Bad company

Published on 17 Jul 2020
Sign saying God is Faithful.

We are trying to please God.  With his help, we do as he asks.  That which we know is displeasing to him, we try to avoid.  Pleasing our creator is a lifelong task and engages our whole being. There is no god, other than you, who cares for everything [1].  There is sometimes a difficulty in giving proper weight to the Lord’s caring about all that happens.  Our remembrance of the steady divine concern is often quite dim.  However, every once in a while, our urgent needs prompt us to give more attention to the centrality of God in our life and his loving oversight of it.  God presides over our existence both powerfully and gently.  You have only to will, and your power is there [2].  He can intervene at any moment.  His ways of doing so are usually very forbearing. Your sovereignty over all makes you lenient to all [3].  The divine forbearance and leniency are to be observed in his way of preparing us for judgement and in his leaving us so much freedom. Yet our main duty remains that of pleasing him.  The great virtue, if we can only acquire it, is obedience to God.  It is a strength, which, once possessed, is genuinely our own.  Nevertheless, such is our need of grace, our freely chosen submission to the Lord’s will, has, as its background, the loving divine attention to everything that happens.  The virtuous will shine in the kingdom of their Father [4].  Such an illumination sheds light on our own decisions and taking mature responsibility for what we think and do. 

The greatness of God allows him to watch over the life of every person with same love and concern.  He has made us all.   God, who knows everything [5] would like us all to shine in his kingdom.  The creator intends that every one should please him. We are meant to help each other in this great task.  Pleasing God is a way of life, which we share, in mutual support, with many others.  Our gratitude is intense for the presence and assistance of those with who we are on pilgrimage home to the Father.  In everyone we meet, we can be permitted to see the face of God.  By acting thus you have taught a lesson to your people [6].   Yet some reject his teaching and have opted for another allegiance.   Explaining the parable, Jesus says that the darnel is the subjects of the evil one [7].   The devil’s kingdom has citizens who have deliberately chosen to live there.  Who are they, these opponents? Where does the darnel come from?  The answer reaches us: ‘some enemy has done this’ [8].  There exists enmity towards God.  Hostility to the one who watches over everything makes itself known in various ways.  The Lord seems to be relaxed about the presence in his field of action of possible saboteurs.  He considers that they need not be hunted down. When you weed out the darnel you might pull up the wheat with it. Let them both grow until the harvest [9]. 

It may be that we are in very bad company.  Do we deem ourselves surrounded by darnel, by weeds and by what is destined, ultimately, to be destroyed?  Our confidence is not unshakeable that we are ourselves golden wheat, which is sprouting towards a blessed harvest.  Could we be among the weedy associates of the evil one, who are tolerated only because to root us out now would put at risk our neighbours, the genuinely good crop?  Far from being ourselves wholesome, might we be the bad company alongside whom others have the misfortune to find themselves obliged to grow?  Certainly, the task of pleasing God is one which we have often neglected.  His concern for us, and everything, we have, more than once, blithely discounted.  At any rate, we are grateful for the: let them both grow until the harvest There has been a postponement of the moment of judgement.  God of mercy and compassion, slow to anger, O Lord, abounding in love and truth, turn and take pity on me [10]. As long as all are growing together, it seems that there is no selection of what is to be retained as good and what is to be rejected as darnel.

The parable of the wheat and the darnel certainly reassures us that much depends on the sower.  If we are bad company, our fate was largely settled by the enemy who sowed us. We have been wrongly placed in a field in which, it will turn out, we do not have enough in common with the good crop.  If we are merely in bad company, then we are, for a long time, quite close to some whom we might be sorry to see tied into bundles to be burnt [11].  Yet might there not be a conversion ?  Good news for tares and friends of tares! Could not the virtues of darnel come to light?  There are no weeds and no worthless people. There are only bad farmers [12].  Might not our farmer, the good sower, the One who tends and prunes watches over us all successfully bring us all to a satisfactory harvest?  Is there no way of avoiding the painful discarding? Is there no means of dispensing with the fiery clearing up? You have given your sons the good hope that after sin you will grant repentance [13].   Our prayer is for forgiveness and transformation: lead those you have imbued with heavenly mysteries to pass from former ways to newness of life [14].  Could it be that to be sown by Christ and to grow in his field is to prepared for the harvest surrounded by imperfection but not doomed by it? Yes, an enemy has done this, but the sower, who cares for everything, is truly in charge.  We are putting our whole being into the task of growing towards what pleases him. Nor are we on our own.  The field, in all its diversity, with the liberty of everyone fully respected, is being brought towards perfection which is pleasing to God.

We ask for help.  We are both wheat and darnel, both friend and enemy. We long to please God and to help others to do the same.  We are also among the worst of bad company.  Give heed, O Lord, to my prayer [15].   The transformation we desire is only fully understood by the One from whom, in faith, we ask the grace to change. The strength we seek is not measured by us.  We want to please God. However, we only have such knowledge of him and his will as he chooses to reveal to us.  Our prayer is for what he wants.  Thy will be done [16].  Nevertheless let your will be done, not mine [17].  Our desire is to desire God and to conform ourselves to his commands.   It is difficult to put into words our strange project, intended to please our creator, which is to hand ourselves back to the One who made us.   We are praying, after the pattern of Christ himself, to be enabled to make an acceptable sacrifice.  As the harvest, which is us, is gathered in, we ask to be helped to offer to God what he wants from us and to discard everything else.  Our contribution to pleasing him is the inexpressible whole of our being.  The Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts, knows perfectly well what he means [18].

Homily by Fr Peter Gallagher SJ

[1]              Wisdom 12.13
[2]              Wisdom 12.17
[3]              Wisdom 12.16
[4]              Matthew 13.43
[5]              Romans 8.27
[6]              Wisdom 12.19
[7]              Matthew 13.38
[8]              Matthew 13.27-28
[9]              Matthew 13.29-30
[10]            Psalm (86) 85.15-16
[11]            Matthew 13.30
[12]            Victor Hugo Les Misérables 1862  1.5.3
[13]            Wisdom 12.19
[14]            Roman Missal, Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, prayer after communion
[15]                Psalm (86) 85.6
[16]            Matthew 6.10
[17]            Luke 22.42
[18]            Romans 8.26-26