From Great Sinner to Great Saint
In today’s Gospel we hear another well-known parable: ‘The Parable of the Wheat and the Darnel’ in which the enemy comes to a field during the night and sows darnel or weeds among the wheat in order to ruin the crops. Once the wheat begins to grow the servants notice the weeds coming through, and so they ask the sower of the good seed if they should weed it out, to which he responds, “No. Let them both grow till the harvest, and at that time I shall say to the reapers: First collect the darnel and tie it in bundles to be burnt, then gather the wheat into my barn.” Our Lord a little further on explains that the parable refers to the Kingdom of God and the Final Judgement. The good seeds are the subjects of the Kingdom, who are going to shine like the sun in Heaven for eternity after the Final Judgement. And the weeds or darnel are “the subjects of the evil one” who unless they repent in this life will be thrown into “the blazing furnace” or Hell which is eternal punishment and separation from God.
Now we might be tempted to think when we hear this parable and Our Lord’s explanation of it, “Well, that’s good! Those evil people deserve their comeuppance while the good people get rewarded”, but this is not the best response. Our Lord wants us to be concerned not only for the well-being of the just but also of those on the path to ruin, and these days that’s a very easy path to get on. Yes, on the Day of Judgement everyone will have to answer for every thought, word, deed and omission, but before this, God wants to give everyone that is on the path to destruction the opportunity to repent and gain eternal life.
The story of Blessed Bartolo Longo (1841-1926) is an extraordinary one. Although he was brought up in a staunch Italian Catholic family, he turned away from the Faith, began attending séances and ended up becoming a satanic priest. He pulled other people away from the Church and also became involved in drugs. Being so heavily involved in satanism and being exposed to the horrible satanic rituals caused him to suffer from serious depression and paranoia and eventually a total breakdown. However, his family never gave up on him. They stormed Heaven with prayers for his return to God, and their prayers were later answered. He returned to the Catholic Faith and left behind his involvement with the occult. He became a Third Order Dominican and dedicated his life to bringing people into the Faith, particularly through Our Lady and the Holy Rosary. Many converted because of him.
No one is beyond the reach of God’s grace and forgiveness and it is wonderful that we can help change darnel into wheat by helping people through prayer and deed. Pray and make sacrifices for the family member who has stopped going to church, the young person who is always in trouble with the police, the former friend who can’t let go of a grudge, or the neighbour who never stops gossiping. The whole of Heaven rejoices when such a miracle of grace takes place.
Fr Paul Gillham, IC