Saturday, July 22, 2017


What's your picture of heaven? Today, in describing the kingdom of heaven, Jesus speaks of wheat and weeds. Let's see what these tell us about heaven.

To begin, what is a weed anyway? What makes a weed a weed?

Like everything else, when in doubt just Google it. I did. Here's what I learned. A weed is defined as any plant that is growing where it is not wanted. In other words, while you can point to a certain plant and say, That's a rose, there isn't any plant that is defined as a weed.

It's simply a plant that grows where it's not wanted. One person's weed might be another's wild flower. We call dandelions weeds even though they can dress up a field, can be used for food, and their roots are being studied for possible anti-cancer properties. 

Thus, in the immortal words of Winnie the Pooh, Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them. And from Mother Teresa, God can turn any weed into a flower.

I'm reminded of a story of a perfectionist who kept his lawn immaculately manicured. Never was a blade out of place. His lawn was the pride of the neighborhood. Then one day a weed began to grow. Hard as he tried, he could not get rid of it. He tried pulling it out by its roots. He tried every kind of herbicide. Nothing worked. 

Then on a drive in the country he spotted a Farmer's Co-op that specialized in seeds and plant chemicals. He stopped in and asked the old proprietor if he'd ever seen a weed like the one he had from his lawn. The old man said he had. So he asked, What's the best way to deal with it? The proprietor said, Love it. Just love it.

Well, of course he thought the old man was crazy. But after he got home, he thought, Oh, what he heck, and began to love the weeds. It wasn't long before his lawn was overrun with them. One day a neighbor walked by and saw him sitting on his porch admiring his front yard. He yelled to him, Hey, you've lost your perfect lawn. He smiled and yelled back, Yeah, but I just love my flower garden.

While we may see others, or ourselves, as weeds, God's loving eyes see us a flowers in God's flower garden.  Now that’s an image of heaven we may not often picture. 

Last week, I recommended opening the gospels at random daily to see what God wants to say personally to us. Often, even when we do this, we can make the mistake of looking for a "should". We read a passage and then we want to apply it to our life. That's where the "should" comes in. We say, Therefore, I should stop doing this or that...Therefore, we should tend to our lives as we tend to our plants...And so on.

The problem with this is that we miss the fact that many scripture passages are not trying to teach us how to behave. They teach us something about God, for us to simply understand and appreciate. 

Instead of focusing on our behavior, let's just think about what God is like. The more we understand God, the more we understand ourselves, because we're made in the image and likeness of God. Then let that be the guide for our actions and our entrance into heaven.

Once I went to console a friend, grieving because her granddaughter had committed suicide. She was in torment because she felt that her granddaughter would never enter heaven. Knowing of her goodness, I said that no doubt she herself would not be denied entry. And if upon entering, God were to say to her, Will you do me a favor and watch the gate while I attend to some other matters? St. Peter will be here shortly. Of course she would not refuse God. Then I asked, Suppose that while you were guarding the gate, your granddaughter were to show up. Would you let her in? In a heartbeat, she said. I loved her so much. I asked, Would God love her any less?

Last Sunday, I visited a friend at Flagler Hospital, who had said I had been too easy on her when she came to confession. As I was leaving, her daughter asked, Were you tougher on her this time? I said, I was as tough on her as she is with her grandchildren...(whom she had told me she adores). 

That's the image of God we have in today's readings. Our gospel parable tells us that God isn't angrily looking forward to punish us when we fail. God is more like a loving grandparent who is patient and caring with the grandchildren. 

To those who say, But Jesus said the weeds will be burned at the end, my response is, Yes, but will there be "weeds" at the end, or only flowers? What is a weed? Can't be any of us, because God wants each of us so much in God's garden.

Listen again to what the Book of Wisdom says of God, You judge with much clemency...and lenience. Our Psalm adds, God is good and forgiving...merciful and gracious.

And Jesus tells us that God is like a gentle farmer. The servants wanted to go and pull up the weeds, and the farmer says, Well, let's not be too hasty, too quick to judge. Let's give it some time. We might pull out some wheat thinking it's a weed. 

That's God speaking. It's a picture of God that Jesus himself gives us. And it's the way God treats us, because God loves us very, very much.

It's wonderful to have a God like that. It's wonderful to have a heaven like that.

That's it. No "shoulds". Let's simply enjoy God. When we do that, love and gratitude and heaven come naturally.

1 comment:

  1. Perhaps that is why many summarize the entire bible as God's love being received and given selflessly in perpetual hospitality. This state of being doesn't come from the shoulds, but rather just the experience the Holy Spirit encourages towards .

    Thank you Frank for the break from the shoulds and helping us enjoy each encounter with family , friends , foes and strangers alike .