Here’s my biggest problem: I can’t tell a weed from a good plant. So, when I discovered that my smartphone could help out with this, I was ecstatic! Maybe now I’ll stop overlooking plants that are choking out my flowers!
But that’s one of the benefits of attentiveness – it creates discernment. St. John Climacus says discernment is “the sure possession of the will of God in every time and place and thing, which exists only in those who are pure in heart and body and mouth. Discernment is an unspotted conscience and a pure sense.” (Step 23, The Ladder of Divine Ascent) In other words, you can see clearly when the window of your heart is clean and polished by your regular practice of the Faith. With discernment, you can look internally and tell the weeds from the healthy plants. When you lack discernment, you will discover that the weeds will do what all weeds do – they take the nutrients and the oxygen from the “virtues” and feed the vises.
Look at our Gospel Lesson in Matthew 13:36-43:
At that time, Jesus went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, “Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.” He answered, “He who sows the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world, and the good seed means the sons of the kingdom; the weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
By the way, I love that phrase the Lord uses over and over again “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” It always strikes me as the Lord’s way of inviting me to take seriously the gifts He’s given me in both my freedom to actively pay attention to His words AND my invitation from Him to actually embrace what He says!
Our Lord interprets the parable of the Weeds for His disciples by telling them that He is the One Who is “sowing” seeds of His love and wisdom in the world. And that seed is falling on all kinds of “ground.” The “good seed” is the ones who hear the invitation of the Lord and embrace it and the “weeds” are ones who choose rather their own way, their own wisdom, and those grow right along with the “good seeds.” But there will come a day when the “harvest comes and there will be a clear distinction of destiny for the “seeds” who have become useful wheat and those weeds that end up being discarded!
First, we should notice that we should never be surprised that “weeds” are often in the same place as healthy plants. There is no mistaking this powerful discerning insight. But, we miss the power of this wisdom if we think it’s just talking about evil people. No, the weeds and the good seed are all growing in my own heart! Recognizing this truth protects me from arrogantly judging others before I take seriously the sins of my own life!
Next, the Lord makes clear that this state of affairs will not last forever! There will be a Day when the harvest comes and the clearing of the weeds will be done by the Lord’s angels. This apocalyptic language is used by the Lord to wake us up to pay attention NOW to the state of our own hearts and allow the Spirit to use the disciplines of the Faith to “weed out” the areas of our lives that are choking out the wisdom of the faith because of the weeds of self-centeredness and pride!
Finally, the clear and unmistakable difference between the destiny of the “weeds” and the righteous can’t be more clear. Both are going to be consigned to their proper place; one is the fire of the furnace and the other will “shine like the sun.”
Today, where are the “weeds” in your own life? Are you able to discern how to tend the “garden” of your life by embracing with joy the wise pathway of the Faith? Such treasures are lying at your feet, just waiting for you to exercise your will in choosing to embrace this “way of life” rather than allowing the clock to tick away toward a moment when others will come and remove the weeds of your life. When that harvest comes, when we stand before the “awesome judgment seat of Christ, will we have been wise enough to have hearing ears and loving hearts? Will we be found to be Orthodox on Purpose?
P.S. Lord, You are the Supreme Gardener of hearts. Grant me the courage to allow You to do Your work within my life so that all that chokes out Your wisdom will be pulled out and cast aside. Help me embrace the wisdom of a discerning faith so that this Faith shows me where the weeds are and where the healthy growth is as well, and give me the grace to repent and forever submit to Your good work in my life. Amen