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Spirituality of the Readings
16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year A
July 19, 2020
John Foley, SJ

Pulling Out Weeds

Forgiveness is the important theme of this Sunday’s readings.

This subject is hefty enough for Jesus to devote a well known parable to it, the one where servants ask the master whether they should pull out the weeds that have grown up within the wheat-field.

   “No,” he replies.

   “If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest” (Gospel).

Forgiveness is letting go of an angering injury and giving God a chance to love.

If you or I have sinned, then we have weeds growing up along with the good that we are. Would we like part of us to be uprooted? No. Instead, God lets us develop, without destruction, steadily forgiving our weeds.

So, what kind of reality is forgiveness?

For one thing, it reverses an attitude at the bottom of entire ancient cultures and still at the root of modern (American) entertainment. If someone harms me or my family (or … ), then I have the right and duty to destroy them. They are bad persons, not good, and no punishment is too severe.

Do not get me wrong, this kind of “justice” does in fact work. Take a look at the heroes in movies fighting person to person across the tops of skyscrapers, bare-knuckle blows to the face, spinning kicks to the head, all leading ultimately of course to the fabulous plummet over the side. Then we are entertained with magnificent slow-motion shots of his terror as he heads for the inevitable splotch. Justice is established. Everyone is relieved and happy. Except, of course, the bad guy.

Just for fun, pretend that you are that bad guy. Is there a reason you are committing crimes, ones that merit such punishment? Is it possible that one part of you went haywire but that there is much good in you, much that could be brought back to life? Is there a part of you that says, “I wish I could stop this ugliness and be pardoned”?

If so, you have missed the point of Sunday’s Gospel. The crimes you commit don’t really agree with your inner self. None of the weeds growing up in you are wonderful, but they are only a part of who you are. Your urge to steal, to impress others falsely, to get what you want no matter what, to be lazy, petulant, or … (please fill in the kind of wrong you yourself are drawn to). These are not the full description of who you are.

When we endure someone who hurts us with their wrongs, maybe we can avoid rushing up to rip out weeds. Mixed with all the crab grass there are lovely flowers, and God loves very much all that you are.

So, tolerate the thorns. Keep your hands off them. Your own weeds are treated with care. What if Jesus had said from the cross, “Father, damn them to hell forever because of what they are doing to me”? He said instead “forgive them, they know not what they do.” He knew there was good wheat in them, even alongside terrible weeds.

Forgiveness is letting go of an angering injury and giving God a chance to love. Wouldn’t you like to be loved and forgiven this way?

John Foley, SJ

Father Foley can be reached at:
Fr. John Foley, SJ

Fr. John Foley, SJ, is a composer and scholar at Saint Louis University.

Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go