This Week’s Focus: in the Weeds
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." Matthew 13:24-30
In the old-time Westerns it didn’t take very much insight to tell the good guys from the bad guys, the white hats from the black hats. But real life is a lot more complicated and a lot less predictable. Great literature reflects that reality. Shakespeare’s bloodiest villains (Iago, Richard III, Macbeth) all cultivated virtuous, friendly, easy going manners to disarm their victims. While he looted their life savings, Bernie Madoff’s hapless clients felt blessed that such an apparently wise and good man was sharing his expertise with them.
In our gospel this week, Jesus addresses the paradox of sin flourishing side by side and sometimes indistinguishable from virtue. A farmer plants good seed; an enemy contaminates the field with weeds. The farmer decides to let them grow together and separate them at the harvest. Like the old Westerns, traditional interpretation often characterized people as either wheat or weeds – good guys or bad guys – black hats or white hats. But real life seldom offers such a binary choice.
We are more a struggling composite of venalities and virtues, ignorance and enlightenment, sin and grace. Paradoxically we are all sinners, but we live in the promise of salvation through the grace of our risen Savior. As such we are not all wheat or all weed. We are not a single plant. Rather each of us is more like a whole field of competing forces, loved and tended by our patient, merciful Creator.
If God can love us, care for us and forgive us in our sins, can we not do the same for each other? Can we not love each other, weeds and all? When confused by the tangle of wheat and weeds, always opt for love. God will sort it all out in his good time.
Faithfully yours in Christ’s love,