Transcription of Homily
5th Sunday After Epiphany
Wheat Field with Cornflowers, Van Gogh, 1890.
Translation of the Epistle for the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany.
Brethren, put ye on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, the bowels of mercy, benignity, humility, modesty, patience; bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if any have a complaint against another; even as the Lord hath forgiven you, so do you also. But above all these things, have charity, which is the bond of perfection: and let the peace of Christ rejoice in your hearts, when also you are called in one body and be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God. All whatsoever you do in word or work, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, giving thanks to God, and the Father by Jesus Christ our Lord.
A continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew.
At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to the multitudes: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed good seed in his field. But while men were asleep, his enemy came, and oversowed cockle among the wheat, and went his way. And when the blade was sprung up, and had brought forth fruit, then appeared also the cockle. And the servants of the good man of the house coming, said to him: Sir, didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence, then, hath it cockle? And he said to them: An enemy bath done this. And the servants said to him: Wilt thou that we go and gather it up? And he said: No, lest perhaps, gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. Suffer both to grow until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn.
At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to the multitudes: The kingdom of heaven is likened to a man that sowed good seed in his field. But while men were asleep, his enemy came and oversold cockle among the wheat, and went his way. And when the blade was sprung up, and it brought forth fruit, then appeared also the cockle. And the servants of the good man of the house coming, said to him: Sir, did though not sow good seed in thy field? Whence then have it cockle? And he said to them: An enemy hath done this. And the servents said to him: Will thou that we go and gather it up? And he said: No, less perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also together with it. Suffer both to grow into the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle, and bind it into bundles to burn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn.
Suffer both to grow until the harvest.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
Our Lord begins this parable with a seemingly slight difference in vocabulary. Often, He usually says, before His parable of the Kingdom, the kingdom of heaven is like, and then He gives us the comparison and embellishes on why He says that. [In the Gospel] He doesn’t use the normal word hōmoi, which means like. Rather, He says, hōmoiōthē, which means it is made like. In other words, He’s talking about something that is immediate. There is a, this is a Semitic turn of a phrase, which means this as it appears now to men. So His Kingdom then is the fruit of His preaching. As He speaks, then, His Kingdom is made present. And we see this also in Genesis how our Lord brings things into existence through His word, because He is the Word and words, therefore, are creative or destructive; words are blessings or curses.
And so our Lord makes this little change, because He’s going to be speaking about something that is very urgent for us to understand, and it’s immediate. It’s not something that’s going to be coming later. This is something that is present to us right now. And in it, we see the fruits of His own self-emptying.
In Philippians 2:6, our Lord, He is described as having emptied Himself, kénōsis. That’s the word that Paul uses; you don’t find that word anywhere else in Scripture. kénōsis, the self-emptying of God; it’s a, it’s a radical concept. And this is what He does in the incarnation; His self emptying. And in a certain sense, He’s saying that self-emptying, as we see in this Gospel, becomes the new structure for the Kingdom of Heaven. Why? Because up until now, the Kingdom of Heaven has been the Godhead and angels. And now He’s saying that it belongs to us. We’ve been invited to participate. We’ve been invited to be members of this kingdom. Fallen Children of Adam, are invited to be members of this heavenly kingdom. This is radical humility on the side of our Lord, and it should fill our hearts With with great trust in Him, in His goodness, in His willingness to forgive us so as to bring us to be with Him forever.
Thomas Aquinas speaks about what’s called the principle of plēnum, or continuity. What is that? He’s saying, he says that, because of all of creation, there is a fullness in everything our Lord made. And so we see this in the material world of minerals, vegetables, animals, and then we have this hybrid of matter and spirit called the human person. And He says, and as a result, it would only make sense that there would also be a series of existing things that are pure spirits. And so Thomas tells us that the existence of angels is actually a logical reality and something that we didn’t need Revelation in order to know. He said, it just makes sense. So that means that all of creation, visible and invisible, then is on a gradation.
Now, think of how many angels there were at the beginning of creation. If all of our guardian angels come from the smallest choir, and they’re not recyclable. So from Adam, up until the last person conceived, each one has a non-reusable guardian angel. That’s a lot of angels. And then you go up the chain of the nine choirs, and each choir is larger than the last. And 1/3 of them fell. That’s a lot of demons; a lot of angels, a lot of demons. And this principle of plēnum, the fullness/continuity. now is disrupted, because we have all of these vacancies in heaven. And so this is the role of the saints, right? To pass the test, that those apostate angels did not pass in order to occupy those heavenly places. So that creation will be full again.
