By Jason Lillis, Family Life Coordinator
For the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Though my gardening and farming experiences are now over a decade removed, I recall very well two different approaches to weeding fields. The later memory is as an employee of the local seed corn company, where sheer volume and acreage called for the application of herbicides to deal with invasive plants. The second is an earlier memory, of helping to clear weeds by hand from the family garden. Those who first listened to Jesus’ parable from today’s Gospel were likely more familiar with my family garden method: the slow, deliberate, hand-numbing task of carefully attending to undesired plants so that those desired would produce a better yield.
I see this parable from today’s Gospel reading as a reflection of the way that relationships are formed, grow, and come to fruition, as though each is a field of its own. Like fields or gardens, most relationships start well, whether through good planning or good energy. Then comes the point when the weeds are discovered. We might find ourselves asking, “Where the heck did that come from?” I often see myself responding like the servants in the parable who offered their hasty assistance: that shouldn’t be there, and I’d better get rid of it! It would be easy to take the large farm approach, and simply douse the relationship with quick-fixes to eliminate any sign of problem.
Yet the call of Christ is to patience, leniency, and forgiveness, not a rush to judgment, rejection, and uprooting. The author of Wisdom knows this: “But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency.” As a field produces food, no matter how thick the weeds, there is still life-bearing going on in relationships – whether married couples bringing a child into the world, a group of friends/neighbors gathering to cultivate a community garden, one friend renewing another with encouraging words, or a volunteer sharing time and sweat to bring care and comfort to the homebound. Even in the midst of weeds, we know that something beautiful is coming because God is at work in us and through us; indeed we are being refined by the crucible of life in this loving community of the church.