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Constant Vigilance, Patience and Perseverance are Golden

Posted on:March 16th, 2021

 

LENTEN RETREAT

A TALK DELIVERED AT ST. AUGUSTINE'S CHAPLAINCY 2, MORONFOLU STREET, AKOKA, YABA, LAGOS ON THE 17TH OF MARCH, 2021.

BY: Rev. Fr. AKARAONYE Samuel Ifeanyi

 *Wisdom 12:13, 16-19, 2, Romans 8:26-27, Matthew 13:24-43*

 *Topic: Constant Vigilance, Patience and Perseverance are Golden.*

Wherever good things strive, there is often a challenge or negative reaction from the bad or evil. We see this happening in various areas of our human life especially when we embark on some meaningful and gainful projects. Generally, once there is a benevolent protagonist, there must be a malevolent villain who seeks to undo the good works of the protagonist; though he/she tries but will finally be outdone.

One of the primary functions of any fake thing is to try as much as possible to mirror the original. The end is to make an unsuspecting person to go for them instead of the original. We see this happening in the area of commerce where people are persuaded to buy fake products bearing the labels of the genuine ones.

We understand here that the enemy comes to the farmland with some strategic plans. The first approach is to pretend to be familiar and friendly with the original wheat seeds. 

The bad seeds come as the imitations of the original seeds. Notice that the weeds try to copy the wheat even by the sound of their names, “weeds and wheat.” Here we understand that the strategy of the enemy is to pretend to be friendly while working underneath with a destructive agenda.

The fact that many Christians today have allowed falsehood to permeate their lives in the multiplicity of churches attest to the importance of this parable. Constant vigilance, patience and perseverance to the end is what we need.

 *BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF THE READINGS*

In talking about the justice of God, the author of the Book of Wisdom, declares that the manifestation of the power of God teaches us the lesson that the virtuous must be kind to everyone; and also the undeniable truth that God allows time for our repentance.

Our Lord Jesus Christ in the gospel reading of (Matt.13:24-43). The parable is about a man who sowed GOOD SEEDS of WHEAT in his field but while MEN were SLEEPING his ENEMY came and sowed BAD SEEDS of WEEDS among the wheat. At the time of germination, both the wheat and the weed came up with similar sprouting blades. Thereafter the SERVANTS of the HOUSEHOLDER came and told him that weeds were found among the wheat and the man said an enemy had done that. And he further instructed them not to uproot the weeds until the time of the HARVEST when the weeds would first be gathered and burnt while the wheat would be harvested and stored in the barn. Jesus uses the parable of the good seed and the darnel to instruct us on the goodness of God that is sown in us, and the expectation that the divine seed would take root and bear fruits in us. It teaches us to accept with peace of mind the presence of evil in the world, and invited us to recognize the weeds in our own hearts. It assures us that God's love will one day destroy it. The second reading speaks of the Spirit that prays for us, beseeching the Father to destroy all evil.

It will be helpful to us in this reflection to  examine some of the major particulars used in the parable in an exegetical style to drive home our points one by one.

THE GOOD SEEDS OF WHEAT: In the first place, there are GOOD SEEDS and they are those of WHEAT. Our Lord disclosed in the explanation he gave later that they represent the sons (and daughters) of the kingdom. It is good to establish here that the good seeds do not mean only those who go to church or who belong to one particular group or denomination or another as some people would erroneously interpret.

The good seeds represent those who not only recognize God as their creator but also obey Him and rely trustfully on Him. They are those who love God above all and also love their neighbours (Mark 12:30-31). They are those who are worthy to climb the mountain of the Lord and stand before Him; those with clean hands and pure hearts and without deceit (Psalm 24:3-4). Those who have made a choice to be on God’s side.

THE BAD SEEDS OF THE WEED

These are those whose intentions include but not restricted to bringing on darkness, sin and damnation to the world. They include both the human and spiritual agents of the devil. They can be found everywhere mixing up with the good. In fact sometimes they appear to be more credible than the real people.

They can even be found in the church holding exotic positions and commanding respect. They often appear to be very religious though they have no spirituality. They are, going by another biblical designation, “wolves in sheep clothing” (Matt. 7:15).

THE HARVEST: This has to do with God’s own judgment which is always unlike the human judgment. One thing that keeps bothering me is whether all the good seeds survived the destructive and competitive presence of the weeds before the harvest. The answer is NO. Of course there is every reason to imagine that some of those good seeds gave up in the heat of that competition. The same situation can be seen in our context. We are in the world coexisting with the good and the bad. Survival and salvation can only come through our reliance on the grace of God which in turn is always sufficient for us.

THE HOUSEHOLDER: The householder can be pictured as the one sitting above all and watching the entire drama. He knew all that happened from the beginning to the end. He knew when the enemy came, he knew that those who were to keep watch were asleep and he also knew when the servants made the discovery. For him the report of the servants was not a strange one that was why he said immediately and correctly: “an enemy has done this”, and went further to give instructions as to what should be done to save the good (wheat) and discard the bad (weeds).

