yesterday and today we have listened to the words of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
recounting the parables of the Sower. You
who listened yesterday, will today recall them to mind. Yesterday
we read of the Sower who while he scattered the seed some fell by the wayside,
and the birds seized it; and some fell upon stony ground, and it withered
in the heat; and some fell among thorns, and was choked, and did not reach
to bearing fruit. And some fell on good ground and bore fruit: some
a hundredfold, some sixtyfold, and some thirtyfold.
The Tares and the Wheat
ST. AUGUSTINE, BISHOP AND DOCTOR
Translated by M.F. Toale, D.D.
(PL 38, Sermo 73.)
Today the Lord relates another parable, again relating to the Sower,
who sowed good seed in his field. While men slept an enemy came and
oversowed it with tares. While the tares were yet green they were
not detected, but when the fruit of the good seed began to appear, then
the tares revealed themselves. The master’s servants were angry,
seeing the weed standing thick amid the true grain, and they desired to
uproot it at once, but were not permitted. But it was said to them,
suffer both to grow until the harvest. The Lord Christ also
explained this parable, saying, that He was the Sower of the Good Seed,
that the devil was the enemy, the sower of tares, the harvest was the end
of time and His field the world.
But hear what He says: 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. Why hasten then, zealous servants,
He says? See you not that the tares stand in the midst of the good
growth, and you wish to uproot the bad? Remain quiet, it is not yet
the time of harvest. Let it come, and let it reveal to you the true wheat.
Why need you be angry? Why are you impatient that the bad should
now be mixed with the good? They may be among you in the field, but
in My barn they shall not be with you.
2. Recall the three places that were spoken of yesterday, where the
seed grew not, the wayside, the stony ground, the thorny ground.
The tares are the same as these. In another similitude they receive but
another name. Because when one speaks in parables it is not an attempt
to describe the properties of a thing, or some truth, but to convey a likeness
of a truth. What I am here saying I know that few have understood,
but we must speak for the good of all. In the visible things a wayside
is a wayside, stony places are stony places, thorny places are thorny places.
‘What they are, they are; because they are spoken of according to their
literal meaning. But in parables and figures one thing can be called
by many names. And so it is not out of place for me to say to you
that the wayside, the stony places, the thorny places, are weak Christians;
and that they are likewise tares. For is not Christ a Lamb?
And is He not also a Lion? Among wild animals and domestic that which
is a lamb is a lamb, and a lion is a lion. Christ is both.
They are what they are by nature. He is both in figure.
It happens also in a similitude that things widely dissimilar are called
by the same name. What is so widely dissimilar as Christ and the
devil? Yet Christ is called a lion, and so also is the devil.
Of Christ the Lion it is written: Behold the Lion of the tribe
of Juda (Apoc. v. 5); and of the devil: your adversary the devil,
as a roaring lion, goeth about seeking whom he may devour (I Pet. v.
8). Therefore the One is a Lion, and the other is a lion. The
One is a Lion in strength, the other a lion in ferocity. The devil
likewise is a serpent, that old serpent (Apoc. xii. 9). Are
we bidden to imitate the devil when Our Shepherd said to us, Be ye therefore
wise as serpents and simple as doves (Mt. xii. 16)?
3. And yesterday I spoke of the wayside, I spoke of the stony ground,
and of the thorny ground, and I said, be ye changed while ye may: break
up the hard ground with the plough, cast the stones from the field: root
out the thorns. Keep not your hearts hardened within you, where the
word of God quickly perishes. Be not shallow soil, where charity
takes no deep root. Smother not the good seed, sown among you with
our labour, with the cares and the greed of this world. For it is
the Lord who sows, we are but His labourers. But be ye good ground.
We said yesterday, and we say it again today, to you all: let one man bring
forth fruit a hundredfold, another sixty-fold, another thirty. In
one man there is greater fruit, in another there is less: but all shall
enter into My barn.
Yesterday I spoke to you in these words. Today I speak to the
tares; but the sheep of the flock are themselves the tares. O unworthy
Christians! You that fill the Church and at the same time torment
it by the wickedness of your lives. Correct your ways before the
time of the harvest! Be not like those who said: I have sinned,
and what harm hath befallen me? (Ecclus. v. 4). God has not lost
His power but He requires of you repentance. This I say to the wicked,
who are likewise Christians; this I say to the tares. For they are
yet standing in the field: and it may be that they who today are tares
may tomorrow become good wheat. And now I address myself to the wheat.
O you Christians whose lives are worthy. You weep, few amid the
multitude: you mourn, few among the many. But the winter will pass,
and the summer will come, and lo! it will be harvest time. The Angels
will come, who can divide the one from the other, and they will not err.
We at this time are like to the servants, of whom it is written: Wilt
thou that we go and gather it? For we are anxious that, if it
were possible, nothing that was evil should remain among the good.
But it was said to us: Suffer both to grow until the harvest.
Why so? Because such as you are liable to error. Listen: Lest
perhaps gathering up the cockle, you root up the wheat also with it.
What good can you do? Will you not rather destroy my crop with your
rashness? The reapers will be coming: and He explains who the reapers
are: The reapers are angels. We are but men, but the reapers
are Angels. We too, if we finish our course, shall be like unto the
angels: but now, though we are angry with the wicked, we are ourselves
still men. And we should remember this: He that thinketh himself
to stand, let him take heed lest he fall (I Cor. x. 12).
And do you think, my Brethren, that the tares do not reach to these
high seats? Do you think they are all down among you, and none here
above? That we may not be such! But to me it is a small
thing to be judged by you (I Cor. iv. 3). But I tell Your Charity,
that in these high seats there are good wheat, and there are tares; as
among the people there are good wheat, and there are tares. Let the
good be patient with the wicked; let those who do evil change their ways,
and become as the good. Let us all, if possible, come unto God.
May we all through His mercy escape the wickedness of this world.
Let us seek good days, for we are in the midst of days that are
evil: but in these wicked days let us not blaspheme, that we may reach
unto the good days.
Turning then with contrite hearts to the Lord our God, the Father Almighty,
let us as best we can give thanks with all our hearts beseeching Him that
in His goodness He will graciously hearken to our prayers, and by His power
drive evil from our thoughts and actions, increase our faith, guide our
minds, grant unto us His holy inspirations, and bring us to joy that is
without end, through His Son Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.