Wheat and Weeds
Many of us know who Alfred Nobel is. He is the man for whom the “Nobel Prize” is named. The Nobel Prize is awarded to men and women who have contributed to humanity in areas like science, literature, and, most notably, peace. The Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to such great folks as Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Blessed Mother Teresa, and the Dali Lama.
However, Alfred Nobel did not become “Alfred Nobel” for establishing a prize. Rather, he had to amass that wealth from something. Nobel is the man who invented dynamite, among other explosive compounds, and he was also quite the war profiteer. This was the case for most of his life – until he had the chance to read his obituary.
In 1888, when Alfred’s brother Ludvig passed away, a French newspaper mistakenly wrote up the obituary for the more famous Alfred. The obit read, “The merchant of death is dead. … Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” Needless to say, Alfred was a little shaken up by that bit of news! He decided that, since we wasn’tdead yet, he would dedicate his life to providing some incentive for making the world a better place – even if he had not necessarily done that himself. The Nobel Peace Prize was born as a way to recognize men and women who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
Wheat and weeds. The world is full of them. Jesus’ world was full of them too, and that’s where His parable gets its strength.
Here, the workers are distressed by the presence of the weeds among the good wheat that the Master had sown. He didn’t put them there; they don’t belong there; so the workers are naturally concerned. However, what is very interesting is the lack of surprise or worry on the part of the Master, who simply says, “An enemy has done this.”
He is not worried about their presence, and he even allows them to remain and grow until the harvest, where it will all be sorted out. Notice that it is concern for the good wheat that drives the Master to be tolerant and patient of the weeds – not happiness that the weeds are there.
The question that naturally arises for the self-reflective Christian is this: am I wheat or am I a weed? The obvious answer should be that I am wheat, and that the Master desires to harvest me at the proper time. However, we all probably have been weeds at some time in our lives. Better yet, we probably should say that we have a mixture of wheat and weeds in us right now. Nevertheless, God is patient; He sees the big picture, and He allows us to grow – with the opportunity to shed those weeds and grow as healthy and strong wheat.
Alfred Nobel the dynamite creator was seen by many as a weed. Alfred Nobel, the founder of the Peace Prize, will probably qualify as wheat; but that is only because he had the time to develop, to mature, and to grow. This is what the Master desires.
As pastor of Christ the King parish, I have about 3,200 registered families – maybe 10,000 people or so. However, as far as the geographic area of our parish is concerned, over 67,000 people live in Glen Burnie. According to Canon Law, a parish is not the folks who have filled out the registration card; rather, it includes all the “Christian faithful of a certain territory” (Can. 518). Therefore, our parishes encompass, probably, at least 60,000 people. On a given weekend, however, we will usually see about 1500 of them (about half that at the moment).
Wheat and weeds. Who are they? Who decides? You? Me? This is God’s privilege, not ours. When the Master knows that the weeds are present, he allows them, for now, to grow along with the wheat. But what is a weed? Moms, have your children ever brought you a dandelion as a gift?
Wheat and weeds. It is the difference between a dandelion and a flower; it’s the difference between “those people” and potential fellow parishioners; it’s the difference between “illegal immigrants” and refugees in need of love; it’s the difference between “us” and “them”; it’s the difference between a warmonger and a promoter of humanity and peace.
Jesus takes that wheat now – as it has become our Bread – and He transforms it into the Body of Christ that nourishes us. In the Eucharist, we are fed and given a taste of God’s perspective; and we are called to put that perspective into action in our lives. Evangelization first requires that we see others as worthy of that life-giving Word, and that we share it with them wherever they may be – in our pews or at Dunkin’ Donuts.
Wheat and weeds. The world is full of them; and God is looking for us to help transform them all.