He put before them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?’
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The slaves said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he replied, ‘No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “‘Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
I experience mild spiritual paralysis – that dread rising from the pit of my stomach – whenever I recognize that the evil spirit has lulled me down his deceptive path. “Lord, I want to rid myself of this evil spirit’s hold on my life. I want to remove the bad and give space for the good to grow!” But often enough, I cannot tell what is the most prudent first step in turning from the bad.
The Greek word zizanion refers not to weeds in general, but to a particular Eurasian grass, the darnel. Darnel resembles wheat at first (except its grains are black), and only later shows itself for what it really is – a poisonous weed.
‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field?
Where have the weeds come from?
He answered, ‘An enemy has done this.’
Today’s gospel is prime material for considering Ignatian discernment of spirits. Young St. Ignatius was a man of the court, a womanizer, and a vain soldier. He knew well the ways of the world. While recuperating from a cannonball injury at his family castle in Loyola, Ignatius became attentive to the different movements of spirits in his life. After spending time considering the delights of a life of personal success, Ignatius would begin to feel stale, dissatisfied, and empty. When meditating on the life of Christ and the saints, however, he was filled with lasting peace, joy, and a desire to dedicate himself to God. He came to call this latter feeling spiritual consolation – a growth in faith, hope, and love of God. Whatever was contrary to this he called spiritual desolation.
Ignatius recorded these and further spiritual insights in what became his Rules for the Discernment of Spirits in the Spiritual Exercises. He delves into the strategies of the good spirit and the evil spirit. The latter he calls the Enemy of Human Nature, one who knows how to masquerade as the good spirit and redirect our energy away from God.
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds
you might uproot the wheat along with them.
Let them grow together until harvest.’
We are faced with several tensions in the life of faith. The balance between a healthy striving toward perfection for God, and making peace with certain ‘weeds among the wheat,’ is one of those dynamics. Today’s gospel is an invitation to a mature patience, recalling that the task is not ours to pull out the weeds, lest we also tear out the wheat. Let the grace today be to recognize what is from the Sower, and what is not – and to be patient in our striving for greater life in Christ.
—Mr. Joseph Simmons, S.J.
Lord, deepen our faith to trust that you are leading us to a good place where we will find joy, fulfillment, and happiness. Though we may be called to sacrifice and may experience suffering, we hold to the promise that our life will have greater meaning and joy by surrendering control to you. We need to trust that you are not going to lead us off a cliff! And help us to remember that you are a loving God who desires our highest good.
—The Jesuit Prayer TeamPlease share the Good Word with your friends!