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  • Writer's pictureFr. Scott Haynes

Wheat and Tares Together Sown

Fr. Scott A. Haynes

“At that time, Jesus spoke this parable to the crowds: The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. And when the blade sprang up and brought forth fruit, then the weeds appeared as well. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ And the servants said to him, ‘Will you have us go and gather them up?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will say to the reapers: Gather up the weeds first, and bind them in bundles to burn; but gather the wheat into my barns.’”[1]

For the modern reader, understanding the parable of the wheat and the tares may take some effort, because contemporary man is more familiar with the city’s concrete jungle than the farm’s amber fields of grain. Simply put, wheat is good, and tares are bad. The most common tares (i.e., weeds) that can plague wheat fields are called “darnel.” In common parlance “darnel” is called “cheat.” So, we can call this the parable of the “wheat” and the “cheat.”

Whereas wheat looks like a thick-bladed grass when it is young and green, cheat is a native rye grass whose species name is lolium temulentum. When “cheat” is young, it looks just like the wheat. However, when it matures, it can be distinguished from the wheat. Wheat has value, but cheat is a nuisance. The cheat looks nourishing, but is actually poisonous, and can cause death. Therefore, it is destined for death. The Latin word for this darnel or cheat (lolium) indicates that it is “filled with toxin.”

In this parable, the wheat of the field represents the faithful followers of Christ, while the tares (cheat) stand for the false followers, who look similar in appearance. If we read the next few verses in this parable from St. Matthew’s Gospel, we come to learn that the man who sewed the good seed, the farmer, is representative of God the Father, just as the farmhands stand for the angels who will separate the wheat and the tares on the Day of Judgement. Just as cheat bears a close resemblance to wheat until it comes to fruition and the ear appears, in like manner, false discipleship and true discipleship may appear to be the same at the beginning, but as Scripture says:

“By their fruits you will know them.”[2]

At harvesttime, the ears on the wheat are so heavy that plant droops downward, but tares (cheat), whose ears are light, stands up straight. In like manner, true fruitfulness in the Christian life comes with the weight of the Cross. False Christianity denies the Cross and turns away from suffering and sacrifice, because it is not united the salvific work of Christ. At the time of harvest, the wheat appears as a beautiful golden brown when ripe, whereas the tares blacken, reminding us of what the Son of Man will do at the Last Day with those who have wrought corruption and evil in the Church.

“[He] shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”[3]

As we examine the wheat and the cheat in this parable, we refer to the Book of Genesis for more background. In Genesis 3, we see that just after Adam commits the original sin, God questions Adam. In turn, Adam blames Eve. God questions Eve and Eve blames the serpent. This was the first-time men and women played the blame game. But then God then addressed the serpent:

“And the Lord God said to the serpent: Because thou hast done this thing, thou art cursed among all cattle, and beasts of the earth: upon thy breast shalt thou go, and earth shalt thou eat all the days of thy life. I will put enmities between thee and the woman, and thy seed and her seed: she shall crush thy head, and thou shalt lie in wait for her heel.”[4]

Understanding that the serpent is Satan, we know the woman alluded to here in Genesis is the New Eve, Mary, the spiritual mother of all the elect of God. The seed of Satan are all reprobate who are not part of God’s elect. God proclaims to Satan that He will put enmity between him and the Woman’s seed. That is no surprise. But then God tells Satan there will be enmity between his seed and the Woman’s seed. But women do not have seed; men do. Women have ovaries, and eggs—not seed. The Book of Genesis, nonetheless, refers to the “seed” of the Woman. In Genesis 3:15, this phrase, “the Woman’s seed” is pointing to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Whereas you and I get our DNA from our mother and father, Jesus gets his entire DNA from only one parent, Mary.[5] Our Savior who comes solely from the seed of ever Virgin Mary.

Because Jesus our Savior comes from seed of the New Eve, Mary, Satan hates not only Jesus but also Our Lady. At the Annunciation, Mary gives Satan a mighty blow when she gave God her humble fiat.[6] Mary’s “yes” to God brought us our Messiah and Redeemer. When Satan bruised Jesus’ heel on Calvary, the serpent thought he had given Christ a fatal blow. But when He rose triumphantly on the third day, Jesus crushed Satan’s head—a fatal blow!

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”[7]

The seed of the Woman mentioned in Genesis also includes us, the elect, who are reborn by water and word through faith in Jesus Christ.[8] At the Annunciation, Mary became Christ’s own Mother. From His Cross, Jesus lovingly looks down upon Mary and bids her to gaze upon His beloved disciple, John, and says, “Woman, behold your son.”[9] There on Calvary, Jesus makes Mary the Mother of the Church, the spiritual mother of every Christian.

