Today I want to talk about three people who were like weeds that were growing in the midst of the wheat: Saint Peter, Saint Paul and Saint Augustine.
Saint Augustine was the son of St. Monica, and he was not always a saint. When he was a teenager, he became an atheist and lived like an atheist until he was 33 years old. His conversion was a process that began on a very ordinary day. Augustine pulled himself out of bed shortly before noon and sat down at the kitchen table. Then he heard children singing and playing in the street since it was summertime and school was not in session. He heard a child’s voice saying, “Tolle et lege.” That is Latin for “Take and read.” The voice kept saying, “Take and read.”
He looked around the room and saw a Bible. And that was no surprise because his mother kept placing Bibles where he could easily find them. He opened the Bible and the page fell open to Romans, chapter 13. He read verses 12 and 13: “The night is far gone; the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor on light. Let us live honorably, as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.”
In the meantime, one of his buddies stopped by. Augustine said to him, “Listen to this!” And he proceeded to read verse 14: “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.” Then Augustine said, “It sounds like the Bible is talking directly to me.” “Me too.” His buddy said. “Read some more.” So, Augustine read verse one of Chapter 14: “You should welcome those who are weak in faith.” His buddy said, “I like that sentence. Read it again.” “You should welcome those who are weak in faith.” Augustine said. “That means that there’s hope for us. It says that Jesus welcomes people who have a weak faith. We need to find out how Jesus brings the light to take away our darkness.”
So, they went to the nearest church to find out what the next step would be. They were told that if they entered the catechumenate and followed the catechumenate process, they could be baptized. During their time of study, they discovered how Christ was bringing light to their spiritual darkness. They were faithful to the program, and they were baptized the following Easter.
Augustine was one of weeds growing in the midst of the wheat. He was a non-believer until he met the Lord in Romans 13, verse 12: “Throw off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Turn away from reveling and drunkenness, debauchery, and licentiousness, quarreling and jealousy, and put on the armor of light.
From that story we see that the Lord lets the weeds and wheat grow together because sometimes the weeds hear the call to conversion and turn their lives around. Saint Augustine became a bishop and wrote books that have great value even today.
The gospels tell us about another weed named Peter. When he entered the courthouse of the high priest a servant girl said to him, “Aren’t you a friend of Jesus.” “I am not.” he said. Another servant asked him, “Aren’t you a friend of Jesus.” “I am not.” he said. Then a third servant asked him, “Aren’t you a friend of Jesus.” “I am not.” he said. Peter was like weeds in the wheat after denying Jesus three times. But Jesus did not expel him from the church. Instead, he kept working on his heart. After Jesus rose from the dead, He looked at Peter with love and he repented and became the first pope of the church.
That was the first case where the Lord let the weeds and the wheat grow together and in due time there was a conversion and very important benefits for the church. Jesus was practicing what he preached in today’s gospel: He let the weeds and wheat grow side by side.
I will begin with the bottom line. Paul was a conflicted person. Before his conversion, during his conversion and after his conversion. Paul was a conflicted person. He was a faithful Jew - dedicated to the law. He was proving his love for God by persecuting the followers of Jesus.
Then Jesus knocked him to the ground. He did not fall off his high horse. Paul was not on a horse. That fable was invented by the artist Caravaggio. Rather, a great light flashed around him and he fell to the ground. At that point he was torn; he was conflicted. He did not know what to do. He said to Jesus, “Lord, what must I do, sir?” He was told to go to Damascus and Ananias told him to go forth and bear witness to Jesus.
A short time later he set forth on his first missionary journey. He became the church’s most important missionary. But he still had a lot of internal conflicts. He put it on paper for all of us to see in Romans, chapter 7. Paul said, “I fail to do the good that I want to do, and I end up doing the evil that I hate.” Without a doubt, Paul was a conflicted person: doing the evil that he hated and not doing the good that he loved. But Paul did not stay at that point.
In Second Timothy Chapter Four, we hear what Paul said just before he died a martyr’s death. I have run the race; I have kept the faith.” When Paul was leaving this world, he was keeping the faith and doing the good that he wanted to do.
How did Paul get to this point? How did Paul reach the point where his actions and his words coincided with each other? He spent many hours in prayer. That’s how! He took his internal conflicts and moral weakness to the Lord and the Lord responded by giving him strength when he was weak. “The Lord stayed with me and gave me strength.” That’s what Paul says in Second Timothy, Chapter Four: “The Lord stayed with me and gave me strength.”
There are many more biblical examples of weeds growing in the midst of the wheat. The Samaritans lived in the hills and were called hillbillies; but one of them became the Good Samaritan and the Samaritan woman at the well had a change of heart and became an early missionary for the church.
I will close with the lesson that I am taking from today’s Gospel: Within our church communities and within our civic communities we sometimes see people that we want to classify as weeds. We see them as working against the common good. But in point of fact --- We should not judge them because God the Father is working on their hearts and Jesus is looking at them with love and the Holy Spirit isn’t through with them yet. And that is my conclusion: We should not judge them because God is working on their hearts and Jesus is looking at them with love and the Holy Spirit isn’t through with them yet.