Living with the Weeds

Antonio P. Pueyo
16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 17, 2005
Reproduced with Permission

One man's weeds is another man's food. I found this out when a friend saw me gathering some plants in the field. He was wondering what I would do with the weed. He shook his head when I told him it was food. There was also this incident that got into the newspapers about a tough senator and military hero who was preparing his favorite lunch. Before he could cook it, an aide passed by and saw the weed cluttering the table. He dutifully tossed it in the wastebasket. He got a taste of the famous senator's outburst, "What? You threw my lunch into the trash?" Even weeds have some use.

In our Gospel this Sunday, Jesus told the parable of the weeds growing among the wheat (Mt. 13:24-43). The landowner counseled against pulling out the weeds, lest the wheat may also be pulled out. This decision makes sense because wheat is usually planted to grow very close together. If there are weeds among them, the roots may have intertwined. It is wiser to let the weeds grow with the wheat and sort them out at harvest time.

Sometimes I wish God would get rid of all evil in the world - all that is unworthy, and all sinners. I am afraid however that God will say to me, "All right. I will grant your wish. I will start with you." That makes me tremble. I can of course argue with God, "Lord I mean the really big sinners such as the killers, the corrupt politicians and criminals." I imagine God saying, "In my eyes, sin is sin, whether big or small." Isn't it Pharisaical, to think that we have sinned less than the others? Isn't this being like the Pharisee who prayed, "God, I thank thee that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector" (Lk. 18:11).

For this reason, I agree with the landowner's decision, "Let the weeds grow with the wheat." I get a reprieve, at least until harvest time when the weeds get separated from the wheat. As the first reading says, "But you the Lord of strength judge with prudence and govern with great patience" (Wisdom 12:13).

Does this mean we should just tolerate evil? Just let evil be? Going back to the parable, the wheat struggles against the weeds for precious nutrients from the soil. The wheat does not allow the weeds to overcome it. In fact, the wheat tries to outgrow and overcome the weeds. The wheat that makes it to harvest time is a survivor and has passed the test. The wheat may even provide the seeds of a sturdier variety.

Even in one's personal being, one feels this struggle between the weeds and the wheat. St. Paul describes this very well." For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do" (Rom. 7:19). Everyone has a shadow side. Humans that we are, we have our weakness and thorn in the flesh (2 Cor. 12:7). According to St. Paul, this thorn is what makes him humble. Our strength lies in recognizing that we are weak and relying on the Lord who says to Paul, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (v.9).

The big miracle is that the weed becomes wheat. Nobody can beat God in genetic engineering. How many saints had to struggle with their baser self? St. Augustine, bishop and theologian, had a lifelong struggle with memories of his sensual past. St. Teresa of Avila had to deal with her love for the social life even when she was in the convent. St. Ignatius of Loyola, the former soldier, had to contend with his violent temper. Many good people have daily struggles with alcoholism, depression, pride, and other weaknesses. Yet, they continue to act humanly as best as they can.

Even famous men and women who excelled in some endeavor had their weaknesses. Even heroes have feet of clay. If one researches hard enough one may be able to uncover this shadow side. Nowadays, it is an author's dream to uncover some juicy and scandalous story about a famous person, living or dead. We are fascinated with people's weaknesses, perhaps our way of feeling even with famous personalities. Somebody has a weakness somewhere even if he is a Napoleon, a Caesar, a Churchill, a Kennedy, or a Quezon.

As long as we walk this earth we have to deal with the weeds of life. It could be our environment that works to suffocate our desire to be Godly. It could be our own shadows that hinder us from growing into our nobler self. Like the golden grains of wheat, we rise above the weeds and wait for the harvest.

Action starter: Identify your main weakness. Offer it up to God and pray that He will work on it. Then, cooperate with God's demands.