Dear brothers and sisters,
The Lord Jesus speaks a parable to us today upon which we do not spend enough time reflecting. Why do I say this? When we hear of or encounter the weeds – that is, wicked men and women – within the field, we often wonder why the Lord does not simply remove them. Why does he tolerate their presence in his Church if the Church is to be holy? Why does he not rip them out and toss them aside as we do with weeds in our gardens? When we begin to think this way, we demonstrate that we do not yet think with the mind of Christ, that our hearts are not yet perfectly conformed to his own.
|Trin. MS B.11.31, f 8r|
Jesus speaks this parable to us to help us understand something about the Kingdom of Heaven (cf. Matthew 13:24). In the first place, “‘Heaven’ should not be understood only in the sense that it towers above us, because this infinite space also takes the form of human interiority.” Wherever Christ Jesus is present, there is the Kingdom of Heaven. In the waters of Baptism, you and I have been joined to the Mystical Body of Christ and we received a share in the divine life. He is, in a mysterious way, present within us, not only when we receive his Body and Blood, but always, which is why he says, “the Kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21).
In the second place, “Jesus compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a field of wheat to enable us to understand that something small and hidden has been sown within us which, nevertheless, has an irrepressible vital force.” Jesus once said, “Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit” (John 12:2).
Saint Paul reminds that in the waters of Baptism, we were “baptized into [Jesus’] death … so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might live in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4). Jesus has, we might say, been placed within us, which is why the Apostle goes on to say, “For if we have grown into union with him through a death like his, we shall also be united with him in the resurrection” (Romans 6:5).
You and I know that this growth into union with Jesus – for most of us, at least – does not happen all at once. Just as wheat grows in the field, this union progresses in stages, sometimes a bit backwards but, we pray, almost entirely progressing. This is why Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “many are at first weeds but then become good grain”, and, “if these, when they are wicked, are not endured with patience they would not attain their praiseworthy transformation.” It is as if the weeds received the grain that is Christ, which grew within them to transform them into wheat. This is why Saint Paul was able to say, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Galatians 2:20).
This brings us to the third reason Jesus teaches us through this parable. “In spite of all obstacles, the seed will develop and the fruit will ripen. This fruit will only be good if the terrain of life is cultivated in accordance with the divine will.”[iv] This is why he is merciful to the weeds, because he knows that if those who live sinful lives turn towards him and let let the light of his Face shine upon them they will change from weeds into wheat (cf. Numbers 6:25). This is why he is merciful to you and to me; he knows that with time, with watering and furrowing, and the removing of many clods, we may yet bear great fruit.
Father Damien knew this well when he arrived at Kalawao. Through his tremendous efforts and the help of divine grace, he was able to turn that self-absorbed and loveless hell into a place filled with the joy of the love of God and neighbor, even in the midst of so much pain. Mother Marianne knew this, too, as she sought to bring greater order into a place that had once been filled with chaos. Because of their patience many lives were brought to conversion. They allowed Jesus to first prepare the soil of their own hearts and then labored to help prepare the hearts of others. Through their intercession and example, may we, too, strive to follow after the Lord Jesus, who is “good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all” (Psalm 86:5). Amen.