The kingdom of God is like to a man that sowed good seed in his field. But in the night when all slept, the enemy came and over it sowed cockle and spoiled all the work. We can easily see what will happen, when, over the good seed, bad is sown. The whole future crop will be ruined to a certainty.
This good husbandman, who cultivated his land so carefully, is God, our most loving Saviour, who came to redeem us and give His life for us. The field in which the good seed falls is the world; but you can take it to be your heart also, and the enemy who sows cockle is the devil. What happened to the field also happens to us. God is the good husbandman of our souls. What good seed does He not sow in us? Holy inspirations, holy thoughts, thoughts to do what is right, to make progress in fervor and devotion, and in His holy love.
He also sows good seed in our hearts when He comes to dwell there in holy communion. He produces there every virtue and takes away every vice. But rare indeed are the youths who joyfully receive the good seed which Our Lord plants. On the contrary, many desire the bad. They even invite the devil to come, and give him perfect liberty to do as he pleases. The result is bad thoughts, most perverse desires, a disgust for all that is good, bad actions, a life of wickedness, so that if you could take a look into their hearts you would see an otherwise pleasant field filled with brambles and thorns and covered with poisonous plants. When does this sower of bad seed come to do this mischief ? He does it at night, when people are not watchful; when they are idle and inclined to sleep; not caring to strengthen themselves with prayer and the use of the sacraments; when with all their might they do not fly the occasions of sin; in short when they fall asleep in the practice of virtue. It is then that the enemy secretly enters. Ah, my
dear young people, watch most carefully that the devil may find no entrance to do this evil to your innocent hearts. He has a trick of making his bad work look insignificant, but soon the seed will take such deep root that it will be almost impossible to eradicate the evil. The devil needs very little to gain possession of your souls. A little concession on your part is all he wants. In fact the devil needed nothing more from David than a look from afar. Could he ask less from so saintly a man, the favorite of almighty God? St. Francis of Assisi once said to his companions,
"Do not let the devil have a hold of a single hair of your head, for no sooner has he that in hand than he will drag you to anything." Great is the care we must exercise, then, in avoiding the snares laid for us. But, St. Bernard says, the devil can harm only those who wish to be harmed. After the field had received this double sowing, every day it showed more plainly that there had been bad work done. The servants saw this and full of affiction they hastened to the master and said,
"Didst thou not sow good seed in thy field? whence then hath it cockle?" The lord answered,
"It is certainly not my sowing; an enemy has done this."
"What are we to do now? Would it not be well if we pulled the bad weeds out so as to clear the field of it?"
"Do not do that," said the master, "far the good seed would suffer by it. Let both grow together, and let both ripen. Then I will give my orders to the reapers: Gather up first the cockle and bind it into bundles to barn, but the wheat gather ye into my barn."
This cockle is a figure of the wicked Christians, sons of the devil, who live with the good. How much of this bad seed and bad crops are to be found in the field of the Church? Bad Christians have chosen the devil as their master, and they seek to do his will. They even go further, and are worse than the devil himself. They become adepts in vice: by their bad words, their wicked deeds, and bad example (which the devil has not power to show), they sow evil on all sides. How many innocent youths do they precipitate into sin! Some of you, my dear young people, even at this early period of your life, have cause to shed bitter tears for having trampled under foot your purity. The devil could not cause so much evil unless he were well seconded by so many of 'his sons; by so many scandalous companions; these are they who fill the whole world with their crimes.
But we see 'here the great mercy of Grod. All creatures, the ministers of God's Justice, clamor for extermination of these sinners. The water cries out, "I will drown these wicked sinners!" The fire leaps up to reduce them to ashes. The earth would open a great chasm to suck in these wretches. The whole world groans under this load of sin, and would be happy to shake off this burden of iniquity. But God in His infinite patience restrains the elements so that they do no harm, for He allows the sun to shine on the good and on the bad, and the beneficent rain to fall on all. St. Augustine laments most beautifully his own condition.
"I sinned and you appeared not to notice it. I did not refrain from crime but you refrained from punishment. I continued a long time to commit sin but you continued your love toward me."
