The WORD in other words by Fr Herbert Bubi Scholz SVD – Steyl, Holland
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – C
Drugs are a serious problem in the Philippines. Drug use and drug dealing ruin persons, families, and society. There is an urgent need to fight drugs. When President Duterte took office, he unleashed a “war on drugs.” Some consider it as successful. Others point to the seven to ten thousand persons killed in raids, often young, unarmed, only “small fry.” And all killed without judicial process, i.e., extrajudicial killings (EJK).
This war on drugs looks very much like the procedure proposed by the servants in today’s Gospel. “Pull the weeds up,” eliminate the bad people. But the owner stops them. “You might also destroy the wheat,” you might destroy the innocent and the less guilty along with the real culprits.
Bad people, bad things, masamang damo (weeds): Why are they around? How should we deal with them? The officials of the country, teachers in school, and parents in the family should ask those questions. Jesus’ gospel story shows us the way. Of course, it is not a handbook for fighting crime.
The Gospel clarifies that one big blow will not stop drugs or other problems. Violence and war will eliminate people, often the innocent, along with, or even instead of, the bad. But they won’t solve the problem.
Let us note, however, that Jesus does not advocate “doing nothing.” That is shown clearly in Jesus’ parable of the fig tree. For three years, an owner comes looking for fruit on his fig tree but finds none. But when he orders the tree to be cut down. the caretaker objects. “Give it one more chance; I’ll put fertilizer. If that has no effect, cut it down.” Jesus teaches that God is patient. We should give people a chance to change. We should create conditions favorable to what is good: prevention, education, and rehabilitation. We should not kill people hastily or unjustly. Each case should be examined carefully. A youth using drugs is undoubtedly less guilty than a big drug dealer.
In the story of the weeds among the wheat, the weeds, meaning the bad, are entirely eliminated, but only at the end. Our efforts won’t succeed in eliminating all bad things. But, as the story shows, evil will not prevail. God and the good are sure of final victory.
Saint Arnold Janssen, very experienced in dealing with unreliable and undisciplined persons, made a very practical summary of today’s gospel in what he called “our golden rule.” He said: “People are children of God. Just as God lovingly cares for them, endures their faults, but seeks to improve them, so we also will do.”