Weeds Among the Wheat – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2020

Source: kenpierpont.com

Jesus says some significant things today about the kingdom of heaven. He uses familiar images: weeds among the wheat, the mustard seed and yeast. The images stress the patience and perseverance that is necessary in our quest for the kingdom of heaven.

The mustard seed may be tiny, but the combination of soil, sun and water will work miracles. The proper use of the yeast produces a wonderful loaf of bread.

I am reminded of the words attributed to Saint Oscar Romero, where he stresses the long view needed for grasping the kingdom.

The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision …

This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.

If you have never heard it, the entire prayer is well-worth finding.

In the parable of the weeds among the wheat, the weeds and the wheat must be allowed to grow together until the harvest (possibly because they look so similar, and it is only at the harvest that it is really easy to distinguish between them).[1] Jesus’ point, whether with this parable or the mustard seed or yeast, is that the kingdom will grow and expand.

This is an instruction for Matthew’s early Christian community about how they await the kingdom and watch that kingdom grow and bear fruit. We all have our part to play. It may seem insignificant, but our contribution is united with that of others, and the grace of God. It bears fruit.

There are plenty of weeds in our world. It sometimes seems that they are overwhelming the wheat (the good that we do). We all know about the weeds of racism, injustice, environmental degradation, corruption, greed, self-centredness, poor leadership from some elected officials and the self-appointed despots, and all the evils that are so prevalent that they no longer come as shocks to us.

As well, when we become self-aware, we acknowledge the many weeds in our personal lives. God must be very patient to deal with our imperfection and limitation. Am I able to live with the imperfection of others?

The parable reminds us that perfection will take place through a process of slow growth – a few steps forward and a few steps back. Sometimes the growth requires that we allow the weeds to grow with the better parts of our lives. Discernment is often needed to distinguish between the good and bad, the wheat and weeds.

Many of us would love to root out the weeds and imperfections in life. We think that if we are aware of our imperfections, we can remove them by the force of will.  But then we discover that God loves our whole self, wheat and weeds.

God is infinitely patient with us. Good and evil exist together – in our human lives and in the world. None of us can find a perfect person. If by chance, we do think that we’ve found one, we’ll eventually discover something amiss.

Just think of Jean Vanier. In spite of his imperfection, he did great good. In spite of my imperfection, I do great good. Our lives are not summed up by our inadequacies.


[1] A helpful book for using this parable to teach Ignatian discernment is Fr Thomas Green, S.J., Weeds Among the Wheat – Discernment: Where Prayer & Action Meet

Philip Shano, SJ has many years of rich and varied experience working with Ignatian spirituality: teaching, writing and using it in his ministry. He resides in the Jesuit community in Pickering, Ontario.

  • Peggy Spencer
    Posted at 02:26h, 19 July Reply

    Thank you, Philip. A most thoughtful and encouraging article. Jesus’ parables on the sower, the wheat and the weeds are so relevant in our world today. Must look that book up.

  • Jeanette Woodley
    Posted at 07:20h, 19 July Reply

    Beautiful! Thank you Fr Philip.

  • John Montague
    Posted at 08:20h, 19 July Reply

    James Allison writes: “failure is one of grace’s preferred building sites.”

  • Jose A Sanchez
    Posted at 08:43h, 19 July Reply

    Thank you, Philip. The reflection on good loving our wheat and weeds is a powerful one, and how those weeds might sometimes seem more powerful than they are.

  • Catherine von Zuben
    Posted at 09:05h, 19 July Reply

    Thank you Philip for sharing your thoughts on this important parable, and also the power of discernment in distinguishing wheat from weeds – good from evil. Thank you also for reminding us of the many wonderful contributions Jean Vanier made to this world through his writings and work. We all have our share of weeds and as your quote continues, “ We cannot do everything. And there is a sense of liberation in that. This enables us to do something. And to do it very well. An opportunity for God’s grace to enter and do the rest.” Blessings and love to you, Philip. Be well.

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