Monday, July 11, 2011

Weeds in the Garden

The Mass readings from this past Sunday (July 10th) are definitely a powerful set, culminating with the Gospel of Matthew (Mt 13:1-23). Who can't forget the ever popular Parable of the Sower? This is a popular set of verses that many will use and have numerous discussions on in relation to planting seeds with believers and non believers alike. It's a very simple message, yet is one of the most striking  when the message is clearly heard, accepted, and most importantly, lived out.

July 10 Mass readings: 

Beginning with Isaiah 55:10-11, the readings really ask us to open our eyes and see correctly the work God is doing and the work that needs to be done in our gardens in order for us to cultivate our own healthy garden and provide good fruit. One can't help but see the church's divine wisdom in setting up the Mass readings to be so inter-connected throughout the year.

After the psalms and the second reading (more on that later), the Gospel of Matthew pulls us into the heart of the story (verses 18-23).

Matt: 13:18-23  "Hear then the parable of the sower.
The seed sown on the path is the one
who hears the word of the kingdom without understanding it,
and the evil one comes and steals away
what was sown in his heart.
The seed sown on rocky ground
is the one who hears the word and receives it at once with joy.
But he has no root and lasts only for a time.
When some tribulation or persecution comes because of the word,
he immediately falls away.
The seed sown among thorns is the one who hears the word,
but then worldly anxiety and the lure of riches choke the word
and it bears no fruit.
But the seed sown on rich soil
is the one who hears the word and understands it,
who indeed bears fruit and yields a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold.”

At first glance, who doesn't say to themselves "Yeah, I'm keeping good soil for the Lord to plant things in. Plant away Lord!"? The harsh reality is that we are fooling ourselves if we aren't looking deeply at ourselves, our actions, and how God is working in our lives. Too often the "noise" and "business of the world" prevent us from working the ground and ensuring that we let the seedlings attach and take root.  A lot of the times, it is the friends we keep and run into that are the weeds of the world. Instead, we end up planting (going to Church), forgetting to water and de-weed, even though we think we are doing the proper work. We leave church with a fresh mind, knowing how to plant properly, but are soon swallowed and surrounded by the weeds of the world which snatch that word from us. This definitely underscores the point of surrounding ourselves with solid Christians who will help us live our faith.

I can't tell you how many times I've gone into my own yard and said "Whoah, when did all these weeds pop up? They were not there yesterday! Where are the plants I seeded?"

Sure the weeds were there. I just wasn't looking... and was ignoring the yard work. "Sure, I'll get to it tomorrow".

This past week was one of the most challenging of my life. A relative passed away, which resulted in a funeral and it seemed like at every corner things were just more difficult. However, God uses this to teach us lessons and slow down in life (which I've been feverishly working on). It was the pulling away from the world during the funeral and time away from life that has made me realize many things over the past week.  It's these events that help realign our priorities in life and make those important course corrections. Just as I was worshiping other things before I returned to the church nearly 4 years ago, we always find weeds lurking in the garden and priorities that need changing.

I typically don't go to 8pm Mass much, unless the day decides otherwise or if I am scheduled to lector it. Because I was away all weekend, I returned just in time to make the 8pm Mass. I believe it was a providential thing that I was away for the weekend and went to this particular Mass on Sunday. The priest that gives this Mass is one of my favorites for teaching. He's a very solid, retired Jesuit who still serves at a myriad of Masses all week. Some think he can even bi-locate. He actually takes time to interject historical comments in-between the readings, psalms, Gospel,etc - All which bring the Mass alive if one is truly listening.

The thing is that this pulling away for the majority of the week and culmination of the readings at Mass really made me realize as much as I didn't think there was, there were weeds in my garden that did not let seeds grow in my life. Granted God has done huge things in my life and pulled a lot of big weeds, but I now see more clearly where I was not letting some seeds fall on good ground because I hadn't fully de-weeded things. In fact, the weeds were there, but I just couldn't see them. Often weeds are at the base of plants and shrubbery. One can look from the outside and all appears well, but deep down, the weeds are slowly taking over the plants, not allowing new fruit to grow. In many respects, the weeds blend right in and look like a good plant or grass. However, they are slowly taking over our lives and we simply do not see it. 

As a Christian, life is not easy. It takes constant working of the soil and de-weeding of our garden, even if we think our soil is ready. Before the Gospel of Matthew, the second reading from Romans (8:18-23) reminds us to pick up our cross, endure the sufferings of the world, and let God work in our lives so that we can attain the final goal of ever lasting life through redemption.

"Brothers and sisters:
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing
compared with the glory to be revealed for us.
For creation awaits with eager expectation
the revelation of the children of God;
for creation was made subject to futility,
not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it,
in hope that creation itself
would be set free from slavery to corruption
and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
We know that all creation is groaning in labor pains even until now;
and not only that, but we ourselves,
who have the firstfruits of the Spirit,
we also groan within ourselves
as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies."

The funny thing is that I had felt the nudge to look deeper at this subject some time ago. I began writing this blog post 6 months ago and felt that the Lord was working on the right time for me to finish writing it, but it wasn't just quite there yet. Isn't it great how the Lord teaches us lessons and provides the inspiration and timing as he did this past week? I kept telling myself my soil was good, but it still needed work. In fact, the soil will always will need constant work!

St Fiacre, Patron Saint of Gardeners provides us a great lesson in gardening - He shows us to work our garden not with big equipment, but with fine care as he did with the point of his staff!

My prayer for the day:
"Lord, thank you for all the gifts of life you have given us. May we always listen attentively and allow for them to truly work in our lives. Many times we feel that we plant seeds with others and they may not take simply because their soil is not ready. May the Lord always help us de-clutter our own gardens and help work in other's with Christian charity and love. And most important of all, help us keep clearing the garden every day, being on guard for those weeds trying to take us away from attaining the glories of Heaven."

No comments:

Post a Comment