Pulling Weeds

Yesterday morning as we were waiting for the start of Mass, I overheard a woman behind us stage whisper to her husband, “The parable in today’s gospel is the one about the bad seed and the good seed and Jesus saying to let them grow together until harvest.” Her husband responded that he liked that parable. One of their two sons – a boy of about 6 or 7 – said, “Does that mean we don’t have to mow our grass anymore?”

If only. But God doesn’t tell us what to take from the gospels, so that’s as good an idea as any, I guess. I’m certainly using that philosophy in my vegetable garden this year…..

My green beans and my Swiss chard struggle to survive amidst the weeds.

Unlike the woman sitting behind me, I find myself squirming a bit when I listen to Matthew’s gospel, and not just because of the weeds in my vegetable bed that make me feel like a bad gardener. But the whole notion that the good plants and the bad plants grow right next to each other is not something I like to think about, mostly because I’m not sure which one I am. In the parable, the farmer tells his workers to let them grow together and then at harvest time they will separate the two plants – the good plants will go into the barn, and the weeds will be bundled up and sent to be burned. Yikes. Could you get more vivid than that, Lord?

Our Mass celebrant was a visiting priest – a man who had emigrated Nigeria with his family to live in the United States when he just a small boy. He earned a bachelor’s degree in physics but was kind of lost and uncertain about what he wanted to do with his life after college. His father told him to get into the IT field because that’s where the money was. His uncle told him to get his MBA because then he could earn the big bucks. His buddies told him to play soccer because it was fun and he could see the world. But he still couldn’t make up his mind. So, he resorted to Plan B, which was to ask God what he was supposed to do with his life. God’s answer was to become a priest.

“Well, that certainly wasn’t the answer I was looking for,” the priest told us. “How about another suggestion, God?” But apparently God was firm on that particular idea. And so he became a priest.

The point of his story was that turning your life over to God can be risky.  Sometimes the things God wants you to do aren’t necessarily easy or what you were hoping for. Often it is easier to listen to all of the other voices that are crowding out God’s voice, sort of like the noise you used to hear when you were trying to find a good radio station by actually moving a dial. Remember those days? Lots of crackling with an occasional clear song. But the song might be a polka when you are hoping for Carrie Underwood.

But amidst the noise of everyday life, we have to be careful to make sure we are listening to the voice of God. Because unfortunately, the other voices might be a lot easier to understand and considerably more fun. Just like the weeds seem to grow easier than the tomatoes and the green beans that they are trying to overtake.

I struggle every Sunday to figure out how the readings relate to one another. Mostly, I’m unsuccessful. And trying to understand St. Paul’s letters is – at least for me – nearly impossible. Still, his letter to the Romans that was read yesterday surprisingly gave me some comfort as I considered how difficult it can be to hear God’s voice.  The Spirit comes to the aide of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressionable groanings.

Now I don’t know what St. Paul meant by inexpressionable groanings. I don’t know if inexpressionable  is even a real word. You know Paul. He would say anything to get the attention of his listeners and readers. But it sounds like sort of the noise I was making when I gave birth to Court, when I gave birth to a new life. And it gives me hope and confidence if the Holy Spirit is interceding with strength and vigor in an effort to help me hear the word of God, and so, be given a new life. It’s nice to think I have the Spirit on my side.

However, I wish the Holy Spirit pulled weeds with or without inexpressionable groanings.

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