But will God always act in this manner toward those who will not be converted? The day of vengeance will come. God, sitting on a throne from which proceeds thunder and lightning, will come in His great majesty and will command His angels to separate the cockle from the wheat. He will make bundles of the wicked youths who are present in the Church only to make fun of religion, of the Blessed Virgin, and the saints; bundles of so many insolent youths, disobedient men, who seem to live only to give trouble to their
superiors; bundles of the evil-tongued ones that destroy the innocence of others; bundles of so many scandalous youths, who are a disgrace to Christianity; bundles of those irreligious, unbelieving miscreants, who destroy the precious deposit of faith in others. All these will be put into bundles to burn for all eternity. The only good that comes from their lives is that they show forth the terrible judgment of God and of His justice. The great evil of the world is that while its young people hear the menaces of God they care very little for the threats and still continue in their wicked ways.
Father Segneri gives us an example which will illustrate all that I 'have said. The Emperor Yalens is conceded by all to have been a most wicked man. He persecuted the Catholic Church and showed great favor to the Arians, who had done so much injury to religion. God almighty was at length moved by the groans of the suffering Church and raised the Whole West against the East and Vailens took the field. A holy hermit, who had his home in a cave in the mountain, came down and went to visit the emperor.
"Emperor," said he, "open the churches you have closed and you will return victorious if not you shall die on the field of battle." Valens heard him, but said he was crazy, and continued his march. The hermit had a mission from God and was not discouraged. Again he met the emperor and repeated the same words. The impious Valens was struck with them, but thought it weakness on the one side to yield, and still on the other it seemed to him temerity not to heed the warning. He convoked a council that day, but as they were Arians they emboldened him and even had the hermit punished. But a third time the monk made 'his appearance and taking hold of the reins of the emperor's horse, he said:
"I have come back to warn you for the last time. Open the churches and you will 'conquer your enemies ^otherwise you will die on the field.'' Angry at this interruption the emperor had the man thrown down a precipice where they expected him to find his death. No sooner had the army passed than three angels dressed in white drew him from the precipice not only uninjured but without a scratch on his body. Then taking a short path 'he once more presented himself to the emperor. The emperor had him seized and thrown into prison until the return of the army from battle, when the hermit was to be chastised well.
"You will never return," said the hermit. "You will go into battle and will be beaten. You will have to flee and at last you will fall into the hands of your enemies who will burn you at the stake."
All that the holy monk had predicted came to pass. The emperor went to battle and suffered a severe repulse and his army was put to flight. The emperor himself sought refuge in a haystack, and when the enemy came they set fire to it and he was burned alive. This emperor was indeed a blind and hardened wretch, who had many warnings from the man of God. But many sinners are much worse, for they hear repeated warnings, and all to no purpose. How many warnings the confessor gives to his youthful penitent.
"If you continue such a life," he will say, "so dissipated, devotionless, without prayer, you will fall into mortal sin. If you do not cease that immodest talk that you delight in, you will fall into the most horrible forms of that sin. If you do not guard your eyes you will fill your heart with many different distractions which will draw you from God, and you will gradually sink into the death of sin."
These warning's are heard but not heeded; prayer is neglected, bad talk is continued and bad companionship is looked for. Be not hardened, but heed these threats. God makes them to warn you. If up to the present you have been with the very bad crop, you can change your whole life; you can become wheat; your nature can be changed to such a degree that the cockle will produce good wheat. What and where is that heavenly barn into which the Master is about to gather all His wheat? It is paradise, where the good shall have joy for all eternity. They will be in that barn secure from all injury. It is the good wheat and the precious fruit that are well kept for future use. The fruit is now harvested and protected from the cold rains. No longer the hot, oppressive sun burns it; no more do the storms worry it; it is safely hidden away in paradise.
This will also be a great joy to the elect, who no longer need stand in the midst of the wicked band so hateful to God and so oppressive to the good. There are no more tares since there is no more bad seed; all is pure wheat. All in heaven adore God, together all love Him, all bless Him; there are none that will not do' glory to God. Would it not be dreadful if one of you were excluded from that beautiful eternal home for one sin?
A rich man lost in one evening at play his beautiful home and was put out of it, a beggar. He never could pass it afterward but tears gushed from his eyes as he thought to himself:
"What a fool I have been! In one night, for the pleasure of a game, I risked and lost my beautiful home. All my life I must be a houseless vagrant, for I am too old to amass enough to purchase another home."
What will the thoughts of the damned be when they see the places in paradise which would have been theirs had they only made a little effort? But, for a momentary pleasure, they sacrificed all.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900