I’ve continued to think about this past Sunday’s parable about the wheat and the weeds. The priest in my parish gave a homily in which he explained that one of the reasons the farmer didn’t pull up the weeds immediately was because this particular weed mimicked wheat in its early stages, so the farmer would have risked pulling up the wrong plant. Once the wheat and the weed were mature, the difference was clear and there was less risk of throwing out the wrong part of the crop. Alongside the more obvious interpretation of the wheat and weeds being two different types of people, the priest went on to say that we all had both wheat and weeds within us. He didn’t take the thought much further than that, but I continued to turn it over in my mind.
The priest’s intent in making the statement was pretty clear, I think: to remind us that we all hold both good and evil within us and to call us back from too easily judging others as “the weeds.” But I also thought about what he’d said about the wheat and weeds looking alike in the beginning. What if the wheat and weeds were our thoughts, our ideas, or the promptings of our hearts. It can be all-too-tempting, when a new or countercultural idea pops into our heads, to fear it and want to uproot it completely, lest it grow bigger. “Heaven forbid anyone know that I questioned that!” or “I’ll just pretend I never thought that; let’s yank it up before it grows much bigger.”
I think there’s a lot of fear of our own thoughts in Christianity, partly based on Jesus’ teaching that to sin in your mind and heart is the same as to sin in real life, but also based on our conditioning to retain the status quo. After all, we’ve seen, all-too-recently and all-too-often, that those who disagree with the Church publicly are trampled by the Church. Having the Church hand down answers and call us unfaithful for continuing to ask questions can tempt us to pull questions out just as they begin to take root.
But by doing this, how often are we destroying the wheat in our souls? I don’t think questions are sinful. I don’t think thoughts are sinful. And I think we can’t always tell good from bad without allowing these thoughts to “grow.” As we allow them to grow, like the farmer watching his field, we begin to see which are weeds and which wheat. My belief in the ordination of women? Although many have seen this as a weed and tried to pull it out, I’ve allowed it to continue to grow inside me because I feel quite sure that it’s wheat. On the other hand, it may be hard in the beginning stages to see whether my initial doubt of someone else is wheat or a weed; the doubt could be there to help me stay connected to the truth of my own soul. On the other hand, if that doubt grows into a belief that the other person is uniformly evil or wrong, then that doubt has sprouted into a weed and must be pulled.
I think the key here is that as farmers of our own souls, we know the field and what grows there better than anyone else (except God). If someone else tries to yank away something that has taken root within us, we run the risk of damaging our soil (or soul). But if we take careful heed to what’s happening within us, we can begin to feel which ideas or emotions are choking and hurting us and which will ultimately sustain us.