A well known speaker started off his seminar by holding up a $100 bill. In the room of 200, he asked, "Who would like this $100 bill?" Hands started going up. He said, "I am going to give this $100 to one of you but first, let me do this." He proceeded to crumple the dollar bill up. He then asked, "Who still wants it?" Still the hands were up in the air. "Well," he replied, "What if I do this?" And he dropped it on the ground and started to grind it into the floor with his shoe. He picked it up, now all crumpled and dirty. "Now who still wants it?" Still the hands went into the air. "My friends, you have all learned a very valuable lesson. No matter what I did to the money, you still wanted it because it did not decrease in value. It was still worth $100.
Many times in our lives, we are dropped, crumpled, and ground into the dirt by the decisions we make and the circumstances that come our way. We feel as though we are worthless. But no matter what has happened or what will happen, you will never lose your value in God's eyes. To Him, dirty or clean, crumpled or finely creased, you are still priceless to Him.
Growing In The Dark
Life is a parable. A story with a hidden meaning. Many things happen which we simply do not understand. We grapple with the meaning of so many things - why this cancer? why this marriage in which I have invested so many years of my life failed? why this depression? why does my daughter refuses to speak with me? We try to understand. We go to our friends and ask "why me?" Some even try psychics (1-900 number at $3.57 a minute, plus taxes) in a desperate effort to discover an explanation to our events. We are not brainless animals - we need to understand.
The disciples also approached Jesus with the same question : "Explain to us the parable of the weeds". Good seed and wheat together. What does this mean? Why?
Very simple, really. In us we constantly find good and evil at the same time. We want to do good, as Saint Paul says, but evil comes out. We want to be patient but the moment the kids start screaming, we lose it! We want to be pure, but suggestive thoughts pollute our mind. We would like to be more generous and self giving, but we find ourselves too lazy even to help out with the dishes. A temptation is a temptation because you know it's bad but you want to do it anyway, even when succumbing could ruin a relationship, inflate your waist, get you in trouble. Weeds and good seeds are lumped together in our life.
The difference between wheat and weeds is that one produces a useful beneficial fruit and the other just uses up resources and produces nothing beneficial to others. What is even more interesting is that Jesus Christ is speaking about a special type of weed - the Tare, or the bearded darnel - a species of rye-grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific (induces sleep, hypnotic) poison. It bears a close resemblance to wheat till the ear appears, and only then can the difference de discerned. It grows plentifully in Syria and Palestine.
Now listen to this! All this is in us and this is ... GOOD. We need the weeds in our lives. Because they keep us in our place. The real danger in life is to believe that we are better than anyone. To believe that I belong to a superior race. Better, worthier, more deserving! No, I am like anybody else. A sinner. A nasty, dirty wrongdoer. I may hide it but my crime is there. I may even hide it to myself but it still remains there. Evil inclinations abound in my life!
Even Greater Things
But there is no need to be discouraged. Jesus Christ knows it. Jesus Christ knows it so well that he specifically said that he did not come for the good, righteous persons, but for the filthy sinners. No one picks up our garbage; even refuse collectors wear gloves today to pick up our junk. He is the only One who not only understands us; not only lets the weed grow together with the good seed, but He even takes upon himself our garbage and instead gives out a reward. A bonus for our filth. Well, that IS a deal!
We give Him lust and He gives us innocence. We give him anger and instead He gives us meekness. We give Him greed and He gives us altruism. We give Him laziness and He gives us courage. We give him vice and He gives us virtue. We give him death and He gives us life....
He is just amazing!
And if you do want to work with your seeds (alias, spiritual growth), remember two simple and basic agricultural rules.
Rule number one. Choose well your seeds. If you take His ideas, His thoughts, His attitudes - which are like seeds - , and plant them in your life you will be a growing person. If you get your thoughts, ideas, attitudes from the media, from TV, from the papers, from your friends... you are in for a lot of trouble. What we listen to, watch, read, associate with, influences our thinking. It is such a pity that we hardly ever read any good solid spiritual books any more.
Rule number two. Water your seed. Once we were baptized, once we went to religion classes, once we received confirmation,.. and then we stopped! We grew up physically. emotionally, intellectually but we remained dwarfed spiritually. No water. We have dried up! Business and industry realize that employees need seminars, conferences that build them up, enrich them so they can be more productive. In Christianity nothing!
The parable of the mustard seed tells us that God has placed great potential within us. You may think you are a nobody, but you're not if you put your life in God's hands. The mustard seed starts small but it grows and grows. Until it is able to make room for all. "I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me..." says Saint Paul.
Sometimes you meet people who touch you deeply. When I was in the Holy Land last week, I was moved by the story of Riccardo. A forty year old married man, he has been working as an itinerant catechist within the Neocatechumenal way for more than fifteen years in a very difficult area of the States. Many misunderstandings, many obstacles and yet he and his wife and two kids kept going, believing in the power of the announcement of the Good News which they are carrying. Recently he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctor simply told him. "You have maximum six months to live. Go and enjoy what remains of your life. Have fun!" Going out of the clinic, obviously shaken with the news, Riccardo looked at his wife and he told her simply. "Enjoy life. Have fun! What better way to enjoy the rest of my life than to continue to evangelize? What better way to have fun than to announce the Gospel?"
Wisdom. Sheer naked wisdom. Yes, the mustard seed can grow and become a 'the greatest of shrubs'.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.