Open the Window – Br. Nicholas Bartoli

Matthew 13:24-30 (Parable of the Weeds)
There’s a saying they have in the US Marines and Special Forces, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out.” That seems to be just about the opposite of letting everything grow together like in the parable of the weeds. But I do appreciate some of the wisdom in it, namely “let God sort them out,” which can be shortened even further to “let God.” An example might be, let God take care of weeding out sources of pain and suffering in someone else’s life.

Letting God do that kind of weeding can be a really good idea, especially when we’re feeling compassion for someone. Compassion literally means to “suffer with,” to take on someone else’s pain.  If we open our hearts enough to truly love, then we’re open enough to feel the pain of compassion.

Compassion can hurt in another way, too. It can be tempting when feeling someone else’s pain to try a little weeding in the garden of their life, to want to make their pain go away. Sometimes, of course, there are things we can do to help, but many times there isn’t, and it can feel very painful and frustrating to be helpless to alleviate someone else’s suffering, someone we might care for a great deal.

Now, with everything I’ve been saying about compassion it might sound like something we’d be better off avoiding if we could. But there’s a catch. My experience of it has been that unless our hearts are open enough to feel someone else’s pain and suffering, our hearts won’t be open enough to see their beauty and experience their joy either. I think that’s what true love is, the willingness to open our hearts enough to experience both the joy and the suffering of ourselves and others.

With our hearts that open, it can be a hard lesson that sometimes as much as we’d want to get rid of all the painful weeds in someone’s life, the only option is often letting God do the weeding, while we offer the consolation of simply being with someone in their suffering. And maybe our unconditional love for them in whatever they’re facing will help them feel safe enough to surrender to God’s grace. Feeling compassion is painful and hard, that’s true, but it’s also part of being fully alive in Christ, with our hearts open in love toward our sisters and brothers.

When I meditate in my cell here in the monastery I can choose to open the window or not. If I open it I get the distracting noise from the cars racing by on Memorial Drive, the sounds of honking horns and sirens, and coaches yelling to their scullers on the Charles. If I close the window I don’t have to worry about all the noise, but I miss the sound of the wind moving through the trees, leaves whispering. I miss the sound of the water flowing over the rocks in the fountain. And I miss the beautiful song of the birds. It’s not much of a choice really. I open the window as wide as I can every time.

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  1. Annmarie on January 29, 2015 at 12:41

    Thanks Nick, that was beautiful. i’m trying to learn to let go and let God take the wheel so to speak. It’s not easy but I pray that I have the strength to let go.

  2. Ruth West on July 30, 2014 at 13:30

    Dear Brother, I must confess that I have done my share of “weeding” during my past. It definitely is not a good thing. If I can just remind myself of the parable of letting the wheat and the tares grow together and allow God to sort them out in the end, I shall be more joyful. I think I have learned my lesson, but I need His grace and guidance day by day to keep me on the right path. Thank you for this good homily.

  3. Judy on July 30, 2014 at 10:03

    Brother Nicholas,
    Thank you for reminding me to open the window of my heart.

  4. Margo on July 29, 2014 at 10:29

    Br. Nicholas, Thank for your beautiful imagery. I too, leave the windows open whenever I can. Margo

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