” ??

The “terrorist organization” assertion almost makes sense.

A few priests have behaved badly. Very badly. So have a few bishops, and at least one American cardinal.

Abusing minors, or anyone else, is a bad idea and nobody should do it. And it’s worse when the abuser is someone who should be caring for the minor. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2389)

I don’t know why American bishops and cardinals didn’t, when they heard rumors of abuse, act immediately. I also don’t know why some seem to have deliberately ignored signs of trouble.

But that’s what happened. Nothing will undo what some, not all, clergy did. Or didn’t do.

I also don’t know why a reboot of the ‘pedophile priest’ story didn’t get traction, about two years back:

Maybe presidential campaign preludes, followed by the COVID-19 pandemic, provided sufficient sound and fury; and that’s another topic.

Beware the Satanic Papal Octopus: Legacy, Cycle A and an Angry God

Udo Keppler's 'The American Pope' anti-catholic cartoon. (1894))

H.E. Fowler's 'Papal Octopus,' featured in Jeremiah J. Crowley's (1913) 'The Pope: Chief of White Slavers High Priest of Intrigue,' p. 430. (1913)The “terrorist organization” label sounds new. Maybe it’s a post-9/11 moniker.

But the basic idea is not unfamiliar.

Denouncing the Romanism monster seems vital to a fair number of traditional American viewpoints.

I suspect that hostility toward “The Papal Octopus” comes partly from a love of justice.

And a sincere desire to defend America from Evil, Superstition, Subversion and other arms of the “Satanic” monster.

Not that many folks see Fowler and Crowley’s “Papal Octopus” in their mind’s eye when they think of the Catholic Church. Most, maybe, have never read Crowley’s “The Pope: Chief of White Slavers High Priest of Intrigue.”

Maria Monk’s best-seller is another matter, and yet another topic. (May 14, 2017)

I don’t enjoy experiencing my culture’s anti-Catholic attitude. And, since I became a Catholic, I certainly don’t support it. But it comes with the territory. And, like I said, opposing the “Papal Octopus” may be  inspired partly by a (misdirected) love of justice.

Where was I? Weeds. Questions. Fighting Evil, Superstition and Subversion. Right.

I won’t hear the wheat and tares/weeds parable as a Gospel reading until July of Cycle A. We’re starting Cycle B now, so that’ll be a while. The A-B-C Sunday and weekday and I-II cycles go back to 1969.

I figure some folks are still upset about the A-B-C and I-II cycles. I’m not, and that’s yet again another topic.

God: Large and In Charge

'Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,' Jonathan Edwards. (1741)God is occasionally presented as violence-prone, with serious anger management issues.

Some folks who describe the Almighty this way seem to think that we should worship God because the alternative is getting squashed like bugs.

Others claim that God is a make-believe bogeyman, invented by charlatans to frighten people.

I think both claims are missing an important point.

God is just, God is merciful: and sometimes God has to get our attention.

“For neither is there any god besides you who have the care of all,
that you need show you have not unjustly condemned;
“Nor can any king or prince confront you on behalf of those you have punished.
“But as you are righteous, you govern all things righteously;
you regard it as unworthy of your power
to punish one who has incurred no blame.
“For your might is the source of righteousness;
your mastery over all things makes you lenient to all.”
“You taught your people, by these deeds,
that those who are righteous must be kind;
And you gave your children reason to hope
that you would allow them to repent for their sins.”
(Wisdom 12:13, :1619)

That’s from Cycle A’s 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time readings. That Sunday’s Gospel reading, Matthew 13:2443, is a long one, and includes a parable about wheat and weeds. I’ll get back to that.

The Beginning of Wisdom

NGC 4848 and other galaxies, image by Hubble/ESA.

Fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (Deuteronomy 6:13; Psalms 111:10; Sirach 1:12)

It’s also a gift of the Holy Spirit, along with wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, and piety. This sort of piety encourages devotion to God. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1831, 1850, 2084)

It’s not a sanctimonious holier-than-thou attitude. And that’s still more topics.

