We must be careful so as to not think and act from a place of self-love and pride.
In today’s gospel, we hear the words of Jesus as He continues to teach the crowds in parables. He offers a few parables in this beautiful passage from Matthew, but for our purposes this week we will focus on the first one. Our Lord follows up the parable of the sower with yet another teaching rich with agricultural imagery. Christ speaks of the wheat and the weeds in the field of the master, and it is in this that we find ourselves poised to respond to an encounter with the gratuitous, free, and yes, scandalous love of God.
Encountering the Weeds
“Do you want us to go and pull them up?” (Mt 13:28) The question of the master’s slaves is one that many of us, feeling a pang of zeal in our hearts, have more than likely asked at one time or another. When we take the call and demand of the Christian claim on our life with any semblance of seriousness, we start to see the world and those in it with converted vision. The desire then becomes one of conversion, not only for ourselves, but for the people in our lives who may strike us more as weeds than wheat. We think to ourselves, “What should I do with this person to help them see their errors?” We pray to God, saying, “Lord, how can I make them a better person?” Or we do not even take a moment to reflect and react with scorn towards the weeds and try to root them out right then and there. In these instances, we must be careful so as not to think and act from a place of self-love and pride. We put ourselves in danger of thinking that because we are living a more moral life than those around us, or at least trying to, we know best and that we will please God by making people more like ourselves. We turn into the Pharisee in Luke’s gospel, who prays “to himself” saying,
“O God, I thank you that I am not like the rest of humanity” (Lk 18:11).
The Master’s Response
“No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest” (Mt 13:29-30). The response of the master is one that, when we let it sink into our hearts, really ought to scandalize us. We may think, “Weeds are bad! They will ruin the whole field!” Indeed, the word translated as “weeds” refers to a type of poisonous plant. Why would He allow such evil to happen in His field? What happens if the weeds grow up and overtake the wheat? Does God not care about us or them? All of these questions are natural if we are honest in engaging the gospel rather than hiding behind nice sayings about God’s love that we use to mask our own anxiety at not understanding God’s plan and action. And so we might be tempted to think we need to get things done as we see fit. But instead of plotting or catastrophizing in our limited view, as we are each just one plant among countless in the field, let us look to other parts of the Scripture that will help shed some light on these questions and God’s way of engaging His creation.
In Matthew’s gospel, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus proclaims,
“Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your heavenly Father, for he makes his sun rise on the bad and the good, and causes rain to fall on the just and the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what recompense will you have?” (Mt 5:44-46)
Again, this is a radical statement that we are hearing. Instead of being like the Pharisee we mentioned earlier, regarding ourselves as the standard for friends and strangers alike to imitate and scorning anyone not like us, we are called to live authentic love, true charity, in accord with the Father. We do not cast out, judge, or fix others according to our ways. No, we pattern our thoughts, words, and deeds to Christ’s, who, if we recall from last week, is the rain sent down from heaven, watering the good and bad. As it is truly Christ’s action through us, the fruit we bear is His and it holds within it the power to transform what it comes in contact with, wheat and weed alike, because “for human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Mt 19:26).
“The crop grew and bore fruit” (Mt 13:26). This fruit that is produced is the fruit of charity, and not the kind that manifests itself as simply just being nice to each other while avoiding egregious moral evils. That is not real love, but rather fear and cowardice when in the presence of an other, grasping for control so as to avoid any suffering. In the words of Joseph Ratzinger, charity, or true love, is “the capacity to wait in patience for that which is not under one’s control and to let oneself receive this as a gift”. In order to bear this fruit for others so that they might consume it and be transformed by it, we must first receive and be transformed by it in Christ.
We must take the time to fall in love with Christ and receive Him as He is, not how we think He should be. The more we fall madly in love with the Person of Jesus Christ, the more perfectly we unite ourselves to Him and His Sacred Heart. By this union, and only by this union, do we bear His fruit, which is His very life of love in the Father through the Holy Spirit. In turn, the field and the weeds along with it are transformed and perfected. Sadly, yes, there will be those persons that are obstinate, and reject the fruit of transformative love, persisting in their evil ways. But, as long as they live, God does not abandon His purpose and gracious will for them. “God our savior, who wills everyone to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth” (1Tim 2:3-4). Though this may seem shocking and scandalous to us and our designs, God’s love is free and gratuitous. And so, just as God carried out His work of salvation through His Incarnate Son, for salvation came to the world through Christ crucified, He carries it out still through the Body of Christ, the Church and us her members, until “at harvest time I will say to the harvesters,
‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn’” (Mt 13:30).
Reflection for Prayer:
Spend time reading this parable (Mt 13:24-30) Ask for the grace to fall more deeply in love with Jesus. Imagine Jesus as a farmer or gardener, and yourself as the plant or an observer in the field.
Pay attention to how Jesus treats you and the plants around you, wheat and weed alike.
What thoughts, feelings, or desires come up?
What do these tell you about Him? About Yourself?
Remember: Jesus reveals Himself to us and who we are to ourselves, in His Person. Keep your eyes on Him and remain open to His gaze and touch in you.