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Weeds are not forever

GOD’S WORD TODAY () - July 20, 2008 - 12:00am

You’ve seen the kind on typical home and garden magazines or on golf courses: a well-manicured lawn surrounded by trees, almost a veritable Eden of sorts. You are so enticed by this carpet of green you forget for a while there may be talking snakes lurking around somewhere in some tree under the blue sky.

Of course the question you ask is why there should even be talking snakes in Eden in the first place. Just as the question you may never be able to answer is how on earth could the Master Gardener ever allow an Enemy to slither through the night and sow weeds while everyone was asleep.

You wake up and find the carpet contaminated with this poison of weeds and you are indignant and all worked up and so you proceed to root the evil out of this field of dreams. The Master holds you back and tells you the reason for restraint:  take the weeds out and you may inadvertently take the healthy plant with them. They’ve inextricably entangled themselves with the good roots. Which is of course what notoriously bad weeds are good at. Bad cancer cells excel in this as well. You’ve seen that reasoning before in politics and with politicians: take me down and I’ll take you down with me.

Politics notwithstanding, this parable of the weeds in the wheat is a parable about patience. Snakes notwithstanding, it is also a parable about trust and faith in the Master Gardener who knows enough about weeds to choose to bide His time and wait them out.

And so the graces we ask this Sunday are the twin graces of patience and trust.

We ask to be patient with imperfection. We ask to be patient with all that is broken and growing old and diminishing around us. We ask to be patient with our weedy earthen selves, with our weedy neighbors, and yes even with our gardener God.

We ask to be patient with the dark side, with the dimness of our lusts, with the malice and willfully malignant plots of our enemies. We ask not to be afraid of snakes who talk us into making tragic choices. We ask to be patient with the subtle and systemic ways in which evil shrouds itself and and latches on to what is good.

Patience is never naivete or a copout condonation of weeds. Patience is wide-eyed about the shadows that trail us every halting step of the way.  One who is patient does not obsess and fret about flawless, manicured lawns. Fairy tale endings (at least on this side of heaven) are for the impatient.

To be patient is first of all to know then to understand the shape of the human heart, its slowness and envies, its vulnerabilities and conflicting desires. Anyone who has ever loved has had to bear love, weakness and weeds and all.

Will peace ever dawn in Mindanao or the Middle East? When will the broken heart or fractured home be whole again? Will the barren womb ever give birth? Will the one who drifted away or died ever come back again? Will the betrayal ever be purged, the injustice repaired? Will the wound ever heal?

The Master Gardener only asks that we stay the hand that wields the bolo that would gladly and justly take out the weeds in no time. Restrained and perhaps frustrated, we ask thus for this second grace of trust. We ask to be able to trust Him and to entrust ourselves in God’s time. It is easy to trust in someone who you believe is strong and wise and will act according to what you value and expect. Trust becomes more meaningful and thus more a gift to ask for when you do not know how or when the weeds will be taken out, how or when the dark side will be brought eventually to light, how or when (not if) justice will finally be served.

There is much wisdom and consolation to be divined from this Sunday’s first reading of Wisdom: “And you taught your people by those deeds, that those who are just must be kind, and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.” 

The just One who shall mete out our sentences in the End is also after all a Gardener who can sleep through the night, who is himself patient and trusting and kind.

Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin SJ is president of Xavier University, Ateneo de Cagayan. For feedback on this column, email tinigloyola @yahoo.com

ASK JOSE RAMON T MASTER GARDENER MIDDLE EAST PATIENT PLACE WEEDS
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