In the name of one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Amen.
What is the favorite sport in the United States today? Is it baseball – the great American pastime? If you look at recent experience, someone might answer “soccer” or futbol. Or is it college or professional football that is the favorite? Honestly, I do not think that any of the above is America’s favorite sport … certainly not America’s favorite pastime. In my opinion, the favorite sport of the people of this country is judging other people.
Now do not get me wrong. I understand that there are legitimate needs to judge. Every day we have to judge between the things that are safe and those that are dangerous. We have to judge between the things that are good for us and those that are not. And in a civilized society we have created laws that sometimes require us to judge people who have been accused of crimes. Those are all necessary and legitimate uses of our human ability to judge between things. I am not talking about any of those. I am talking about judging the worth, the acceptability or the righteousness of fellow human beings.
If you want to see what I mean, turn on Fox News or MSNBC – which both make their money by feeding like-minded people the information they want to hear. On these and other networks like them, people are brought on, not because they are necessarily experts in their field, but rather because they love to argue. Instead of two people discussing the merits or lack thereof of their positions or beliefs, they launch into what the ancient Romans called argumentum ad hominem (judging your opponents personal worth and broadcasting your judgment). Instead of saying: “I believe that gun control is a bad idea because there should be nothing that regulates free persons’ access to their weapon of choice,” the people on these shows tell anyone who disagrees, “You are a socialist who is trying to march through the streets, confiscating all of our guns so that you can become the king of America who enslaves the people.” In short, on cable television today, raising your voice and calling someone else a name is now substituted for debating important issues.
This same thing happens in editorial columns in newspapers and on websites. But the kings of judgmentalism in modern America are Facebook and Twitter. Never before have people had the ability to say anything they want to say, to a huge audience, while simultaneously maintaining relative anonymity. This combination has consistently proved to trigger landslides of communication in which one person, or group of persons, feels complete freedom to pass judgment on someone else’s appearance, belief system, body type, sexual identity, or any number of other personal traits, and always in the most hurtful language possible.
Personal attacks are nothing more than judging the worth of another human being, based upon some perceived difference. When you hear someone disparage someone else because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or whatever else; all the person is saying is: I must be superior to that person because they are (fill in the blank) and I am not. Such attacks are the heart of the bullying, racism and gay bashing that are all too prevalent in America today.
Jesus’ parable of the wheat and the tares is all about this way of looking at other people as less than we are. Jesus told this parable so that His disciples could understand the difference between the way that God views people and the way people view people. You see the point of the parable is this: the world is God’s field; all of the people of the world are the wheat and the tares; we are all planted together, side-by-side; and whereas humans desire to judge which is wheat and which is tares, and to pull up the tares during their lifetime, God is the patient farmer who waits until for harvest time to do the judging. And Jesus tells us that God is the only one qualified to judge what is good wheat and what is worthless weed.
Even though Jesus says, over and over that we should not judge the worth of other human beings, we have this strong desire to ignore His command and judge ourselves as better than the other guy – whoever that might be. St. Augustine had an interesting point when he wrote about this parable he said:
There is this difference between people and real grain and real weeds, for what was grain in the field is grain and what were weeds are weeds. But in the Lord's field, which is the church, at times what was grain turns into weeds and at times what were weeds turn into grain; and no one knows what they will be tomorrow.
Augustine understood that what makes all of this even more ridiculous when people judge people, is that most of us are not consistently good nor consistently bad, we are some of each at different times. Which is all the more reason for us not to judge one another.
And the Church is not immune from this sort of judgmentalism either. Each denomination blithely goes about judging itself to be superior to all of the others, and differing factions within our own denomination judge each other to be true believers or not – calling each other everything short of apostate in various ways. But Jesus tells us the prerogative of judging anyone’s faithfulness or relationship to God, is God’s alone. God is the ultimately tolerant farmer who loves the entire wheat field enough to wait for the harvest to judge.
Today we are baptizing young Cecilia into what St. Paul consistently told us was the Body of Christ. Think about that for a minute. We, the Church, are the Body of Christ. We are Christ’s active members in the world. Whatever gets done in the name of Jesus Christ, gets done by this body. We are the current incarnation of the living God. That means that we are called to be wheat. We are called to be the good grain, sown by the Creator God. That does not mean that we get to look at everyone else and accuse them of being tares, it means that we are called to produce the abundant harvest that Jesus spoke about. And it means that we should do all of this as Christ’s Body would do it – in love and in tolerance.
Cecilia is being inducted into this Body in just a few minutes. We should now be able to show her what being the healthy Body of Christ – the wheat in the field is all about. We should do everything in our power to help bring the Kingdom of God near, to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, heal the sick, visit the shut-in, and all with the joy that comes from living into God’s mission in the world.
So … I promise not to judge you or your faithfulness if you promise not to judge mine. Let’s live together in this portion of God’s wheat field, believe that we are surrounded by wheat – or at least that the tares in us might be converted to wheat before the harvest.