Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

The canticle antiphons for this Sunday refer to the Gospel, the parable of the sower (Mt 13:24-30).  At Lauds, the Benedictus antiphon is:

"Dómine, * nonne bonum semen seminásti in agro tuo?  unde ergo habet zizánia?  et ait illis : hoc fecit inimícus homo."

or in English:

"Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field?  from whence then hath it tares?  and the house-holder made answer : An enemy hath done this."

At Vespers, the Magnificat antiphon is:

"Collígite primum zizánia, et alligáte ea in fascículos ad comburéndum : tríticum autem congregáte in hórreum meum, dicit Dóminus." or

"Gather ye together * first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn, saith the Lord."

A sermon for our time: St Augustine on the parable

St Augustine's sermon on this parable read at Matins is particularly apposite for our times.  It opens by saying that the parable refers to a time when those in charge of the Church act too negligently, and fail to keep the enemy out:

"In this parable the Lord hath reference to the time when the Shepherds of the Church should begin to wax careless, (or, it may be, to the time when the Apostles should fall asleep in the sleep of death,) at which time, the devil would come and sow that which the Lord calls a seed of evil-doers." 

What could be more apposite, in these days when priests and even bishops regularly preach heresy in the media as well as their churches with seeming impunity, and fail to live up to the standards of conduct expected of their high offices?

He goes on to ask whether the tares refer to heretics or bad catholics.  The difference between them, he suggests is that heretics are not truly catholics:

"It certainly is not unjust to call the heretics a seed of evil-doers, seeing that they have sprung up from the seed of the Gospel, and have been begotten in the Name of Christ, and afterwards have turned into crooked ways and lying doctrines. But since it is written that this seed was sown in the midst of the wheat, we ought perhaps to understand thereby a reference to such as are of one Communion with the righteous.  However, inasmuch as the Lord said : The field is the world : and doth not thereby directly speak of the Church, we may with good reason understand the seed of evil-doers to be the heretics, since in this world they are mingled together with the good, not in one common Communion, but only under one common name of Christian. 

And Catholics of bad lives, which nevertheless are of one Faith with the good seed, and yet are themselves worthless, may more fitly be likened to straw than to tares, since the straw springs from one soil and one root with the good grain-bearing ear of corn.  However, as touching the net cast into the sea, and enclosing a great multitude of fishes, both bad and good, we may well understand that by the bad are meant Catholics of bad lives...Between heretics and sinful Catholics there is this difference: heretics believe a lie: sinful Catholics believe the truth, but live not what they believe."

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