The Weeds and the Wheat — Center for Action and Contemplation

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The Weeds and the Wheat

Everything Belongs: Week 2

The Weeds and the Wheat
Monday, December 5, 2016

Can true humility and compassion exist in our words and in our eyes unless we know we too are capable of any act? —St. Francis of Assisi [1]

Jesus uses a number of images that illustrate the tension between good and evil. They seem to say this world is a mixture of different things, and unless you learn how to see deeply, you don’t know which is which, and you don’t notice that God allows both good and bad to grow in the same field (Matthew 13:24-30). When a student asks Jesus if he should pull out the weeds, Jesus says to “let them both grow together until the harvest” (13:30). Then, at the end of time, God will decide what is wheat and what is a weed. In a certain way, he is saying it is none of our business to fully figure it out. This is really quite risky of God—and it takes tremendous courage on our part to trust God and ourselves here.

We are all a mixture of weeds and wheat and we always will be. As Martin Luther put it, we are simul justus et peccator. We are simultaneously saint and sinner. That’s the mystery of holding weeds and wheat together in our one field of life. It takes a lot more patience, compassion, forgiveness, and love than aiming for some illusory perfection that is usually blind to its own faults. Acknowledging both the wheat and weeds in us keeps us from thinking too highly of ourselves and also from dismissing ourselves as terrible.

To avoid cynicism and negativity, you have to learn to accept and forgive this mixed bag of reality that you are—and everyone else is, too. If you don’t, you’ll likely become a very angry person. To accept the weeds doesn’t mean that you say, “It’s okay to be ignorant and evil.” It means you have some real wisdom about yourself. You can see your weeds and acknowledge when you are not compassionate or caring. You have to name the weed as a weed. I’m not perfect; you’re not perfect; the church is not perfect; America is not perfect.

If we must have perfection to be happy with ourselves, we have only two choices: We can blind ourselves to our own evil (and deny the weeds), or we can give up in discouragement (and deny the wheat). It takes uncommon humility to carry both the dark and the light side of things. The only true perfection available to humans is the honest acceptance of our imperfection. This is precisely what Divine Perfection can help us do; only God in us can love imperfect and broken things. By ourselves, we largely fail.

Learning how to love—which is our life’s project—is quite simply learning to accept our messy reality. If you love anyone, then you have learned to accept them despite their faults. You see a few things you’d like to change in your partner, your children, yourself. By the Largeness of God within you, you are able to trust that the good is deeper than the bad, and usually well hidden. This is probably why so many of Jesus’ parables are about hiddenness, seeking, and finding.

Gateway to Silence:
All things work together for good. —Romans 8:28

[1] Francis of Assisi paraphrased by Daniel Ladinsky, Love Poems from God: Twelve Voices from the East and West (Penguin Compass: 2002), 37.

Adapted from Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs: The Gift of Contemplative Prayer (The Crossroad Publishing Company: 2003), 41; and
Homily “The Weeds and the Wheat,” July 20, 2014.

Image credit: Photograph by Domenico Salvagnin, Springtime II (detail), taken near Padua, Italy,
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