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Glancing Thoughts
16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year A
July 23, 2023
Eleonore Stump
The Wheat and the Weeds

In the Lord’s field, there are the wheat and the weeds. Some people are good wheat and are gathered to the Lord. And then there are people who are weeds. It isn’t good to be the weeds. The weeds get gathered into bundles for burning.

So how do we know which people are those bad and destined-for-burning weeds?

We don’t, the Lord says. At least, we don’t, not now. For all we know, the rudest, proudest, worldliest person sitting so smug in the next pew might be among the wheat when the angels come at the end to gather the wheat to heaven. The most despicable sinner might be wheat too. You can’t know the weeds until the end when the angels come, the Lord says.

By the same token, of course, the humblest, most hard-working person, sitting there so meekly in the next pew, might be among the weeds. The most admirable and saintly person might turn out to be weeds too. We don’t know the wheat any more than we know the weeds.

The Lord knows his own. But we don’t. We can judge thoughts, choices, acts, and habits; but we don’t know enough to judge a person’s final resting place when the angels come at Judgment Day.

And so the Lord’s parable about the wheat and the weeds can raise a terrible question: what am I? Am I weeds, too? If I can’t tell the wheat from the weeds, how can I tell whether I am wheat or weeds?

The problem with finding an answer to that question is that the question is confused. You are not the judge, not for the other guy and not for yourself either. Nietzche said derisively of Christians, “they don’t even look like the redeemed!” But how would we know what the redeemed look like? (For that matter, how would Nietzsche know?) Our job is not the job of judge, because we are not up for that job.

Our job is to come to Christ and cleave to him. His job is first to save us, weeds that we are, and then to judge us the wheat his salvation has made us be.

Eleonore Stump

Eleonore Stump is Professor of Philosophy, Saint Louis University

Art by Martin 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