Homily for Tuesday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
The first reading for today’s liturgy comes to us from the prophet Jeremiah. While the Hebrew Scriptures are filled with lamentations in the Book of Psalms and even contain a book entitled Lamentations, this particular lamination is for me one of the most powerful. Not only is it filled with great sadness, but it also exhibits Jeremiah’s extreme distress as one who has witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem at the hands of its enemies. First King Nebuchadnezzar carried off King Jehoiachin into exile, replacing him with King Zedekiah. Despite Jeremiah’s counsel, he decided to revolt against King Nebuchadnezzar who then took swift vengeance and destroyed the city in 587 BC. Jeremiah was among those who were left behind by the Assyrian army. He finds himself surrounded by death, both those who had died in battle as well as those who are starving to death now that the destruction of Jerusalem is complete.
Toward the end of his lament, Jeremiah turns to repentance. He asks God to forgive Israel for its betrayal of the covenant relationship that was struck on Mount Sinai. He earnestly pleads for healing and for restoration of both the city and its people. So, while this passage is indeed a striking lamentation, it is also an important prayer of repentance and reconciliation.
In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus instructs his disciples, explaining the parable of the weeds and the wheat. That explanation contains something that we all know; namely, the world is filled with both good and evil. Not everyone in the city of Jerusalem at the time of its destruction was evil. However, a corrupt king brings destruction to his entire kingdom. This was true in Israel as it is in the entire world. Even in the fictional world, we find examples of this. William Shakespeare’s great tragedy, Hamlet, reflects this truth – something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Earlier in this Gospel, Jesus told us that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Through the example of our lives, we work to dispel the darkness of evil and to illumine the world by the light of our charity. There is still much to lament in our world, so much evil to be undone. Through our prayers and our lives of charity, let us set about the task of separating the wheat from the weeds.