Scripture:The slaves said to their master, “Then do you want us to go and gather the weeds?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.” (Matthew 13:28b-30)
Reflection: Unlike Mark, which groups together parables in one chapter, Matthew distributes them throughout the narrative. Three in particular concern the author’s focus on the final judgment. First, in the parable of the wheat and the weeds, a master sows good wheat seed in his field, but his enemy follows him, sowing weeds. Both wheat and weeds sprout and begin to grow. When the weeds are noticed, one would expect the master to tell his slaves to pull them, but, instead, the master tells them to let all grow until harvest time, when he will separate them. The weeds will be burned; the wheat will be gathered. When Jesus interprets the parable for his disciples, he explains that he is the sower (word of God) of the good wheat seed (children of the kingdom) in the field (world) and the enemy who sowed weeds is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. At the end of the age, he will collect evildoers and burn them, and he will collect the righteous into his Father’s kingdom.
Second, Jesus compares the kingdom of Heaven to a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous.
Jesus’s third last judgment parable employs sheep and goats. The Son of Man separates people like a shepherd separates sheep and goats after bringing them in from the pasture. The sheep are placed on the right, the side of righteousness, and the goats are placed on the left, the side of the accursed. The sole criterion for judgment is doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do; that criterion is illustrated in many ways: feeding the hungry, welcoming the stranger, clothing the naked, and so on. Those who have done these things are harvested for God’s kingdom; those who failed to do so are sent to eternal fire.
According to Matthew’s gospel, Jesus will judge his followers. They are not to judge each other – the wheat and the weeds must grow together. The righteous will be harvested into God’s kingdom like wheat into a barn, like what is good from a dragnet, like sheep guided into a pen. The unrighteous, however, will be removed from his sight, like weeds, a dragnet’s refuse, and goats. A spirituality of mission includes judgment by the one who called and sent the disciple on his or her mission of success.
Journal/Meditation: If the Son of Man returned today, would you be judged wheat or weeds, good or bad, sheep or goat?
Prayer:Jesus Christ, you call me to proclaim the nearness of your Father’s kingdom. Bless my words that many who hear them may become worthy of the harvest when you return to gather the righteous. Count me among those worthy of eternal life with you, the Father, and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever. Amen.