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Sunday July 17, 2011 – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time;
When I was in maybe fourth grade, our teacher had us do a project involving little empty milk cartons, dirt, and seeds. The stated purpose was to have presentable little marigolds and petunias to give our mothers on Mother’s Day. The underlying purpose was, I think, to teach us about seeds and growth, life and patience. Anyway, I contracted a great enthusiasm for living, growing plants of all kinds. I would save seeds from watermelons and plant them in the garden. I never did get any edible melons, but, wow!, how those vines did grow. One summer, in the empty lot next door, I noticed a patch of little plants with a very delicate interesting leaf. No, it wasn’t marijuana. I watered them, weeded them, and watched them grow. Then one day someone said to me, “Mike, those are just ragweed.” Well, they were beautiful to me. But I did lose interest in them eventually, probably when they got huge and gangly. But there was a lesson in that about what makes a weed a weed. If you love it, it’s not a weed.
If a farmer plants wheat in his field, he wants to harvest wheat. It can be a matter of life or death in societies without crop insurance. That would be a compelling reason to label my darling little ragweeds weeds. Good farmers get after the weeds before they get a firm hold in the field. In our parable, apparently, the weeds had gotten hold. Better, then, to let them grow together with the wheat so as not to disturb the wheat pulling out the weeds. At the harvest, they will be separated, Till then, let them go.
The parable is an analogy of the human race and all the different kinds of people who live together in the world. You can have good, hard-working self-respecting contributing members of society in one house; and drug-dealing pimping thieves across the street. The destructive impact of the one kind is a compelling reason to call them weeds. And if the weeds get to strong a hold on a society, good people are tempted to do drastic weeding. The guillotine might have to work around the clock. Half of Nevada might have to be fenced off to hold all the prisoners, but desperate circumstances call for desperate measures. However, what happens to the desperate good people in the process? Can they yank out of the field of the world everyone labeled weeds without damaging themselves?
Many well-meaning desperate Germans voted for the Nazis in the election of 1933. Hitler didn’t have a majority, but since other Parties split the rest of the vote, he got in as Chancellor. You might mention that the next time someone complains about our two Party system. Once in power Hitler moved to take care of the weeds, and that included not just conventional street criminals but Jews, the physically and mentally handicapped, believing Christians, and eventually anyone who questioned or thought for himself. The Nazis had their own definition of a weed, and it wasn’t open for discussion. The whole horrible episode is a warning about the dangers of giving the human race a thorough weeding.
God lets the weeds and the wheat grow together because, while a ragweed plant will never be anything but ragweed, and a wheat plant will never be anything but wheat, a human can be either one, can stop being the one and become the other. Yes, there are those who say criminality is genetically determined, but there are too many reformed crooks to believe it. God can look at a human person who fits any definition of a weed and see something beautiful, or potentially beautiful. And while the TLC I lavished on my ragweed didn’t produce anything but big ugly ragweed irritating to the eyes and sinuses, God’s TLC lavished on a human weed can change him or her, turn them into something entirely different, turn them into beautiful golden wheat.
This is not to say that the criminal should not be restrained. The gentler members of society are not obliged to let themselves be abused by the sociopaths in our midst. What the parable about the weeds and the wheat does is tell us that God has a good reason for allowing people to do evil. He doesn’t pluck us out of the field of the world at our first offense because He is more interested in repentance than in punishment. And I would bet money that each one of us here has reason to be glad that God governs us with such leniency. So we should be willing to bear with others – with those who may need our forgiveness, our intervention, another chance, and our good example. Or perhaps better to say, those who encounter God’s merciful love in us.
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Friday, March 15, 2013
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