The Epistle today gives us the community virtues, how those regenerated by faith and baptism must live together in unity, forbearance, forgiveness, in peace and thanksgiving, a word which, in the Greek, is eucharistoi, suggesting the Eucharist, worshipping together, giving honor to God through Christ. We are well to remember these qualities and this life which bring us grace and bear witness to the redemption of Christ in the world.
However, it takes on a new meaning when, in the genius of the traditional Missal, this reading is paired with the Gospel, which asks how we are to respond when error arises, or, as St. Augustine comments, any other obstacle or works of iniquity in our mission.
The disciples, recognizing the weeds among the wheat, ask our Lord if they should pull the weeds out, and the Lord replies, no, lest they pull up the wheat with them. Let both grow until harvest, the last judgment. The early church fathers see three implications in this. It shows the Lord’s mercy. He leaves room for repentance. It is a tenet of our faith that God, who is always pouring out his grace upon us, makes every moment a moment of grace for us, of conversion, repentance, and change. In any moment, we may turn to Him for help. St. Augustine gives the disciples credit that they are discerning, true to our faith and way of life, and have not allowed themselves to be disturbed by error. They are not to quickly dismiss their brother. They are to correct, as the Epistle says, and to bear witness to the truth in charity, so that those who would turn out good may not perish. And for what they cannot accomplish, they are to live in peace, knowing that, at the end, when there is no more time to change, He will judge justly. And the wheat, the good seed which has been planted, the Church, will prevail. It will withstand error and scandal, and will never be overcome. The Lord has been crucified and is risen. He can never die again. And so, His body, the church, as the Epistle calls it, shares that risen life, and will persevere to its fulfillment.
The traditional Missal brings this Resumed Fifth Sunday after Epiphany forward into the season of Pentecost, to fill the remaining Sundays before the end of the liturgical year. It begs the question of the relationship between Epiphany and Pentecost. Epiphany means “manifestation.” The Lord was manifested to the nations when the Magi came to acknowledge the newborn King if the Jews with gifts. At Pentecost, the apostles were heard in all languages as the Holy Ghost descended upon them, the Church was born, and their mission begun of proclaiming Christ to the ends of the earth. There are many manifestations of our Lord. His birth is a manifestation, the resurrection is a manifestation, Pentecost is a manifestation, and the Church and its mission is a manifestation of Christ in the world.
In today’s parable, our Lord calls Himself the kingdom of heaven. He says the kingdom of heaven is like a man who planted good seed. He is the man, God made man, who plants the good seed. And so we, implanted by the Lord, sharing His life in truth, charity, and all the good virtues of those transformed by faith and the sacraments, against whatever may come, press forward to the fullness of the kingdom of heaven.