The Weeds And The Wheat
Reflection on Mt. 13:24-30, 36-43
“You would be in the right, O Lord, if I should dispute with you; even so, I must lay out the case against you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper…?” (Jer. 12:1) These words of the prophet Jeremiah express a perennial question, familiar in every age. Why do the good suffer, while evil-doers go unscathed? Will justice be restored? When? And what are the faithful to do in the meantime?
The cry of the human heart for justice is real, and God is not deaf to our pleas. But He has a rather long-sighted view of things; I was reminded of this recently as I reflected on Jesus’ parable of the weeds and the wheat. God’s patience can be hard to fathom, and I wondered if the Apostles spent some time grappling with Jesus’ words. I imagined them together at table, asking Him questions…
The Apostles are gathered around Jesus in the house. It has been another full day of listening, learning, and attending to crowds. After the bustle, noise and heat, it is good to rest their sore feet and enjoy a meal together. The conversation is lively, but as often happens, for a moment it drops off. “I’m wondering that too,” rings out in the sudden lull. And, “Go on, you ask Him, Peter!”
Jesus looks at Peter expectantly. So do some of the other Apostles, wondering what question is coming next. “Explain to us the parable of the weeds and the wheat,” Peter says. They all nod at this. After receiving Jesus’ teaching on the Parable of the Sower, they desire His explanation of this parable. Without hesitation He grants their request, expounding upon the parable point by point.
An impromptu question-and-answer session follows, as is only natural for students of a rabbi. Questions are often the method of such a school, and these pupils want to learn as much as they can.
“Then, Lord,” says James, “do we have to endure living with evildoers in the world? For the rest of our lives?”
“Why can’t we pull up at least some of the weeds…for the good of the whole field?” John adds.
“Because, my dear Sons of Thunder,” Jesus answers, “if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat. It is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost” (cf. Mt. 13:29, 18:14).
“Then the Father’s concern is with every single stalk and blade and ear?” Philip adds in.
“Philip, God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life” (Jn. 3:16).
“But how do we endure living with the weeds? What if they threaten to entangle us?” queries Nathanael.
“Do not be afraid of them, Nathanael. What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna. …Even all the hairs of your head are counted. So do not be afraid…” (Mt. 10:26-30).
“If each wheat plant is to be tended, there is a lot of work to do!” Peter adds.
“Yes, Peter. The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest. (Mt. 9:37-38). I …chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain…” (Jn. 15:16).
What we learn—from this parable and other Gospel passages as well—is that a change of perspective is needed. We see one way, but God…He sees into the heart. We can look at the weeds and feel frustration; He sees the possibility for weeds to be transformed into wheat through His grace. To wait until the Second Coming for the separation of weeds and wheat seems interminable to us. But “with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” These are the words of St. Peter (2 Pt. 3:8), who not only heard but absorbed Jesus’ teaching and was able (especially after Pentecost) to instruct and form other disciples. “The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard ‘delay,’ but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Pt. 3:9).
Perhaps our challenge is, as St. Paul expressed it, “to put on the mind of Christ.” The Lord calls us to patient endurance, to let our roots continue to grow deep in prayer, to let Him take the “weediness” out of our hearts. And He grants us grace—the fertile soil and the tending that we need. May we, then, continue to grow and to be examples of “good wheat” to others. And let us pray that many, many souls—yes, even those who look “weediest”—will “shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.”
Sr. Cecilia Francis, CFR