In today’s Gospel (Matthew 13: 24-43), Jesus tells a parable about the Kingdom of Heaven. It involves a man who planted good wheat seeds in his field and his enemy who sowed weeds in the field at night when everyone was asleep. As both seeds germinated and grew, weeds appeared with the wheat. Fearing that in pulling up the weeds, the wheat might be damaged, the farmer let them both grow up together until the time of the harvest. In this parable, Jesus presents a picture of the Church and the world. The Kingdom of God has arrived and is growing but alongside of it is also the Kingdom of the Evil One. In his providence, God allows this situation to continue, longing for the conversion of his beloved children, that they might turn from evil and choose good. As we pray for an end to AIDS and for those who are suffering from it, let us reflect on part of a General Audience of Pope Benedict from October 2009 in which he discussed this parable as he reflected on the life of St. John Leonardi.
There is another aspect of St John Leonardi's spirituality that I would like to emphasize. On various occasions he reasserted that the living encounter with Christ takes place in his Church, holy but frail, rooted in history and in its sometimes obscure unfolding, where wheat and weeds grow side by side (cf. Mt 13: 30), yet always the sacrament of salvation. Since he was clearly aware that the Church is God's field (cf. Mt 13: 24), St John was not shocked at her human weaknesses. To combat the weeds he chose to be good wheat: that is, he decided to love Christ in the Church and to help make her, more and more, a transparent sign of Christ. He saw the Church very realistically, her human frailty, but he also saw her as being "God's field", the instrument of God for humanity's salvation. And this was not all. Out of love for Christ he worked tirelessly to purify the Church, to make her more beautiful and holy. He realized that every reform should be made within the Church and never against the Church. In this, St John Leonardi was truly extraordinary and his example is ever timely. Every reform, of course, concerns her structures, but in the first place must have an effect in believers' hearts. Only Saints, men and women who let themselves be guided by the divine Spirit, ready to make radical and courageous decisions in the light of the Gospel, renew the Church and make a crucial contribution to building a better world.