Rev. John Kha Tran

A person sent an email to her priest complaining about people dressing inappropriately at church. “It is past time to "look into addressing this type of conduct. Summer is half over but God knows strong admonitions are needed to address this flagrant sin . . . The voice of the church has been QUIET WAY TOO LONG. Three years ago a favorite cantor, on Easter, came up in a completely strapless dress. Why? She got away with it; that family is a parish favorite. No names mentioned. Then, repeatedly, female Lectors show up with cleavage showing. This has gone on for some time. Last summer, a known family, at least, to us, sat in front of us. The cute 15 year old had shorts as short as a swimsuit. We have a problem because no one wants to address it. If the clergy WON'T (they can); then be ready for some comment or other consideration. It is a matter of CHOICE. Just last night in my monthly women's recollection the virtue of fortitude was the topic. To stand against the tide; to stand in faith as did all the martyrs. There was made mention of the man who was at Mass and quietly after Holy Communion tapped the woman in front of him and let her know that he did not receive Holy Communion as she presented a temptation; an occasion of sin. Why hasn't this been addressed before? Priests and deacons all are covered from neck to toe. The Catholic Church has never given an okay for strapless wedding dresses and yet brides come in looking like hookers or harlots. The Catholic Church; that is, priests and deacons, has ALLOWED indecency in our churches and Jesus is offended. We will answer for this lack of reverence. Shorts, men in shorts, flip flops, cut out blouses, too tight and skin revealing tops, strapless dresses, and more just continue coming thru the doors. EOM's, Lectors, are part of the problem; not just the general congregation. I will be waiting for the voice of our church to be heard. And, we, as faithful Catholics, do have the right to address situations. No permission is needed.”

How would you respond to this? It sounds something similar to the issue in the Gospel reading today: “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?” “Do you want us to go and pull them up?”

Unavoidable Presence of Evil

It is easy for us to lose our patience when something does not happen according to the way we expect. We do not have enough patience with the shortcomings of others. We feel agitated with things or people who bother us. We lose our patience with the children when they misbehave. We have no tolerance with people who commit horrific crimes. Last Monday, I went to the restroom at the Westside of the church and saw wet toilet paper spreading everywhere, on the wall as well as on the floor. I felt mad and disappointed. I could not imagine how I should react if I saw the person who did it. When the ladies of the altar society cleaned the church on Monday and found chewing gum stuck underneath the benches, diapers left under the pews, food crumbs spilled over the seats, they were disappointed. They have asked me to remind people that this is the house of the Lord. They need to show respect and keep it clean. We all want these problems to go away. We want to take them out. We want them to disappear.

Our government has spent millions of tax money to build jails and prison cells to keep the criminals away. We can go on to name a long list of ways to fight against evil in the world, but evil continue to strike us. We cannot get rid of evil in the world. We catch one bad guy today, and another one will show up tomorrow. Osama Bin Laden was killed, and Ayman al-Zawahiri is taking over the Al Qaeda. Suicide bombing continue on. All we know is that evil is a reality in our world, a reality to be resisted and rejected. We want to get rid of evil in the world just like the servants wanted to propose to their master, “Do you want us to go to pull them up?”

Growing Together

But the Master replied, “Let them grow together until harvest.” The Master does not want his servants to mistakenly pulling the wheat with the weeds. He orders them to wait. This is God’s character. God is the loving and patient God. God knows there are wheat and weeds in the Church and in the world. There are good people and bad people. There are people who promote love, justice and peace. There are also people who advocate sinful activities and evil deeds; and they are human beings who look very much like you and me. The Gospel passage, image of growing wheat and weeds provide us with powerful insights into the quiet and slow ways that God's Kingdom growing among us and within us.

Central to today's parable of the wheat and the weeds is the preciousness of the wheat. The Master does not want to lose any of the wheat just because he wants to get rid of the weeds. The original text does not say “wheat and weeds” but “wheat and darnel.” Darnel is a poisonous weed that looks very much like wheat. When a darnel grows next to wheat, it would be very difficult for us to tell the difference. Darnel is also harmful to the wheat. Its roots try to starve the wheat from its source. The Master refuses to allow his servants to separate the wheat from the darnels while they are still growing is a warning to the disciples not to permanently exclude sinners from the Kingdom.

Unlike the darnels, people are capable of change. Bad people can change and become good people. And good people can learn to live a faithful life without allowing the darnels of the world to influence and scandalize them. What we can do is not to let the darnels suck all life's nutrition from us. In God’s eyes, criminal people still have chance to change and start over again. Sinners still have chance to become saints. God is waiting for us to change from weeds to wheat, from evil to good, from sinners to saints.

Weeds and wheat exist in close proximity. According to Jesus, it is not prudent to take the weeds out immediately. It is better to wait till harvest time. We can combat the evil by choosing to be good wheat. We can decide to love Christ in the Church and to help make the Church more and more a transparent sign of Christ. We are called to a higher standard of living as children of God.

Higher Standard of Living

Max Lucado tells the story of a man who had been a closet slob most of his life. He just couldn't comprehend the logic of neatness. Why make up a bed if you're going to sleep in it again tonight? Why put the lid on the toothpaste tube if you're going to take it off again in the morning? He admitted to being compulsive about being messy.

Then he got married. His wife was patient. She said she didn't mind his habits . . . if he didn't mind sleeping on the couch. Since he did mind, he began to change. He said he enrolled in a 12-step program for slobs. A physical therapist helped him rediscover the muscles used for hanging up shirts and placing toilet paper on the holder. His nose was reintroduced to the smell of Pine Sol. By the time his in-laws arrived for a visit, he was a new man.

But then came that moment of truth. His wife went out of town for a week. At first he reverted to the old man. He figured he could be a slob for six days and clean up on the seventh. But something strange happened. He could no longer relax with dirty dishes in the sink or towels flung around the bathroom or clothes on the floor or sheets piled up like a mountain on the bed.

What happened? Simple. He had been exposed to a higher standard of living (Billy D. Strayhorn, Thunder in the Desert).