“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but when all were asleep his enemy came and sowed darnel among the wheat.”
Now as the Lord himself explains, the darnel is the offspring of the evil one. They bear his mark because they behave the way he does: they are seeds of his sowing, and his children by adoption. Harvest time will be the end of the world, for although it began long since and continues now through death, only then will all things come to an end.
The reapers are the angels, for they are, and will be especially at that time, the servants of the King of heaven. As Scripture says: “Just as the darnel is collected and burnt in the fire, so it will be at the end of the world. The Son of Man, who is also the Son of the Father Most High, will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all evildoers and every cause of sin.”
And so the Lord’s servants, the angels of God, seeing the darnel in the field, that is, wicked and impious folk living among good people, and that even within the Church, said to the Lord: “Do you wish us to go and gather it up?” In other words, “Shall we kill them, to remove them from the earth?” But the Lord’s reply was: “No, for fear that in collecting the darnel you may also uproot the wheat.” How then would the wheat, the good people, be uprooted as well if the angels gathered up the darnel, cutting off the wicked by death to separate them from the just? The fact is that many godless sinners who live among people who are upright and devout repent in time and are converted, and by learning new habits of piety and virtue they cease to be darnel and become wheat. And so some wheat would be uprooted in the gathering of the darnel if the angels snatched the wicked away before they repented. Moreover, many while living evil lives produce children of good disposition, or they may have other rightly disposed descendants. This is why he who sees everything before it comes into being would not permit the darnel to be uprooted until the appointed time. But he says: At harvest time I will say to the reapers: “First collect the darnel and bind it in bundles to be burnt, but gather the wheat into my barn.”
Those therefore who wish to be saved from eternal punishment and to inherit the everlasting kingdom of God must be not darnel but wheat. They must avoid saying or doing anything evil or useless, and practice the opposite virtues, thus bringing forth the fruits of repentance. In this way they will become worthy of the heavenly granary; they will be called children of the Father Most High, and as heirs will enter his kingdom rejoicing, resplendent with divine glory.
To this may we all attain through the grace and loving kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to whom with his eternal Father and the most holy, good, and life-giving Spirit belongs glory now and always and for endless ages. Amen.
St Gregory Palamas