Archbishop Lori’s Homily: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Installation of Fr. Canisius Tah as Pastor
St. Gabriel Parish, Woodlawn
July 23, 2023


It is a great pleasure to return to the St. Gabriel-St. Charles Borromeo Pastorate to offer Sunday Mass and to install Fr. Canisius as your pastor here at St. Gabriel’s. It’s fair to say that Fr. Canisius has hit the ground running, bringing energy, enthusiasm, and joy to your parish family, a community that Msgr. Tom Philips served so faithfully for so many years.

And now, Fr. Canisius, allow me to reflect on your role as pastor, based on Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel about the wheat and the weeds. For this parable goes to the heart of what it means to be a pastor. To be sure a pastor is a shepherd who guards and protects God’s flock, but he is also like a farmer who, on behalf of God the Father, cultivates the field of his parish, planting the seeds of God’s Word in the hope of a rich harvest of holiness – and let me spell this out further.

Planting the Seeds and Harvesting the Wheat

First, like every good farmer, a wise pastor will survey his “farm”. The “land” is looking over is not the acreage of his parish but rather the people entrusted to his care – both active and inactive. The land or soil into which he will plant the seed of God’s Word is their hearts. Every wise pastor knows that some hearts will be more receptive than others, and he’s prepared to work with everyone, even those who don’t seem open to the faith.

Second, no farmer works the land by himself; he needs co-workers. In his parable, Jesus speaks about “farmhands” – those who assist the farmer in cultivating the land and in harvesting the wheat. The farmhands in the Gospel are very intent in bringing in a good harvest. They are good, loyal, hardworking co-workers with the farmer, but they also seek the farmer’s wisdom, discernment, and experience. So too every pastor needs co-workers: priests, deacons, religious, and laity who work with him in spreading the Gospel and reaping its good fruit. The pastor and his co-workers are like a team – hardworking and cohesive – but also prayerful and discerning in the work of cultivating souls, and in making the parish a field that produces a rich harvest of God’s best gifts.

Prayer and discernment are thus crucial in a pastor’s ministry, because, as we heard, in this world, good and evil grow up together, even in the field of the Church. For if a pastor sows the good seed on behalf of God the Father, the enemy, the devil cleverly sows the poisonous seeds of sin in human hearts. Just as, at an early stage of growth, weeds may look a lot like wheat, so too evil sometimes masquerades as virtue and goodness. After all, it is a very human tendency to pretend to be better than we are, to hide our faults and even to make our vices seem almost good. As a result, it isn’t always easy to discern souls that are growing in holiness, and souls being overrun by the weeds sown by the devil and his allies.

That is why the farmer in the parable calmly instructed the farmhands not to rush out into the field to pull up the weeds sown by the enemy. Wise and patient, he let both grow together, knowing that they would be separated at the harvest. In the meantime, the farmer concentrated all his energies on cultivating his field. So too a pastor must be wise, patient, and zealous, aware that the Just Judge will separate weeds from wheat at the final judgment. In the meantime, his primary focus is on cultivating the field of his parish.

Living as we do in culture that is often impatient and self-righteous, we learn two lessons from the wisdom of the farmer in the parable: First, is God’s wisdom and mercy . . . . As we saw in our first reading, God judges us in truth and justice, but also with patience and clemency, giving us every opportunity to convert, to believe, to open our hearts to his love. Every parish should be a “portal” of God’s mercy, flowing from Jesus Christ our Savior, especially in the generous availability of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Second, if God is merciful, we too should be loath to condemn, especially in a culture that is full of condemnation, a culture that heaps shame upon people – past and present. Thus, every parish should be an oasis in the midst of the “cancel culture” – for God does not “cancel” anyone he has made but invites them to life and salvation.

The Wheat of the Eucharist

Let me make one last point about the parable of the wheat and weeds, and it’s this: the crop that the farmer plants in this parable is wheat, the wheat that is used in making bread, the very substance that, at Mass, is completely changed into Christ’s Body and Blood. The seeds sown in our hearts is not merely nice ideas or moral exhortations, but rather the seed of God’s Word and indeed, the very Body and Blood of Christ. We receive God’s Word and we receive worthily the Body of Christ because we want our humanity to be that “wheat” which is part of Christ’s Body, that wheat which is shaped and transformed day by day by the Eucharistic Lord until God the Father can see and love in us what he sees and loves in his Son. That is why we call the Eucharist is the “source and summit” of the Church’s life and certainly it is the “source and summit” of your pastor’s priestly ministry.

I pray, Fr. Canisius, that your ministry will yield an extraordinarily rich harvest, as this parish day by day becomes a field that more and more glistens with the wheat that is Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever!

Archbishop William E. Lori

Archbishop William E. Lori was installed as the 16th Archbishop of Baltimore May 16, 2012.

Prior to his appointment to Baltimore, Archbishop Lori served as Bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport, Conn., from 2001 to 2012 and as Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Washington from 1995 to 2001.

A native of Louisville, Ky., Archbishop Lori holds a bachelor's degree from the Seminary of St. Pius X in Erlanger, Ky., a master's degree from Mount St. Mary's Seminary in Emmitsburg and a doctorate in sacred theology from The Catholic University of America. He was ordained to the priesthood for the Archdiocese of Washington in 1977.

In addition to his responsibilities in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Archbishop Lori serves as Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus and is the former chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops' Ad Hoc Committee for Religious Liberty.