One of my favorite parables of Jesus is the one about the wheat and the weeds. It begins with a farmer who plants wheat. At night an enemy comes and sows weeds in the wheat. As the wheat grew up, so did the weeds and the workers asked the farmer if they should pull the weeds out immediately. The farmer tells them not to pull up the weeds because “if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time, we will separate the two. We will collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to burn, while the wheat we will take into my barn.” You can find the parable here.
When I think about this parable, I am always struck by the fact that the farmer has the weeds and wheat grow together until the appropriate time when he can harvest them. In other words, there are things in all of us that we’d like to change. Maybe we’re impatient. Or selfish. Or overeat, compulsively buy things, or look at porn when stressed. We all have faults, failings, and sins.
There are some people who, when recognizing their faults and failings are changed immediately. I have a friend who was an alcoholic and he told me that one day, upon realizing what alcohol was doing to him, he stopped drinking. That was over 10 years ago and he hasn’t drank since. This, however, is very rare and most us will not have a “wow” experience like his.
In reality we all change slowly: we are like the wheat that slowly grows up with the weeds. St. Francis de Sales recognized this too and, in a more modern adaptation of the the Introduction to the Devout Life, entitled Falling in Love with God, we read:
“Seeking to improve yourself will last your lifetime, so don’t spend a lot of useless energy worrying over your faults. Simply seek to understand them and overcome them. Don’t think you will be able to do this in a week or even by year’s end! When God asks you to become “perfect,” he really means become “compassionate,” and that means being compassionate first with yourself and then with others. God knows that “perfection/compassion” consists not in covering up or ignoring all your faults, but in accepting them and dealing with them in a positive way. You have to begin by recognizing them.”
In 2nd Corinthians, St. Paul prayed that God remove the thorn – his weeds – from him. God did not and St. Paul realized that this was precisely because our faults keep us modest and humble. Those who are too perfect are sometimes out of touch and really boring. Your faults are part of you – the weeds growing in your wheat – so recognize them and don’t let them overwhelm you, and more importantly, don’t let them demoralize you. Instead do this:
1. Be energetic in dealing with your faults.
2. Do not be discouraged about who you are.
3. Forge ahead – to honestly accept and deal with your reality is to win.
In other words, continue striving for holiness, seek help when needed and never give up. This, according to St. Francis de Sales, is the secret of holiness for as he tells us: “Perfection [holiness] consists in constantly fighting against our imperfections.”
~ Fr. Michael E. Newman, OSFS