Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Weeds and the Wheat

The Weeds and the Wheat Matthew 13:24-30

I have met many interesting people working in Mother Teresa’s soup kitchen... They are from different parts of the world, all races, and all creeds. Some are good people; I would call them my friends. Some may be bad. But this is not for me to determine, as I am not to judge. Judging is God’s business.

All these people who come to eat have one thing in common. They are down on their luck. Many are caught in a cycle of poverty that is almost impossible to escape. Some problems are of their own making – for others, problems stem from family tragedies, psychological problems, and addictions. Some problems stem from a society that has lost its heart.

Soup kitchens were formed during the great depression of 1929, a period of devastating national poverty. One of the largest and busiest kitchens at that time was in Detroit, where Father Solanaus Casey and other Franciscan Friars served up to 2000 people in a single day. Today the poverty is not so much physical hunger but a spiritual hunger.

Blessed Teresa said “Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat.”

Most soup kitchens have a similar setting – usually a long table with trays of food, with servers on one side – and the food line on the other side. Though it is not meant to be an “us and them” approach, this is certainly the feeling one gets. But Missionary of Charity volunteers know that they are on the serving side of the table, only by the grace of God – tomorrow all that can change; we may be on the other side, the food line. Life, in all its forms, is fragile. We do not know what the next day will bring.

The poor, those who are living on the streets, have many needs – as I said, physical and spiritual. Rarely do they come out and ask you for something directly. The question is more often hidden in the context of a story – about a lost job, a debilitating illness. This is how one find’s a way into a person's heart. Jesus did the same thing – being not only all God, but all Man, He knew that the story is the best way to reach the human heart – and even more, to open up one’s mind to the truth.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his disciples using an “us and them” story. He says the Kingdom of Heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. After sowing the good seed during the day, an enemy comes at night and sows weeds. Now, the proper translation for this weed is “darnel.” It is a weed that, when growing, looks very much like wheat – it is difficult to tell them apart. Now you and me, when we notice weeds in our garden, we rush to pull them out, as they may are not only unsightly, but they also sap the nourishment from the good plants. Not the sower of this field - he dismisses the advice of his workers and decides to let the wheat and weeds grow together – it is safer for the crop. Weeds and wheat will be separated later at the harvest.

Jesus is using this story to reveal a TRUTH. That TRUTH is a gift for you and me. Who is this sower Jesus is speaking about? He is God - the good seeds? Those who follow the Lord, those who are “In Christ.” – and who are the weeds? Those who follow the evil one. What is this field? This is the world, God’s field. And the harvest? The Second coming of Christ – when the Lord will separate the wheat from the weeds, the good and the bad.

Jesus says this story is like the Kingdom of Heaven. When we think of the Kingdom of Heaven, we think of that place where Jesus sits at the right hand of the Father, and where we all will reside enjoying eternal life. This is all true – for being in the Kingdom of Heaven is being in the presence of God. But Who is God? God is LOVE.

The Kingdom of Heaven is made manifest on Earth when we show concern for our neighbor in our actions. Mother Teresa calls this love of neighbor, “LOVE IN ACTION.” When we do acts of love, it is as though a window has opened up and the Kingdom of Heaven has rushed into our world. Mother Teresa said "Faith in action is love, and love in action is service. By transforming that faith into living acts of love, we put ourselves in contact with God Himself, with Jesus our Lord."

The sower is patient. We are to be patient with each other. The sower lets the wheat and weeds grow together. Does not the light of God shine on the good and the bad? We need time to change our hearts and minds – first to remove the weeds from our own lives. Then, after conforming our own will to Christ’s will, we can help our neighbor do the same. If we are tempted to judge others negatively, we should think of the love that God has for them – and maybe see the crucified Christ in them.
We should not let our negative opinions of others allow us to treat others badly – not to pull up the weeds before the harvest.

Allow God to be the judge, He is much more merciful and patient than we are. We need to love Christ in his Church. Pope Benedict says “Our Catholic culture is the kingdom of heaven on earth. It is the ‘civilization of life & love’, where the dignity of all men is recognized from womb to tomb.”

Whether we are working in soup kitchens, our work place, or at home with our families, we are to treat each other with the same respect that God has for each of us, the good and the bad.

Lord, teach us to be patient - with life, with people, and with ourselves. We sometimes try to hurry things along too much, and we push for answers before the time is right. Teach us to trust Your sense of timing rather than our own, and to surrender our will to Your greater and wiser plan. Help us let life unfold slowly, like the small rosebud whose petals unravel bit by bit, and remind us that in hurrying the bloom along, we destroy the bud and much of the beauty therein.

Instead, let us wait for all to unfold in its own time. Each moment and state of growth contains loveliness. Teach us to slow down enough to appreciate life and all it holds. Amen.

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