A Reflection on Matthew 13:24-30
Deacon Keith G. Kondrich, Executive Director
The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul – Diocesan Council of Pittsburgh
My first apartment out of college was a carriage house above the garage of a very wealthy and well-to-do retired couple in the Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, near the University of Pittsburgh campus.
It was the ultimate bachelor “pad” in the heart of Pittsburgh’s academic, cultural, and music scene. I was in my glory!
The best part of the deal was that the apartment was rent-free! In lieu of rent, the couple had me do various household tasks and errands. Once a week they would leave a list chores for me to complete such as cutting the grass, washing the cars, watering household plants, and weeding the garden.
When “weeding the garden” appeared on my weekly chore list for the first time, I gathered up my metal rake and hoe and attacked the overgrown garden plot with zealous abandon. After 3 or 4 hours of hard labor, I had purged the garden of all of the atrocious-looking weeds. Everything was dug up and disposed of. The soil was neatly raked and perfectly graded! Later that afternoon, there was a frantic knock on my door. It was my landlady, distraught and furious!
“Mr. Kondrich”, she exclaimed, “What have you done? What have you done to my beautiful garden?”
Not sure why she was so distressed, I replied, “I weeded it, just like you asked me to. Is there a problem?”
“Is there a problem,” she cried, “Yes, there is a problem! You pulled up all of my beautiful plants with the weeds! There is nothing left! You have destroyed hundreds of dollars worth of rare plants!”
Apparently, in my weeding frenzy, I had never bothered to consider the difference between the weeds and the flowers. I simply uprooted everything in my desire to create a clean and perfect garden plot.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus uses the parable of the wheat and the weeds to warn us against weeding frenzies. In the parable, an enemy sows weeds all through a landowner’s wheat crop so that when the crop grows and bears fruit, the weeds are intertwined with the wheat. The landowner’s servants offer to go and “pull up” the weeds, however, the landowner tells them, “No. If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.” The landowner tells his servants to let the wheat and weeds grow together until the harvest, at which time he, the landowner, will take care of the harvest.
We have to be very careful that we don’t succumb to the temptation of thinking that we know the difference between the wheat and the weeds in the world around us. Jesus tells us not to be so quick to judge others. He tells us to be on guard against our tendency to “root out” or condemn those we consider to be “weeds”.
We identify weeds by the way they dress.
We identify weeds by the way they talk.
We identify weeds by the political party that they belong to.
We identify weeds by the religious faith that they practice.
We identify weeds by their sexual orientation, or ethnic background, or employment status, or any one of a hundred other characteristics.
Certainly, in America today, especially during this highly-charged political season, there is no lack of opinion on who are the weeds and who are the wheat. And we do not hesitate to whip ourselves into a weeding frenzy of self-righteous words, and pious attitudes, and virtuous acts, never realizing that we might be pulling up the wheat with the weeds.
Jesus makes it clear that it is NOT our job to separate the wheat from the weeds! We are not responsible for the harvest – HE is! Our job is to help sow the seeds. . .to help proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God! The good news of God’s love for us! The good news of redemption! The good news of eternal life! That is our job!
Whenever I am tempted to write-off somebody as one of the weeds, I think of Saint Paul. Do you remember what Saint Paul did before he finally accepted an invitation to serve the Lord? His name was Saul of Tarsus and he was in charge of hunting down and killing Christians! His job, which he embraced wholeheartedly, was to weed out and destroy this dangerous new movement known as Christianity! The early Christian community viewed Saul as one of the weeds – indeed probably THE weed, literally choking the life out of the wheat. And yet, even after a career of persecuting Christians, God did not give up on Saul. When Saul finally accepts God’s invitation, he is reborn as Paul! And Paul goes on to become one of the greatest Apostles of all time, helping to spread the Gospel of Jesus throughout the world!
Isn’t it a good thing that the early Christians didn’t take it upon themselves to weed out Saul? Can you imagine how very different our Church and World would be today without the witness and writings of Saint Paul?
My brothers and sisters, the next time we are tempted to use our words, or attitudes, or actions to uproot the “weeds” around us because of their looks, or politics, or faith, let us remember that only God can distinguish between the wheat and the weeds! We don’t have the full picture. Only God has the full picture! God is in charge of the harvest, not us! If God can take a weed, like Saul of Tarsus and turn him into a fertile stalk of wheat like Saint Paul, can you imagine what miracles he can work. . .what miracles he is working right now. . .with the weeds in our world; with the weeds in your life? Can you imagine?!