God is always teaching his people, we hear in the first reading.
And what does he want us to know? That he has care for all of us, that though he is a God of justice, even those who defy and disbelieve him may hope for his mercy if they turn to him in repentance.
This divine teaching continues in the three parables that Jesus tells in the Gospel. Each describes the emergence of the kingdom of God from the seeds sown by his works and preaching. The kingdom’s growth is hidden — like the working of yeast in bread; it’s improbable, unexpected — as in the way the tall mustard tree grows from the smallest of seeds.
Again the readings sound a note of questioning: Why does God permit the evil to grow alongside the good? Why does he permit some to reject the Word of his kingdom?
Because, as we sing in the psalm, God is slow to anger and abounding in kindness.
He is just, Jesus assures us — evildoers and those who cause others to sin will be thrown into the fiery furnace at the end of the age. But by his patience, God is teaching us — that above all he desires repentance, and the gathering of all nations to worship him and to glorify his name.
Even though we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit will intercede for us, Paul promises in the epistle. But first we must turn and call upon him, we must commit ourselves to letting the good seed of his Word bear fruit in our lives.
So we should not be deceived or lose heart when we see weeds among the wheat, truth and holiness mixed with error, injustice and sin.
For now, he makes his sun rise on the good and the bad (see Matthew 5:45). But the harvest draws near. Let’s work that we might be numbered among the righteous children — who will shine like the sun in the kingdom of the Father.
Scott Hahn is founder of the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, stpaulcenter.com.