Tuesday - 16th Week - Year A - St. James - Matthew 20:20-28
According to Jesus’ parable, a sower sowed good seed in a field, but an enemy came and sowed weeds. The text tells us that the enemy, Satan, came and sowed the weeds while everyone was sound asleep. It was a common practice in ancient warfare to destroy your enemy’s crops. If you could destroy his agricultural base, then his military power would soon follow suit. Soldiers who can’t eat can’t fight. So step number one is to be perceptive. We must be aware of what Satan is up to. We can ill afford to fall asleep on the job. That is why the scriptures are filled with admonitions to be alert. Ephesians 6:18 says, “Be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.” And 1 Peter 5:8 says, “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” Later Jesus explained that the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom, and the weeds stand for all who do evil. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age,” he said. “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” Then he added, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”
Every gardener knows the importance of getting rid of the weeds. If you don’t, the weeds will choke out the good plants you want to grow. God also knows the importance of getting rid of the weeds. Many of us are uncomfortable with the idea of a God of Judgment, but sooner or later we have to answer the question: What about the weeds?
Human evil continues
We see it on every continent. We recoil at the idea of the judgment of God, but what about the weeds? What about the evil within the hearts of men and women--the hatred, bigotry, envy, bitterness, lust, anger, greed, etc.
A young woman in one of our public schools was asked to write an essay on Evolution. She wrote, “According to this theory man descended from the apes and has been descending ever since.” There is some truth in that little piece of humor. In our appetite for evil, human beings are still descending. Apes are not capable of the extraordinary evil to which humans will resort. What about the weeds? We see war, violence, displacement, extortion etc.
Our concern today is not about the final judgment that Jesus describes--when the wheat and the weeds will be separated. For most of us that matter has already been settled. By faith we have been saved. We will leave to God the determination of what happens to the truly depraved.
We aren’t responsible for what others do with their lives. But we are responsible for our own lives. What about the weeds in our lives? How do we deal with those weeds--those pesky personality defects, those murky moral letdowns, those tawdry times of ethical failure that keep us from being all that God intends us to be? For, you see, God has created us to be like a beautiful garden--bearing fruit whose taste is sweet and pleasing to the taste buds and bursting forth in blossoms whose beauty is pleasing to the eye. How do we get rid of the weeds from our own hearts and become the beautiful garden Christ intends us to be?
Recognize how weeds grow
They grow without any effort on our part. No one goes out and plants a weed. No one cultivates it, waters it, sees that it gets enough sunshine. Weeds require no labor.
Weeds remind me of that mindless bit of philosophy still so popular in our society today: “If it feels good, do it.” That is a certain recipe for failure. If we did only what felt good to us we would be physical, mental, moral and spiritual wrecks. The things worth having in life require effort, and sometimes, pain.
One of the most dangerous heresies of this sort is the idea that love is something that comes naturally. In this view of life, love is a mushy feeling. Mature people, however, understand that love is not simply a feeling; it is a commitment. Real love takes work. It involves the willingness to be there in good times or bad, for better or for worse.
Example of Weeds
That’s especially true of parenting. There was once a certain man who wouldn’t let his children attend church. His rationale? He wanted them to wait until they were old enough to decide for themselves. His pastor came by one day and said he wanted to take the man to his own home to see his garden. When they walked into the garden, it was full of weeds, which were choking out his squash, beans and okra. The man said: “This is a pitiful excuse for a garden!” To which the pastor replied: “I just wanted to wait until the vegetables had a chance to decide for themselves what they wanted to do!” Looking after a garden takes work. So does looking after a marriage or being a responsible parent.
Beware of anything in life that requires no commitment on your part, no effort, no inconvenience. You are probably dealing with a weed. That is the sinister danger, for example, behind gambling--the illusion that great riches can be yours with little effort. It is also part of the psychology of drugs. Why face your problems? You can escape from them with an artificial euphoria by simply taking a tiny pill. How do you get rid of the weeds? You begin by recognizing how weeds grow. They grow without effort.
You get rid of weeds, in the second place, by recognizing what it takes to grow a beautiful garden-you begin with a mental idea of what you hope to achieve. You map it out in your mind’s eye. You visualize the finished product--the roses and the begonias, the dogwoods and the maples, the hedges and the walkways.
Do you have that same clear-cut vision concerning your life? There are some people who take better care of their lawns than they do their lives. Successful people almost always have a vision of what they hope to achieve in life.
The story’s told of a skinny, scrawny African-American youngster who one day heard a coach say, “You can be what you make up your mind to be. God will help you.” Later this youngster told the coach, “I’ve decided what I want to be--the fastest man in the world.” The coach said, “Son, that’s a great dream but there is one problem. Dreams have a way of floating high in the sky and drifting around like clouds. A dream never becomes a reality unless you have the courage to build a ladder to your dream.” He explained that his dream would take determination, dedication and discipline.
Young Jesse Owens listened to the words of that coach and at the 1936 Olympics in Germany he established himself as the fastest man in the world. A beautiful garden begins with a vision, a dream, an inner picture of what you can accomplish with God’s help.
A beautiful garden also requires a plan
You have heard it before because it is true: Those who fail to plan, plan to fail. Jesus talked about the foolishness of those who build towers without first sitting down and figuring the cost. Successful living requires that we give some thought to the future. We have a vision of the beautiful garden we hope to be. Now we sit down and make a plan. What would I have to do to make my dream a reality?
Of course, a meaningful plan for our lives will include all of eternity.
A beautiful garden requires a vision, a plan and a commitment to cultivate it as long as necessary
Isn’t that a great statement? Cultivating a garden requires those daily little tasks that are a pain, perhaps. But you do them because you can envision the beauty and the bounty that awaits you. That, of course, is what disciplined living is all about. We talked about discipline a couple of weeks ago. Some people do not understand the nature of discipline. They think of it as mindless devotion to meaningless activity.
Disciplined living is not following a mindless routine. To the man or the woman who has caught a vision of life’s boundless possibilities, it is the application of a plan.
Isn’t it time you got rid of the weeds in your life? Weeds are the enemy of a beautiful garden--whether that garden is a good marriage, or the sanctity of your body, or your relationship with your children, or your progress in your profession, or your relationship with God. Weeds require no effort, but they can choke out the work of a lifetime. A beautiful garden, on the other hand, requires vision, planning and discipline. But the prize is worth the price!
So heed Jesus’ warnings about weeds. Keep the weeds out of your life.
Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD
Vancouver - Canada