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07.23.17: Stuck in the weeds

Homily from the 7:30 and 9 a.m. Masses at St. Mary's Church in Crown Point, Ind.

Have you ever had a garden?

The best gardens start out with the best soil, good seeds and a lot of care. At times, watering a garden can seem like a part-time job – maybe not recently. But no matter how good your soil, no matter how good your seed, no matter how well you tend your garden, those dreaded weeds will always appear.

Gardens always have weeds.

And so too in our lives, those “weeds” will always appear. No matter how hard we work on the soil of our souls, just when we’re hitting a stride, everything is going well, some obstacle, some challenge, some temptation, some frustration gets in the way and we have to deal with it.

But unlike in our vegetable gardens, we don’t need to immediately rush in there and kill the “weeds.” Those “weeds” in our life, if we approach them with patience, with courage, they can help us to grow.

The “weeds” of our lives force us to roll up our sleeves and get dirty. These challenges, these obstacles call us into action.

Without the weeds, we’re just passive bystanders.

The weeds spur us into action. Sure, we can pluck a weed away, but think of that vegetable garden: if you don’t get a weed at its source, what happens? The same weed comes right back – and usually with a vengeance.

We have to understand our weeds. We have to figure out what caused the challenge, what caused the frustration. We have to come to understand how to heal, move forward and prevent the weeds from popping back up. And, like in today’s Gospel, we can’t let the weeds get in the way of the harvest.

One of my current frustrations is that in a little over a month, I have to go back to the seminary. A classmate and I were lamenting Friday night how much we’re not looking forward to going back. Both of us have been assigned to amazing parishes. We’ve had a taste of something wonderful and we’re ready to put that chapter in life behind us.

But that’s not what I’m called to do. I’m not yet ripe for this harvest. On Aug. 26, I’m called to be back there – I’ll be here on the weekends – but Monday through Friday, I’m called to be there. Friends, the prospect of going back to school isn’t my weed. The attitude I’m approaching the situation is my weed. Sometimes, we grow our own weeds.

As much as I sometimes might think I’m ready for harvest, I’m not. My weeds help remind me that I’m still a work in progress. I’m still a garden, growing. I’d bet a lot of you struggle with this too.

And, it’s hard not to think about the harvest – about the “what’s next.”

That harvest might look like a relationship taken to new heights, it might look like a promotion at work, it might look like retiring and finally taking that vacation. But it might not be time for the harvest. We have to be patient. We have to tend our gardens. We have to keep plucking out the weeds, but with precision, careful not to damage the harvest that is to come.

The kingdom of God is our ultimate harvest. And, we can spend a lot of time thinking about the kingdom of God, lamenting the weeds around us, the state of the world around us and our life situation.

But if we do that, we’re not really actualizing the potential that God, the true master gardener has given us. Because thinking about the kingdom pales in comparison to rolling up our sleeves and building it. And, friends, we’re called to live in this moment, to build the kingdom of God right here, right now.

We’re called to use or hand, use our labors to lift up the lowly. Just as we can’t look at our state of life as being stuck in the weeds, we can’t look at each other as obstacles. We have to be patient with one another. We have to allow each other to grow. But some of those weeds, pesky as they might be, not only does God put them in our garden to help us grow in kindness and patience, mercy and love, but some of those weeds in our lives eventually flower into something beautiful, when we apply those gifts God has given us, when we don’t go with our first impulse to just get it out of the way.

Maybe that’s the secret to the Kingdom of God. Even the weeds have a place. Even the weeds can be transformed into something beautiful. Even the weeds are worthy.

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