If we, as the children of God, are the wheat, who are the tares? If we are the wheat, who are the cheat? St. Matthew states:

“The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil.”[10]

These are the hypocrites who wear masks of virtue to disguise a life of secret sin. From the beginning we have had wheat and tares in the Church side by side. At the Last Supper, Judas Iscariot, on the night of his ordination, betrayed Christ with a kiss. Those false friends of Christ are found in the Church in every age. In the fourth century, St. Basil the Great wrote a letter to Pope St. Damasus I complaining of those who twist the truth and choke the faith:

“Nearly all the East (from Illyricum to Egypt) is being agitated…by a terrible storm and tempest. The old heresy, sown by Arius the enemy of truth, has now boldly and unblushingly reappeared. Like some sour root, it is producing deadly fruit and is prevailing. The reason is that in every district the champions of orthodoxy have been exiled from their churches by calumny and outrage, and the control of affairs has been handed over to men who are leading captive the souls of the simpler brethren.”

In fighting the Arians, St. Basil was contending with those who denied the divinity of Christ. But the Arians did this in a clever way to confuse the average Catholics, who did not understand the nuance of this heresy. Using scriptural language, they referred to Jesus as the Lord, the Alpha and the Omega, the Son of God. However, the Arians emptied those titles of their true meaning because they taught that Jesus was created in time and that there was a time when he did not exist. This won many adherents because it appealed to the rationalism of popular (Greek) culture.

Seventeen centuries later, we can see a similar phenomenon today. False teachers will take words which have deep roots in the Christian tradition and will use them in ways which empties their significance. Until very recently no one debated the meaning of the words, “marriage” and “family.” Now our culture wishes to use them in a radically different sense. Another example is the word “choice.” Our culture has redefined “choice” as moral license, falsely justifying the idea that you can do whatever you want “so long as no one gets hurt.” It is particularly tragic when “choice” means the license to take the life of another human being. How do faithful Christians live in such a world, surround by tares and cheat? St. Augustine advises us:

“O you Christians, whose lives are good, you sigh and groan as being few among many. The winter will pass away, the summer will come; lo! The harvest will soon be here. The angels will come who can make the separation, and who cannot make mistakes... I tell you of a truth, my Beloved, even in these high seats [of the bishops] there is both wheat, and tares, and among the laity there is wheat, and tares. Let the good tolerate the bad; let the bad change themselves, and imitate the good. Let us all, if it may be so, attain to God; let us all through His mercy escape the evil of this world…to arrive at the good days.”[11]

Satan daily attacks God’s Kingdom through infiltration, by planting imitators in the Church. In time, their true colors are seen, when all comes to light. In the meanwhile, their presence is poison within the Church. Christ’s faithful must be on guard. The Book of Proverbs teaches:

“Evil men think not on judgment: but they that seek after the Lord, take notice of all things.”[12]

Just as the wheat barn is a place of security—a place free from frost or fire, from mold and mildew—so too is the harvest Christ gathers into Heaven free from all corruption. The angels’ work of gathering the wheat into the barn will not be completed until the Last Day, but from hour to hour, the saints are gathered. They are going heavenward even now.

Come, ye thankful people, come

Raise the song of harvest home;

All is safely gathered in

Ere the winter storms begin

God our Maker doth provide

For our wants to be supplied;

Come to God's own temple, come

Raise the song of harvest home

All the world is God's own field

Fruit unto His praise to yield;

Wheat and tares together sown

Unto joy or sorrow grown

First the blade and then the ear

Then the full corn shall appear;

Lord of harvest, grant that we

Wholesome grain and pure may be

For the Lord our God shall come

And shall take His harvest home;

From His field shall in that day

All offenses purge away

Giving angels charge at last

In the fire the tares to cast;

But the fruitful ears to store

In His garner evermore

Even so, Lord, quickly come

Bring Thy final harvest home;

Gather Thou Thy people in

Free from sorrow, free from sin

There, forever purified

In Thy garner to abide;

Come, with all Thine angels come

Raise the glorious harvest home.


[1] Matthew 13:24-30. [2] Matthew 7:16. [3] Matthew 13:50. [4] Genesis 3:14-15. [5] Rev. Mitch Pacwa, Mary: Virgin, Mother and Queen (Fort Wayne—South Bend: Our Sunday Visitor Press, 2013), Lesson 2: Annunciation. [6] At the Annunciation, Mary’s Fiat was a turning point in the salvation history of mankind. The Archangel Gabriel was sent by God to announce to Holy Virgin that she was chosen to be the Theotokos (Mother of God). In reply Mary said: “Ecce ancilla Domini, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.” “Behold the handmaid of the Lord. Let it be done to me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38a). [7] 1 Corinthians 15:54. [8] Ephesians 5:26. [9] John 19:26. [10] Matthew 13:38. [11] St. Augustine of Hippo, Sermon 23 on the New Testament. [12] Proverbs 28:5.


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