THE SERVANTS: This set of people could be called MEN AWAKE. They are the ones that discovered the weeds that were growing alongside with the wheat and alerted the householder. They are called servants because they were at their duty posts and were able to see what the others could not see.

There is need for us to pause and ask ourselves some pertinent questions. “Are we among the good or among the bad?” The word of God says that by their fruits you shall know them (Matt. 7:20). The question above is needful as it is very important. Most significantly there is need for us to take a stand. There is nothing like being here and there at the same time. Our stand or position would determine the kind of harvest that we will make.

There would be a need for us to be awake to overcome the destructive plan of the enemy. Remember that the enemy struck while people were sleeping. It is deplorable that in our day and age, most people who should be awake to their responsibilities are sleeping away. We now have sleeping parents, teachers, mentors, leaders, and even priests and church ministers.

Most things are falling out of their rightful places in our world today because someone who should be awake is sleeping. Let us remember that the first quality of a faithful servant is vigilance as our Lord Jesus Christ mentioned in the Gospel of Luke (12:37).

Being awake to responsibility should come with prayers. We understand that the enemy is the devil, and that means the weapon of our warfare should not be carnal but should have divine powers to uproot the strongholds and arguments of the evil one (2 Cor. 10:4-5).

Wherever Jesus goes the devil also appears- The devil notices at once those who are capable of weakening or destroying his empire. The he awakens the bad, the mediocre, the foolish and the I'll fated against them.

 KINDS OF DEMONIAC ATTACK

Physical Disorders – causing physical pain and suffering to the victim not due to health

o   Bruising and lacerations occur sometimes

o   At times the victim doesn’t necessarily need exorcism but only prayers for cases when the victim leads a holy life. St. John Mary Vianney for instance was struck several times by the devil and thrown out of his bed. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina had to have stitches put above his eyebrows because he smashed his head on the pavement when the demon threw him out of bed. In these cases, the victims were holy persons and demons would want to annoy and distract them from doing good.

·         Vexation – a person not possessed by the demon but suffers for he is struck in his affections, goods, health; a good example would be Job (Job 1:1-22) who’s a good person but God allowed Satan to make him suddenly poor, lose his family, be covered in sores from head to toe, to prove that Job will not denounce God despite everything bad that happened to him

·         Diabolic Oppression – a kind of demonic harassment where a person might experience some signs including but not limited to the following:

o   Severe and repeated temptations

o   Foul odors not caused by anything natural

o   Objects being moved

o   Seeing shadow figures

o   Hearing things such as knocking, being called by name, etc.

o   Inciting fear, worry and panic

·         Diabolic Obsession – the signs are the same as diabolic oppression but more severe; in many severe cases, the victim loses contact with family, friends, neighbors- the person in short becomes isolated, whether physically or emotionally; below are some more symptoms:

o   reasoning becomes confused or somewhat bizarre

o   hopelessness

o   feeling of isolation

o   insomnia

o   bizarre and lewd nightmares

o   severe depression

o   hearing voices

o   suicidal thoughts and/or attempts

o   thoughts or attempts to hurt others

o   lewd thoughts

·         Diabolic Possession – the most serious of demonic attacks; gives the impression that the demon is inside the person’s body at times talking through the person’s mouth and/or using the other parts of his body; some possessed people can function but have many problems while others can’t function at all 

·         Diabolic Infestation – the presence of demon/s in an object or place (ex. haunted house)

·         Diabolic Subjugation or Dependence – also called voluntary possession because the person involved intentionally invites a demon to possess him in order to obtain wealth, power, knowledge, and other worldly things (ex. a Satanic worshipper asking to be possessed).

Apart from the devil, there are two other enemies we should overcome before the harvest, and they are human enemies who come as friends. We should be careful how we keep the doors of our lives open to people who might have hideous plans like the weeds. The enemies in this category often come as friends. The scriptures call them wolves in sheep clothing (Matt.7:15).

The last enemy would be ourselves. We become enemies unto ourselves from the type of decisions and choices we make. Some of the good seeds may have died because they decided to give up striving in the face of the challenges of the weeds.

What we can conclude from today’s episode is that despite how long evil persists (like the weeds), despite how challenging it may be, and despite how evil will hide, there is always an end to everything. From the three parables, there is always a time of reckoning, a time of judgment and a time of harvest. Despite how strong and mighty we think we are in this world, let us not forget that our end is certain and everything we think we possess will vanish into the thin air. Despite how strong evil today becomes, evil can never conquer good, it can only exist in the world and probably think everything is in its  power, not knowing it is enjoying God's benevolence but at last Goodness will still have the victory. So stay inspired, be faithful and remain blessed, there is always light at the tunnel. And may the grace of God continue to abide with us so that we remain untouched and unaffected by the corrosive schemes of the bad seeds and may we continue to grow and enlarge till the time of harvest. Amen.