Cultivate God’s Word – Br. Sean Glenn

Jeremiah 7:1–11
Matthew 13:24–30

“Do you want us to go and gather them?” 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.”[1] O Lord of hosts, * happy are they who trust in you.[2]

This may only be true for me, but my guess is that somewhere along the way we’ve all known a very particular kind of longing: a longing to be, in the words of Fr. Basil Maturin, “as though [we] had never sinned,”—a “longing of the heart… at any cost to pluck up the tares which have been left to grow so long.”[3] This morning Jesus invites us into another agricultural parable of the Kingdom; and unlike the parable of the sower, which we hear in the same chapter of Matthew’s gospel, this one draws us into the uneasy fields of yielding—yielding to God’s wisdom alone. As we tread upon the soil of this parable, let us keep the words of Our Lady near at hand: be it unto me according to your word.[4]

A householder sows wheat in their field, and as the whole of the household sleeps, one Jesus names “an enemy” draws near to sow zizánia (ζιζάνια), bearded darnels[5], a poisonous invasive grass, among the wheat. The parable of the sower, just before, concerns the conditions of the soil of our heart as the Word of Life is sown in it; this one, however, brings our attention to the kinds of fruit the soil of our heart is capable of nourishing, and Jesus shares some rather unfortunate news with us. The soil of our heart is indiscriminate. It will nourish sin just as readily as it will nourish life, just as cultivated earth will nourish both wheat and zizánia. This is a consequence of the freedom gifted to us at our creation, and in our brokenness we often wish it weren’t so.

Unfortunately, the state of affairs is made worse by a crucial detail: wheat and zizánia, until both have matured, are identical. 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.” The difference between the seed of sin and the seed of life is so often opaque to us, just as the early shoots of wheat and zizánia are indistinguishable to the Householder’s farmhands.

Jesus call us to be especially mindful of our easy tendency—indeed, our fallen desire—to pass judgement for ourselves. Yet this does not diminish the pain we may experience when we become aware that an invasive germination has entered the soil of our heart. “How often,” writes Fr. Maturin, “as we look into our souls and wonder at the evil that we find there, do we not ask of ourselves and others, ‘whence hath it tares?’… The enemy may sow in the best and most carefully prepared soil.”[6]

This is, perhaps, one of the greater tasks—and one of the greater risks—which faces us as we wait upon the Author of our conversion, for he says to our soul’s longing: Let them both grow together until the harvest. Jesus warns us to be wary of a temptation which has followed us from the very first pages of Genesis—a desire to determine for ourselves the content of good and evil. Here, Jesus our Householder shows us that we are not equipped with the spiritual vision for such discrimination. We are not made with such a capacity, for God has only ever desired that we eat from the tree which gives us knowledge—not of good and evil—but of Him who breathes us out upon the soil of his Love. Yet this is a temptation that we, as religious people in particular, have inherited despite the warnings routinely sent our way.

Amend your ways and let me dwell with you in this place.
Do not trust in these deceptive words: “This is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord.”[7]

And so we are called to yield. “The reformation of life,” writes Maturin, alluding to Romans 6, “begins with that interior revolution which consists in ‘yielding ourselves to God as those that are alive from the dead and our members as instruments of righteousness unto God. Let evil be supplanted by good, let the soil of nature give its best gifts to the support of the seed of grace.”[8] Jesus has not called us to be reapers; he as simply asked us to grow wheat for the Kingdom, trusting in his Word to nourish the soil of our heart. In Jesus Christ, the Father has sown the seeds of new life—in the world around us and in you. By this planting, God has cast down the mighty and lifted up the lowly; but we have to let the crop grow. Like the Blessed Virgin Mary, may our lips have but one refrain as we tend this precious soil: be it unto me according to your word. Amen.

[1] Matthew 13:28b–30a

[2] Psalm 84:12

[3] Basil William Maturin, Practical Studies on the Parables of our Lord (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1903), 34.

[4] Luke 1:38b

[5] A weedy annual grass, Lolium temulentum (See Merriam-Webster Dictionary).

[6] Maturin, Practical Studies on the Parables of our Lord, 27.

[7] Jeremiah 7:3b–4, 8–10. New Revised Standard Version.

[8] Maturin, 37.

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  1. Eunice Schatz on February 9, 2022 at 08:47

    I am struck by the sentence about how the enemy can attack THE MOST CAREFULLY PREPARED SOIL. Ah, this strikes home today—the subtle pride in careful preparation.

  2. Cameron on February 9, 2022 at 06:41

    Br. Sean, this is a brilliantly crafted sermon, one I shall re-read and contemplate. Disturbing (as in the Gospel of Thomas), humbling, and affirming as well. This discernment asked of us is the weighty task of our time, not as reapers but as growers. I am grateful for the blessing of your keen mind…and your example.

  3. Elizabeth Hardy on August 17, 2019 at 19:24

    Excellent sermon. I really am taken by the thought that our apprehension of the difference between the seed of life and seed of sin is so opaque – and how we can deceive ourselves into believing that we are capable of differentiating for ourselves – and for others! This give me so much to think about. Thank you. Elizabeth Hardy+

  4. Ruth West on August 5, 2018 at 00:39

    Br. Sean, this is such a good sermon. Thank you for posting for our reading and meditation. The Virgin Mary’s words are ones I have not pondered enough, “Be it unto me according to your word.” I shall look forward to reading more of your sermons. REW

    • Betsey Lunsford on August 17, 2019 at 06:40

      Choosing to be in God’s word as Mary is all the sweeter and joyous for having known the weeds.

    • James Doran on August 17, 2019 at 06:54

      Thank you, Brother Sean; your sermon troubled and comforted me at the same time. “(Y)ielding to God’s wisdom alone,” can be so very hard. Yet only in so doing can we let the crop (Kingdom of God) grow.

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