There are weeds sown among the wheat. This passage from St Matthew's Gospel could hardly be more appropriate to us here in England, at the end of a week in which we have been told that the people who carried out the bombings of the transport system in London were not -- as perhaps secretly we hoped they were -- intruders from a far-off land but young British men, born and brought up in the respectable suburbs of Leeds.
And how tempted so many of us are now to search out and destroy all these weeds, to uproot the choking, insidious, cancerous growths that disfigure England's 'green and pleasant land'. We would hardly be human if a large part of our response was not this sort of vengeful anger. We long for the day when we can see the weeds tied up in bundles and cast into the fire.
I doubt this vengefulness will last. I like to think that we are not by nature a vengeful people; already one hears expressions of sympathy for the families of the bombers as well as those of their victims. But in today's Gospel we hear Christ warning against another reaction, one which is at least as dangerous, at least as un-Christian, and certainly not limited to the immediate aftermath of a public outrage such as we have just experienced. This reaction is a hardening of barriers between 'them' and 'us'.
For here, in chapter thirteen of Matthew's Gospel, in which he gathers his 'parables of the Kingdom', the evangelists presents us with Jesus Christ's re-imagining, re-defining, of the central Jewish notion of the People of God. And just as are the mysteries that Christ reveals to us, so the People of God is hidden, since the foundation of the world. No racial identity, no cultural affiliation, no mother-tongue, gives away the identity of God's chosen people, the holy nation.
For the Jewish people of Christ's own time, the idea that we cannot easily spot God's chosen would have been deeply offensive and subversive. 'I know I am one of Us', says the pious Israelite. 'I eat only what is clean; I keep the Sabbath; I have circumcised my sons And I know one of Them when I see them, too -- eating pork, keeping their strange customs, never making sacrifice in the Temple of the Lord.'
The Law which is established the Jewish nation is truly of God, and reveals his will and his purpose not only for Israel but for the whole human race. But it is fulfilled, brought to its completion, in the person of Jesus Christ, whose word has gone out to all the earth. The Law was there to make Israel a light for the nations, not to shut the nations out from God's Kingdom. Christ teaches us that, until the end of time, the children of the Kingdom and the subjects of the Evil One are very hard to tell apart; no manner of physical appearance, social custom or tongue, no badge or identity card, will tell you who is who among the Children of God.
Yes, at the end of time there will be judgement, that judgement which belongs to God alone. But that judgement is not our task. Our task is to preach the Gospel, to all the peoples of the world. Those caught up, whether by their own fault or by an accident of birth, in a fallacious, dangerous and hateful ideology of violence, will be hardest to preach to, least able perhaps to receive the message of mercy and justice which is the Christian Gospel. But they are also most in need of it, most in need of release from the bindweed of sin. Shall we preach the Gospel of Christ by turning hardened faces towards those who are 'different', or by reaching out with words of love?