16th Sunday in Ordinary Time | July 19, 2020
See today’s readings here. Video recordings of the Sunday evening Mass, where Fr. Brian regularly preaches, are available on Facebook at Delaware Koinonia. The archive of all of Fr. Brian’s homilies can be found here: Salesian Sermons
I still remember the hardest part of my application to join the Oblates.
It wasn’t the interviews or the psychological exams.
It wasn’t the dozens of pages inquiring about my educational accomplishments and work history, my family relationships and financial obligations.
Nope it was a single page essay that I was told to write.
Answer the question, who am I?
One page. That’s it
Now at first, I thought there was a trick. I had heard of other seminaries requiring a spiritual autobiography that can go on for dozens of pages.
So why were the Oblates letting me off easy?
Except they weren’t. That little one page essay became the hardest thing I have ever written.
I wrote and rewrote. I edited and deleted. I scrapped the entire thing and started over more times than I could count.
I never could have imagined how difficult it would be to summarize my entire identity, my entire life in a handful of paragraphs.
Well I finally submitted something in 2007. But I must be honest.
I never stopped working at this exercise.
My latest revision I completed in 2018.
And in rereading what I wrote, I realized that I am just a mess of contradictions.
I put down that I am a visionary and an idealist.
And a few lines later, I am reflecting on how I am often fearful and anxious
I stressed the importance of my relationships. How they give my life meaning and purpose.
And then went on about how I love the solitary pursuit of knowledge between the covers of a book.
I wrote how I am a child of God, made in the divine image and unconditionally loved.
At the same time I identified myself as a fractured human being, scarred and broken, a sinner in need of mercy and redemption.
So who am I?
Am I wheat or am I weed?
And who can tell the difference?
See I used to think this was an easy task. To tell wheat from weeds. Both in terms of plants and in terms of people.
I consider myself reasonably intelligent, perceptive and a good judge of character. Surely, I should be able to tell the difference.
But if this Gospel teaches us anything, it is that there is wisdom in not racing to judgement.
For the wheat and weeds we hear described are virtually the same plant in appearance. Distinguishable only in the final stages of growth, when the entire life span of the plant has been spent and its fruit are finally evident for all to see.
And in these plants, I am convinced we have a powerful metaphor of our own human journey.
For I am convinced that within each of us is both wheat and weed.
A mess of contradictions and contrary impulses.
And in each and every day, as we keep growing, we strive to distinguish between the two. Even though that is often far harder to do than one would assume or admit.
So that we too may reach the end of our journey bearing bushels of wheat, as the weeds gently wither and fade away as dust on the wind.
And so as we take inventory of our fields, let us be honest about the labor that still must be done. For our fields are a tangled mess of weeds and wheat in abundance.
The faith that we cling to. The doubts that we battle. The hope that we sustain. The despair and cynicism that knaws at us. The talents we use and squander, that we hide and boast about. The wounds that we have received and given. The feelings we share, and deny and manipulate. The work we do and fail to do. The rat race we choose to run. The riches we hoard. The sacrifices we make. The generosity we show. The family we raise and the friends we betray. And the stranger we fight for and ignore. The battles we fight and start and end. The causes we embrace and ideologies we fall into and prejudices we live out and uproot. Who we follow. What we give our life to. Who we love and who we hate and who we fear.
All growing side by side.
And in the midst of it all. Stands the one true stalk of wheat. Jesus Christ who embraces us all, wheat and weeds blended together.
Feeding us. Tending us. Guiding us. Fighting for us. Crying out on our behalf
Loving us as we are, even as he helps us become who we were meant to be.
And so let us go forth to work in our fields. Cultivating the wheat. Finding the weeds. Producing a harvest worthy of the kingdom, so that all may share in our bounty.
May God be Praised.