Future Harvest of Men
Another parable put He forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field: But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way. (St. Matt. 13:30)
5. It is appropriate that my homily should refer to this parable, for it provides a way for me to settle my debt and fulfil the promise I made to your charity in my last address. When I was teaching you about the reasonable and spiritual harvest, I pointed out that the reapers of that harvest of the spirit, which is the transformation from unbelief to faith, were the holy Apostles and the religious teachers who succeeded them in every generation down to our own. However, in the case of the reasonable harvest, which is the transition of each one of us from this life to the life to come, I said that the reapers were God's holy Angels, who have more to do than the Apostles, for after harvesting they sort out and separate the good from the wicked. The righteous they escort into God's kingdom, but they cast the wicked into hell-fire.
6. I mentioned this before without explaining, and promised that I would set out the evidence when God gave me utterance and opportunity, which this parable of the Lord will now conveniently provide. "When the Lord's servants", it says, "saw the tares in his field, they said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up? But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them. In the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them into bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (cf. Matt. 13:27-30).
7. The tares, as the Lord tells us, are the sons of the evil one. Due to the fact that their deeds resemble his, they bear his mark and are always his offspring and adopted children. Harvest time is when this world ends, because although the process of harvesting started long ago and is active today through death, it will be fully completed then. The reapers are Angels because they are servants of the heavenly King, especially on that occasion. "As therefore", it says, "the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man" - Who is the Son of the heavenly Father - "shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend" (Matt. 13:40-41). Our Lord Jesus Christ, as God, is Master of everything and King of both heaven and earth and what is above the heavens. Having, however, become man for our sake, destroyed the devil who had deceitfully enslaved our race, ransomed us through Himself and presented us to His own Father, He has the human race, and more especially the holy Church, drawn from all nations, as His kingdom.
8. So, "He shall send forth his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity" (Matt. 13:41), meaning heretics and those who do not give up sinful actions through repentance - for all sin is iniquity. When the angels have collected them, "they shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 13:42). Do you see, brethren, what a truly terrifying and dreadful harvest and separation this is? We were right to say that the angels were the reapers of this harvest, and that they had to do more than the Apostles. When the Lord's servants, God's angels, saw the tares in the field, that is to say, godless and evil people living alongside the good, and sharing in the life of Christ's Church, they said to the Lord, "Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?" (Matt. 13:28), in other words, Shall we remove them from the earth through death? The Lord, however, replied, "Nay, lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them" (Matt. 13:29).
9. If they had collected the tares, given the fact that they would have separated out the evil from the just even if they had cut them down together through death, how could wheat, good people, have been uprooted too? Many impious and sinful people, living alongside those who are godly and righteous, eventually change by means of repentance, learn to be pious and virtuous, and become wheat instead of tares.- So if they were carried off by the angels before they repented, wheat would be uprooted when the tares were gathered. Again, many evil people have children or grandchildren with good tendencies. That is why He Who knows all things before they come to pass did not allow the weeds to be pulled out before their time. "I n the time of harvest", He said, "I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to bum them: but gather the wheat into my barn" (Matt. 13:30).
10. This is exactly what the Lord says in another parable: "When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment: and he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless. Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 22:11-13). As in the first parable the tares were growing together with the good seed, so here someone clothed in the spoilt and dirty garment of sin was sitting down to eat with people wearing the bridal robe of good works. In the earlier passage the Lord commanded that the tares be bundled up first, then thrown into the fire. Now He first orders that the man be bound hand and foot, then that he be cast into outer darkness. In both cases He adds that there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, so hell-fire must be the same as outer darkness.
11. As that darkness is without any gleam of light, why is it not called "innermost" darkness rather than "outer"? God is the true, eternal light without evening, where the spirits of the just are now, and later the saints will dwell bodily. He is the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2). People who live impure, unjust lives are outside this Sun and its light even now, but in this life they do have the hope of repentance, and enjoy the light of the visible sun and the consolation of the rest of God's Creation, while the Lord in His love for mankind forbears, patiently awaiting their conversion. However, any who do not repent here will be deprived then of God's tolerance and long-suffering, and the pleasure of His visible Creation. They will find themselves much further away from God, bereft of hope, and will be handed over to eternal punishment. So they are without the true light now, but then, as we have said, they will be even further removed from it and will be delivered up to that darkness far outside the light, to unmitigated suffering and anguish. As the Apostle says, "The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance. But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God" (cf. Rom. 2:4-5).
The Homilies of St. Gregory Palamas, Volume II, Homily 27 pp. 58-62
|Back to: From the Holy Fathers|