Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time | Year A

Posted on July 21, 2023 View all Gospel Reflection

James Worthington of Western Kentucky University, president of the North Central Weed Science Society. “When [weeds] get big enough that anybody can recognize them, it’s too late to do anything about them.”1

All of us, have, at times, been too late recognizing the weeds growing in our lives, from things like character defects, to drugs or depression or harmful friendships or negative attitudes like bitterness, resentment, bigotry.

We are too late because we were asleep. Matthew 13:25 says “while everyone was asleep, [the] enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off.”

Should there have been a watch kept? — Not for something like sowing or planting seed which is business as usual. The servants display a certain freedom: There is no prophetic watchtower in this parable, in contrast to other “be prepared,” parables, which is a clue that this parable is an allegory regarding the question of why is there evil in the world? 2

The parable does not address stopping immediate harms in our communities, like gun violence or crimes against the unborn by abortion.

A sin belongs to the internal forum (the forum of conscience)

A crime belongs to the external forum in society.

Citing lots of scripture, the catechism teaches us in no. 1850 that “[all] Sin is an offense against God…”

Why is there evil in the world? Like parasitic weeds that rely on neighboring host plants to complete their life cycle, evil is a privation; the absence or lack of the good that ought to have been present. On the molecular level, some weeds have genes that are shared by the host plants and the parasitic weeds.

Several scholars have identified the particular weed in our Gospel as darnel (Lolium temulentum). It is a poisonous weed that grows to about the same height as wheat. It was almost impossible to distinguish the one from the other in the early stages of growth.3

Yet, God does not endlessly tolerate unholiness, God will judge the world someday. An important implication of the parable is the hope of ultimate victory over evil. This is presented along with the glorious future of the children of God and the church.

Yet, regarding the Good News that Jesus saves, the parable teaches us that people ought to receive the opportunity to change for the better. Athanasius, for example, says: “If you wish, you can change and become wheat.” And in a poem, Isaac of Antioch begs death to give him a postponement “until I have become a good seed of wheat.”4

Someone once humorously said, “I am certain there will be three surprises in heaven: I will see some people there I never expected to see; there will be a number of people missing whom I expected to see there; and there will be others who will be surprised to see me there!”5

Some farmers lament, the wheat here does not grow dense enough to crowd out the weeds.

Do more good. Pray more. Crowd-out the weeds in your heart so that they have minimal effect. Men, join the K of C.

Sanctity is less about the evil we resist than the good we embrace.

Just love everyone, I’ll sort them out later—says, Jesus

You, “Shine like the sun and produce a bountiful harvest for the Lord by your positive and soul-saving work for others.”


1.     King Duncan, Pulling Weeds,

2.       William G. Doty, Interpretation: parable of the weeds and wheat, Interpretation, 25 no 2 Apr 1971, p 187

3.     Joachim Jeremias, Parables of Jesus, 2003, p. 2241

4.     Meinolf Shumacher, WEEDS AMONG THE WHEAT: The Impurity of the Church Between Tolerance, Solace, and Guilt Denial, Cross Currents, 69 no 3 Sep 2019, p 252-263

5.      Ibid, William G. Doty