Saturday, July 28, 2007

Weeds and Wheat

Another small but (to me) amazing triple confluence in the river of Life.

I went to Mass this morning and listened to the parable of the wheat and the tares.

Mt 13,24-30. He proposed another parable to them. "The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well.

The slaves of the householder came to him and said, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' His slaves said to him, 'Do you want us to go and pull them up?'

He replied, 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then 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."'"

Then I went home to tackle my appointed semi-annual task- the pulling of weeds from the cracks in the gutter on the street in front of my house.

A few minutes ago I also read the July 28th reading from the Rule of Benedict: Chapter 48- On the Daily Manual Labor. It reads in part:

And if the circumstances of the place or their poverty
should require that they themselves
do the work of gathering the harvest,
let them not be discontented;
for then are they truly monastics
when they live by the labor of their hands,
as did our Fathers and the Apostles.
Let all things be done with moderation, however,
for the sake of the faint-hearted.

Ok, so weed pulling isn't exactly harvest gathering.

But it IS hard, back-breaking and sweaty work. Labora with a capital L. However, even if I could afford it I'm not sure I would pay someone to do this particular piece of yardwork for me. There is something very salutary about working hard, and then looking back down the road and seeing the clean and visible seams of asphalt which until this morning had been spotted over with weeds in various stages of ugly development.

But as good as the labora of weeding feels to the gardening soul, we still hear a Gospel warning about our weeding work in the Kingdom.

In a word. Don't do it.

The householder says 'No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then 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."'"

It's not ours to try and practice unnatural selection either in the Church or out in the world, not even in the garden plot of our own lives.

Why is that?

The householder of the parable is simply reflecting the Divine Father's merciful heart. We are told over and over again in Scripture that God wants us, has a passion for our souls, and will go to almost any length to help us return to Him. He loved us so much that sent His Son to die for us.

Therefore, it behooves us who are called into His presence to act like him. Yes, we need to call sin a sin and let people know when they are sowing bad seed in their own lives and in the world (to extend the metaphor a bit).

But, steadfastly Christ chose not to judge another person's state before God. That was part of the Divine winsomeness of His ministry. He didn't. We aren't supposed to either.

Judge not, lest ye be judged. Period. End of story.

But not really the end. Because Christians can sometimes be even harder on themselves than they are on other people. So God is telling us again here, don't even judge yourself. "Let me do that," the Father says "in my kind and stern yet merciful way. Let me bring you home. Let me weed your garden. Let me bring you life."

Sometimes we get so down on ourselves that we can't even hear the Dvinie Mercy calling out to us. We might be like Groucho Marx who claimed that he wouldn't join any club which would have him as a member. So, if you aren't supposed to ride herd on others, and not even on yourself, then what are you left with? A listening heart, and a willing spirit, which only God can give.

I love Pope Pius XII (1939-1958). He's always so practical, if a little pompous in his language.

He addressed this issue of the holiness of the visible Church in his encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (On the Mystical Body of Christ), 1943. Read it here if you get time. The writing style is a little foreign, but the concepts in this letter led directly into some of the most profound insights of Vatican II.

“Let them grow together until harvest”

"Nor must one imagine that the Body of the Church, just because it bears the name of Christ, is made up during the days of its earthly pilgrimage only of members conspicuous for their holiness, or that it consists only of those whom God has predestined to eternal happiness.

It is owing to the Savior's infinite mercy that place is allowed in His Mystical Body here below for those whom, of old, He did not exclude from the banquet (cf Mt 9:11). For not every sin, however grave it may be, is such as of its own nature to sever a man from the Body of the Church, as does schism or heresy or apostasy.

Men may lose charity and divine grace through sin, thus becoming incapable of supernatural merit, and yet not be deprived of all life if they hold fast to faith and Christian hope, and if, illumined from above, they are spurred on by the interior promptings of the Holy Spirit to salutary fear and are moved to prayer and penance for their sins.

Let every one then abhor sin, which defiles the mystical members of our Redeemer; but if anyone unhappily falls and his obstinacy has not made him unworthy of communion with the faithful, let him be received with great love, and let eager charity see in him a weak member of Jesus Christ.

For, as[Augustine] the Bishop of Hippo remarks, it is better "to be cured within the Church's community than to be cut off from its body as incurable members." "As long as a member still forms part of the body there is no reason to despair of its cure; once it has been cut off, it can be neither cured nor healed."


Gabrielle said...

The love and gentleness of a merciful person is palpable, as in this post.

Thank you for the link as well.

Phil B. said...

You're welcome! There's so much out there on the Internet to explore. It always helps to have some pointers!