Pope Francis gave a pretty good explanation of the “fear of the Lord” a few years back:

The gift of fear of the Lord, which we are speaking about today, concludes the series of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. It does not mean being afraid of God: we know well that God is Father, that he loves us and wants our salvation, and he always forgives, always; thus, there is no reason to be scared of him! Fear of the Lord, instead, is the gift of the Holy Spirit through whom we are reminded of how small we are before God and of his love and that our good lies in humble, respectful and trusting self-abandonment into his hands. This is fear of the Lord: abandonment in the goodness of our Father who loves us so much….
(Francis I (June 11, 2014))

Fear of the Lord and Karaoke

Ever since the first humans preferred their own will to God’s, we’ve had relationship issues with the Almighty. It’s easy for us to be afraid of God, which isn’t the same as having “fear of the Lord.” (Catechism, 399)

The “fear of the Lord” we read about in Psalms 111:10; is reverence for God.

I’m supposed to recognize that God’s God, and I’m not: that I owe my continued existence to God. (Catechism, 20962097)

Fear of the Lord is not living in terror that God will caste me into an infernal karaoke bar because I like the ‘wrong’ kind of music. Or don’t get upset when a priest makes an out-of-season Gospel reference. Or whatever.

On the other hand, Hell, eternal separation from God, is real. So is Satan. At the end of all things, I’ll either willingly accept God: or not. (Catechism, 391395, 10331037, 1849)

“Not,” in my considered opinion, is a daft option.

To Seek, Know, and Love God

My job is to seek, know, and love God.

I’m invited, along with everyone else, “to become, in the Holy Spirit, his adopted children and thus heirs of his blessed life.”
(Catechism, Prologue, 1)

I should be learning to say four things to God: please; thank you; sorry; and I love you. That quartet isn’t my idea, by the way: a new priest in our parishes talked about that learning curve a half-dozen years ago.

We start out by asking God for help, should follow that up with thanks, and — if we’re realistic about our decisions — tell God ‘I’m sorry’ when we mess up. Happily, repentance is an option. (Catechism, 14221449)

Telling God “I love you” is something I’m working on, and probably will be for the rest of my life. That’s — what else? — another topic for another post.

Wheat and Weeds

The “weeds” in Matthew 13:2443 are (probably) a specific plant: darnel.

It’s poison, either because of the plant’s alkaloids, or a fungus that lives in the seed head. Darnel is sometimes called false wheat, because it looks almost exactly like wheat until the weed’s ear appears.

The parable of the wheat and weeds is one of the more comforting passages for me, since I’ve looked an awful lot like a weed at times.

Or I could see myself as the paragon of all virtues, and everyone who’s not like me as weeds ready for an overdue weed-whacking. That alternative strikes me as a really bad idea.

I figure it’s better to let “terrorist organization” labels, crackpot COVID-19 conspiracy theories and life’s other annoyances remind me to check my own attitudes and actions.

Remembering that “those who are just must be kind,” and applying the principles outlined in Matthew 7:15? It’s not easy, but sure beats the alternatives.


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About Brian H. Gill

I was born in 1951. I'm a husband, father and grandfather. One of the kids graduated from college in December, 2008, and is helping her husband run businesses and raise my granddaughter; another is a cartoonist and artist; #3 daughter is a writer; my son is developing a digital game with #3 and #1 daughters. I'm also a writer and artist.
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2 Responses to Wheat, Tares, Fear of the Lord and Working on Wisdom

  1. Speaking of the pedophile priest references, I remember my fellow nerds usually resorting to that insult when it comes to referring to the Roman Catholic Church. And those references are just layman’s level, with more academic nerds having a longer string of insults, considering my experiences in university as well. I don’t even think I’d be surprised if such folks and the bigots they popularly hate tried to get along with each other at some point just because of their shared hatred for the Roman Catholic Church. I mean, I’ve been remembering how Our Lord subtly made Pilate and Herod friends and how the Christian faith eventually took over the Roman Empire, among a lot of other hilariously wonderful things. Indeed, so many treasures are hidden from our senses because of our lack of faith, and even the person with the least belief in God cannot go on in life without a single speck of faith working with their reason.

Thanks for taking time to comment!