Matthew 13: 24-43
I had thought of that song, Peace in the Valley, as I read these readings for this weekend and thought of all that has transpired in the world the past days and weeks. “No sadness, no sorrow, no trouble I see…”, is the desire of the songwriter. Yet, as we look out at world circumstances and watch planes, most likely, inadvertently shot out of the air, Israelis invading Gaza, Palestinian kids innocently killed, who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and plenty of instability throughout the world, including our own internal strife in this country as we live with tension of young children entering this country by the thousands, like many others, fleeing violence. You can’t help but wonder what kind of change will occur and will we ever see peace in the valley?
I’m no expert in foreign policy or war, nor do I want to be, but I’ve had plenty of experience of dealing with the wars that have existed within me and battling with my own reality. So often, in my experience, the desire is to eradicate myself from evil or at least live in denial of the darkness that exists within, forever projecting it outward and onto others. If anything, I want to believe the lie that I am all wheat and free of weed. But if we’re honest with ourselves, it just isn’t true. The weeds may not define us, but they are there!
As much as that is our own response, we only magnify that tremendously when we move it to the world stage. It so often seems as if it at times has become our sole task to eradicate the world of evil (which we will never do). If we only destroy Hamas…if we only destroy bin Laden…if we only destroy or get rid of Democrats or Republicans…if we only impeach the president…if we only send all those immigrants crossing back to where they came from…somehow eliminating what we don’t like is going to somehow give us the illusion that all of our problems are gone and we can go on living in this perfect world where it’s only wheat and no weeds.
Yet, in the Gospel today the direct command by Jesus in the parable is to not pull the weeds. Even he seemed to know that the disciples would want to do what appears to be the obvious, get rid of what gets in the way. It’s rather unfortunate that these interpretations have been inserted into the gospel because it at times can take away us being stretched by the intent of the parable. Love our enemies. Maybe the greatest war that we face is finally confronting the enemy within us. That’s when change really begins to happen. That’s when conversion opens us up and our hearts expand to a deeper and wider love. No, none of it means that people should not be held accountable, but eliminating and eradicating, only makes us what it is that we hate about the other. It makes us the enemy not only within, but in the world around us and we take it out on the people we encounter.
I have to believe, as we heard again this week in Paul’s letter to the Romans, that there is a great groaning that is happening not only within myself but in the world of God’s. Somehow we are being moved, widened, deepened, into something other than ourselves. The Spirit not moving to eliminate the weeds within, but rather transforming that they too can be used to bring about good.
As I watched all these stories unfold, I haven’t thought about how we should remove Hamas, take out Putin, go after those that took down that plane, scream at those kids crossing the boarder, which is probably why I’m no political leader; rather, I’ve often wondered what has gone on in their lives? What has led them to lead the way they lead? What have those kids been through, the unthinkable violence, that has led them to travel thousands of miles to come to this country? Weeds? Wheat?
As we reflect upon this gospel this weekend, it’s harder than we think; and if it isn’t, then pray to be challenged and pushed out of your own comfort zone and become aware of the war that may exist not only out there in foreign lands, but deep within myself. It’s the path to greater compassion for the other and understanding for people that are different. Maybe the greatest challenge for any of us is to accept the reality that, God-willing, I am defined by the wheat, but that in no way means that any of us are exempt from the weeds.
Before we are quick to pull the weeds, ask ourselves, where does that come from within? Before we speak with such vitriol and violence and demean others by what we say or do, ask ourselves, where does that come from within? They’re my weeds and they’re yours. They keep us boxed in and limit our vision. Would we want to have ourselves uprooted, pulled up, and thrown into the fire? “If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.” Will there be peace in the valley? Yes, but only when I first confront the weeds and the war within. When I begin to accept it about myself, peace will begin to unfold; in turn, we bring it to the world we live in, a world in need of that peace, not brought by war and hate, but by accepting God’s love and mercy first for ourselves.