In this week’s Gospel story, the servants ask whether they should pull out weeds that have been woven in with the wheat.
“No,” the Master says. “If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest” (Gospel).
This parable says a lot.
God steadily forgives our weeds and lets us grow without uprooting us. It is not that he wants to encourage wildflowers, and it would be better if they were not there, but he loves everything about us and wants us preserved even in the midst of weeds.
This is a radical idea. You and I think we have to be sinless in order to be loved. If not we will be punished instead of forgiven.
Entire ancient cultures based themselves on this principle of non-love and non-forgiveness for those who sin. If someone harms me or my family, then I have the right and duty to annihilate them since they are bad persons, no good, and punishment is never too severe.
The same goes for the heroes in adventure movies. They fight, he-man to he-man, somersaulting across skyscraper tops, delivering bare-knuckle blows to the face, spinning out kicks to the head, wielding secret weapons and tricks. Finally the bad guy plummets over an awful edge of the building, and entertains us with magnificent slow-motion shots of his terror as he heads for the inevitable splotch. Everyone is relieved and happy.
Just for an exercise, pretend that you are the villain in such a scene. Is there a reason you are committing crimes that merit such punishment? Is it possible that one part of you is going haywire but that there is also much good in you, much that could be brought back to life? Maybe deep down you have a voice whispering, “I wish I could stop this ugliness and be a good person”?
If this is so, then you have stumbled upon the point of Sunday’s Gospel. The crimes you commit don’t really agree with your real, God-given self. They are bad things, just like the weeds growing up in the garden. But they are only a portion of who you are. Your urge to impress others falsely, to get what you want no matter what, to be lazy, petulant, even to steal, or … (please fill in your kind of sin), these are never the full description of who you are.
God does not rip out the weeds in other people or in ourselves. Mixed with all the crab grass, there is the handsome green that God loves so much.
How about showing kindness to the mean voices within you that urge you to do wrong? They are misguided, for sure, but maybe they will settle down if you just love them as you would a naughty child. Love them into goodness.
Can you imagine Jesus saying from the cross, “Father, damn them to Hell forever because of what they are doing to me”? That would a major case of tearing out the wheat as well as the weeds. He leaves the latter and says, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Forgive the weeds.
You are invited to email a note to the author of this reflection:
Fr. John Foley, SJ