He put before them another parable: "The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, 'Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?' He answered, 'An enemy has done this.' The slaves said to him, 'Then do you want us to go and gather them?' But he replied, 'No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.'" Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen! -Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity." And how can true concern flourish without realizing we're all in this together? Our roots inexorably tangled, "whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly."
Conventional good guy/bad guy interpretations of this parable limit the possibilities of continual conversion, reconciliation, maturing in faith and compassion given our root-bound interdependence. Rather, let the tares represent all that is within the human character that stifles solidarity with all of life on this fragile planet.
Again, to quote from King, “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
A lament at untimely death begins this week's retreat (meditation one) followed by a lament for our entanglement with junk culture and encouragement toward the real (meditation two). Acknowledging the inter-connectedness of life, let us sow peace, love, pardon, truth, faith, hope, light, joy ...(meditation three).
Entangled happily among my tares, -Suzanne
Meditation One (introit) elegy
My prime of youth is but a frost of cares, My feast of joy is but a dish of pain, My crop of corn is but a field of tares, And all my good is but vain hope of gain; The day is past, and yet I saw no sun, And now I live, and now my life is done.
My tale was heard and yet it was not told, My fruit is fallen, and yet my leaves are green, My youth is spent and yet I am not old, I saw the world and yet I was not seen; My thread is cut and yet it is not spun, And now I live, and now my life is done.
I sought my death and found it in my womb, I looked for life and saw it was a shade, I trod the earth and knew it was my tomb, And now I die, and now I was but made; My glass is full, and now my glass is run, And now I live, and now my life is done.
-Chidiock Tichborne 1558-1586 (written on the even of his execution during the reign of Elizabeth I)
Millet, Tacuinum Sanitatis
For neither is there any god besides you, whose care is for all people, For your strength is the source of righteousness, and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all. For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power, and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it. Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness, and with great forbearance you govern us; for you have power to act whenever you choose. Through such works you have taught your people that the righteous must be kind, and you have filled your children with good hope, because you give repentance for sins.
- The Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19
O thou who camest from above the fire celestial to impart, kindle a flame of sacred love upon the altar of my heart.
There let it for thy glory burn with ever bright, undying blaze, and trembling to is source return in humble prayer and fervent praise.
Jesus confirm my heart's desire to work, and speak, and think for thee; still let me guard the holy fire and still stir up the gift in me.
Still let me prove thy perfect will, my acts of faith and love repeat, till death thy endless mercies seal, and make the sacrifice complete.
Charles Wesley 1707-1788
Rye, Tacuinum Sanitatis
Meditation Two (insight) interconnection
Contemplation is a long loving look at what is real. How often we are fooled by what mimics the real. Indeed, we live in a culture that flaunts the phony and thrives on glittering fabrication. We are so bombarded by the superficial and the trivial that we can lose our bearings and give ourselves over to a way of living that drains us of our humanity. Seduced by the superficial, we lose the very freedom we think all our acquisitions will provide. When we are engaged in the experience and practice of radical amazement, we begin to distinguish between the genuine and the junk. Caught up in contemplative awareness and rooted in love, we begin to break free from cultural confines and embrace the truth that lies at the heart of all reality: We are one.
-Judy Cannato Radical Amazement: Contemplative Lessons from Black Holes, Supernovas, and other Wonders of the Universe. 2006
Meditation Three (integration) sowing peace
Lord make me an instrument of your peace Where there is hatred, Let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is error, truth; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, Joy.
O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood,as to understand; To be loved, as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, It is in pardoning that we are pardoned, And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
-prayer by an anonymous Norman, c. 1915 called “The Peace Prayer of St. Francis” (found on a St. Francis Holy Card during World War I)
The Last Word
All I'm saying is simply this, that all life is interrelated, that somehow we're caught in an inescapable network of mutuality tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason, I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.
-Martin Luther King Jr 1929-1968
Wheat, Tacuinum Sanitatis
I don't need an enemy sneaking into my field to sow darnel into my sprouting wheat. I sabotage myself quite effectively, thank you very much. Later I have the painstaking work of separating the weeds entwined with the wheat. And so the burning of the tares begins long before the final day. Sins, mistakes, flaws, all kinds of soul-debris fuel the continually smoldering fire. Once in a while some chunk of the psyche loosens and falls out of hiding, letting in the air and stirring up a new conflagration.
While I'm untangling my harvest I sneak a look around at the other sinners. My assessment of others' bundles distracts me from the work at hand. Ha! I'm not so bad as this one or that. Oh, dear. One would hope that attending regularly to my own sins might draw forth deep compassion for other sinners sowing seeds of self-destruction. But does it?
Just as wasteful as my rush to judgement, is my jealousy of others who seem to handle their mixed harvest of wheat and tares better than I.
You know what I've learned? If you ask other sinners to help - whether they are the ones you are judging or the ones of whom you are jealous - they will help you. The ones you're jealous of usually turn out to be master sinners but know through arduous and painful inner work how to deftly handle the mess of life. They will even help you with your bundle, but (wisely) not so thoroughly that you don't learn how to bring your darnels honestly to the cleansing fire.