And this is what Thomas tells us, is the reason for our blessed vocation to heaven. The angels’ test was immediate, you know. Thomas talks about three instances; there’s the incidence of existence, in which all they had was existence and the ability to choose. The second instance is the moment of choice. So as soon as they were created, they were fully developed. Okay, angels don’t, you know, you don’t have embryonic angels, and then toddler angels, and then angels with like, teenage drama, and then midlife crisis, okay. When they’re created, they’re pure spirits. They are complete. Okay, nothing missing. And they have infused in their intellect, everything they have to know about their future mission. And so their simple test was: Will you, kind of like the old Mission Impossible series, will you accept this mission? And not only that, they’re not Pelagians. Okay, so they were created in a state of grace. And they were also were not semi-Pelagians. They were given actual grace in order to pass the test. So they had everything going for them, except for their choice. That was the missing thing. Our Lord put them to the test. And that test was an immediate test. 1/3 of them, we know that from Revelation 12, 1/3 of them fell. Our test lasts our whole life long and that’s why we can grow in holiness, we can decrease in holiness, we can lose holiness.
So how holy will we be at the moment of our death; at the moment of the divorce of body and soul? That is what is going to determine my place in heaven or elsewhere; that will determine it all. And that’s going to be static. There’s no growth in charity once we die. We don’t, we can’t merit anything once we die. They [the demons] had one test. How many tests do you and I have? As many moments as we have in our life, that’s how many tests we have. When we make the right choice for Christ, and that becomes a habit, Thomas tells us that virtue is its own reward, there’s a certain joy that comes from doing what is good. That’s how we know we have a virtue.
Now, there’s this interesting difference in verbs, where it says the man sowed good seed in his field, but then the enemy came and epespeiren, he oversewed, superseminavit we heard in Latin, superseminavit, but he sewed on top of. What does this mean? The devil is a parasite. And he cannot create a world; the field is not his. All he can do is destroy. All they can do is glom on to what is good, what already exists and viciate that. We see this also in our own culture, and parts of it that are more anti-culture than culture – think of the woke movies. How many of these movies take an old narrative, that comes from human tradition, and they switch it up. They haven’t created anything, all they’ve done is destroyed. So, you find that with socialism, you find that with feminism, you find that with woke-ism. All of these -isms, that are not of Christ, ultimately they glom on to what is good and then they suck the energy out of it. They suck what’s good out of it. That’s what we see with these weeds, the cockles. They come into the soil and they suck the good soil of its energy and they dry up the soil so that the good wheat can’t thrive.
And so part of the reason for this interchange, this living together with demons and with evil people, is God’s punishment of demons. After the curse of Satan, our Lord said, you will eat dust. Remember that in Genesis 3:18? You will eat dust what does that mean? Dust is the word that was just used previously for the creation of man. Means that he’s going to be immersed in our reality. And so this immersion in reality is part of his punishment. He hates us so much and God says, You hate them that much. Okay? Now you got to hang out with them. Now you’re with them. And so for him, it’s a punishment, for us as a test.
If we weren’t tested, we couldn’t grow in virtue. If we weren’t tested, we couldn’t advance in holiness. And so for us, it’s an opportunity. What am I doing with the opportunity? We ought not bemoaned that we’re tempted. We ought not bemoan or cry and lament that we have difficulties. Our difficulties are meant to serve us. So if you want an easy life, we haven’t understood the Gospel. Our Lord did not say pick up your picnic basket and follow me. Okay? He wants us to be configured with Him and Him crucified.
Part of His kénōsis is self-emptying, so that in emptying ourselves of ourselves, He can take true possession of us. Paul uses that word as well. Again, Christ took possession of me it’s really beautiful. Katalepois the word he uses. He took possession of me, but a beautiful image where Christ takes possession of us and nonetheless, our free our will is still free, but it’s freed up by His grace. So that’s our task to pass this test which lasts as long as our life lasts: this life.
In the name of the Father to the Son, the Holy Ghost.