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Thistle in Wheat
Today we’re asked to use our imaginations
and picture ourselves as wheat.
“The kingdom of heaven
may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field.”
Imagine us first as good seed, held in the hand of the Farmer.
As he runs us through his fingers,
he feels the potential for growth we carry within us.
Just at the right time of the year,
he carries us into the field,
then scoops us up with his hands
and scatters us onto the ground.
We lay there helpless, unable to move.
The sun comes up, the sun goes down.
It rains, and we soak in the cool, clear water.
Soon roots emerge, and we draw nutrients into ourselves.
We’ve sprouted, and we’re getting taller each day.
We’re doing exactly what wheat is supposed to do:
We’re basking in the sun, drinking in water, growing up toward the sky.
This is what it means to be the Farmer’s good seed,
to be children of the kingdom.
The single defining characteristic of the kingdom of heaven
that we can see clearly in today’s three parables
The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed.
The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed.
The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that raises the whole loaf of bread.
In each parable,
growth is happening.
Love is always about growth, about fruitfulness.
Our vocation in this life is to grow,
to reach up to the sun.
Jesus came and planted divine life in each of us,
and like the field of wheat
we take in water—the water of grace at baptism.
We take in nourishment—the nourishment of the Eucharist.
We absorb the rays of the sun—the Son of God.
But then one night,
while everyone is sleeping,
the Farmer’s enemy sneaks into the field and sows weeds.
Soon stinkweed and thistle begin to grow,
and it becomes harder to get to the water,
and the nutrients, and the sunlight.
Jesus says the weeds
are all those who cause others to sin
and all evildoers.
Maybe we know a few stinkweeds or thistles,
and we’d like to pull them up and toss them away.
Maybe we’d like to get them out of our lives,
get rid of them, cast them aside.
But that’s not how the kingdom of heaven works.
“No,” the Farmer says,
“if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”
“Let them grow together until harvest,” he says.
In other words,
we risk losing our lives
if the stinkweeds and thistles are simply pulled up and cast aside.
Our lives are intimately bound up with everyone we meet,
stinkweed or not.
What happens to one affects us all.
Who is it that we would cast away?
And who are we to recognize what’s a weed and what’s wheat?
Because the truth is, there’s a little stinkweed in each of us,
a little thistle, isn’t there?
So let’s not be so hasty to yank up the weeds, you know?
Jesus was patient and merciful with the weeds in his life.
He came across plenty of thistles in the wheat field of his ministry:
the woman caught in adultery,
Zacchaeus the tax collector,
the disciples who abandoned him in his darkest hour,
the centurions who executed him.
Jesus didn’t yank them up from the ground.
He showed patience and mercy:
“Go and sin no more.”
“Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.”
His ministry was not harvest time.
It wasn’t the time for weeding,
it was a time for sowing and growing.
Our time is not a time for weeding.
Our time is a time for sowing and growing.
The harvest will come some day,
but not today.
If the Farmer’s not worried about the weeds
then we don’t need to worry about them either.
The Farmer has chosen to leave the weeds among the wheat,
knowing that we’re strong enough to withstand them.
They won’t overshadow us,
they won’t strangle us,
they won’t steal our nourishment.
Yes, we have to struggle now for our water,
we have to fight for sunlight and nutrients.
We have to deal with stinkweeds and thistles.
But a miraculous thing happens when we stop worrying about the weeds
and instead focus on the wheat.
When we concentrate on growing in faith, hope, and love,
when we spend our time drinking in the waters of grace,
absorbing the light of Christ,
feeding on the nourishment of the Eucharist,
then we have an effect on the stinkweeds and the thistles.
If, instead of cutting them down to be burned in the fiery furnace,
we continue to live with them and beside them,
then they have the opportunity to become wheat.
I have been a stinkweed and a thistle myself
more than once in my life.
It’s only because of the patience of significant people in my life
and the grace of God
that I find myself here in this wheat field now
striving to reach the sun.
How many of us have been stinkweeds and thistles to others,
only to have been met with patience, mercy,
On any given Sunday, this church is filled with both weeds and wheat,
entangled and entwined together.
And our vocation is not to root out the weeds and cast them aside,
but to grow right beside them.
To know Jesus more and more through daily reading of Scripture
and through personal prayer.
To serve Jesus more and more
by being a blessing to the people in our lives:
our families, our coworkers, our neighbors,
the poor and outcast,
and especially the stinkweeds and thistles.
This is what it means to be a child of the kingdom,
this is what it means to be wheat and not weeds:
to continually work at growing in intimacy with God,
to work every day at lifting our souls up and up and up,
Anyone who’s ever received an email from me has seen at the bottom
my signature, which includes a quote
by a woman named Elisabeth Leseur.
The quote goes like this:
“Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world.”
This is another way of describing what it means
to live as wheat among the weeds.
It means that if we can forget about the thistles
and concentrate on growing up to God
then we can help others become wheat.
And if anyone knew what that was like, it was Elisabeth Leseur.
Elisabeth lived around the turn of the last century,
and was married to Dr. Felix Leseur, a determined atheist.
In fact, he was the editor of an anti-Catholic newspaper
and constantly worked at trying to shake Elisabeth’s faith.
You can imagine the tension that caused in their marriage.
But rather than casting off this thistle she had married,
Elisabeth used his efforts as motivation
to study and deepen her faith.
She came to believe that her mission in life
was the salvation of her husband’s soul.
At one point she even told Felix that she firmly believed
that after her death he would become a priest.
He laughed at her, of course.
But two years later, as she was dying of breast cancer,
he became increasingly impressed by her courage and composure,
and he began to realize that she drew this strength from her faith.
After she died in 1914,
Felix was overcome to discover a note in Elisabeth’s spiritual diary
in which she offered her sufferings and her life for his conversion.
He went on to publish her spiritual writings,
and in 1923 he was ordained a Dominican priest.
Elisabeth lived as wheat among the weeds.
Her tiny mustard seed became the largest of the plants.
She was the yeast that leavened her little corner of the world.
She didn’t worry about the stinkweeds or thistles in her life.
Elisabeth concentrated on lifting up her soul.
We, too, are called to have patience and mercy
with the stinkweeds and thistles.
Especially because, at different times, they are us.
The kingdom of heaven is about growth,
not about weeding out.
And “Every soul that uplifts itself uplifts the world.”
Note: Information about Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur was adapted from a profile by Robert Ellsburg in the May 2012 issue of Give Us This Day.