Matthew 13:24-26, 29-30 He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. […] His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull (the weeds) up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.'”
In the above parable, Jesus tells us that the wheat and the weeds will grow side-by-side until the harvest. He also implies that at times it may be difficult to tell wheat from weeds. In his care for those he has planted, the master of the harvest waits until he is absolutely certain which is which. He does not want to risk losing even one of those he has planted.
This parable fills me with great joy, because in the past, I have not always behaved in a way that would readily identify me as one God has planted in his field. Even now, as I learn to embrace the penitential lifestyle, I sometimes find the old habits are harder to break than I would like. As St. Paul says in Romans 7: “For I do not do the good I want, but I do the evil I do not want.” So the assurance that God is patient is good news for me indeed!
It is also good news for those whose souls I am concerned about. They, like me, are not always identifiable as ones God has planted. But the Lord of the harvest is merciful. He waits and watches. He will not make hasty judgments. And by implication, he asks me not to make them either.
I knew someone who was married late in life to a man she did not really know that well. She left home and family, and came to a new country to be with him. She soon began to think that perhaps she had made a mistake. Her new husband was demanding, controlling and manipulative. She was devoted to the Lord; he was agnostic. She suffered greatly. Even the man’s own relatives encouraged her to leave him. But, by some mysterious intuition, she knew she needed to stay. Her faith sustained her as she turned to God for comfort.
By the time I met her she had been married for 20 years and her husband was in the early stages of a degenerative disease. This did not improve his disposition. Nor did it help when she could no longer care for him at home and had to place him in a care home. Even then, she went every day to visit him and to help him. She bought him a crucifix for his room and talked to him as frequently as was prudent about the love of God. And she prayed for him.
As his illness progressed, he gradually began to change towards her. Then, one day as she tried once again to tell him that God loved him, he said, “I know that God loves me, because he sent me you.” It was not many months later that he died, reconciled to his wife and to God.
My friend is convinced that God sent her to this man for the very reason to bring him home. The Lord of the harvest did not see the weed that the rest of the world, including his own family, saw. He saw the wheat he had planted, the grain he wanted to harvest. All he needed was a willing worker. He found one in my friend, someone who imitated Jesus in laying down her life for another.
This story humbles me, because so often I am tempted to write people off as weeds. I pray for the grace to see each soul as God sees him or her. I pray that by embracing a life of penance I will imitate the Lord in laying down my life each day for others. In this way, by His grace, may we all become willing workers in the harvest of souls.
(Important note: Please do not infer by this story that I believe that those in abusive situations should remain in them. This, I believe was a special case. It is always advisable to discuss any such situations with a spiritual director or pastor.)