I think we get a more vivid picture of today’s Gospel if we’ve ever had the task of weeding a good-sized garden. I’ve done it plenty of times. It’s not a task I really look forward to, but it is kind of good in that when you finish a job like that, you can look at it and see something good happened. There’s a sense of accomplishment. But discerning what is a weed and what is a plant is sometimes a difficult task.
That’s the kind of question the disciples had for Jesus today. Jesus had just told them several parables about the kingdom of God, and this one didn’t get read in the Gospels the last few days. So we have the explanation, but not the parable. You can check it out in the 13th chapter of Matthew. The story basically went that the landowner sowed good seed in the field, but when it started to grow, weeds came up too. His laborers asked him about it and he said, “An enemy has done this.” So they wanted to pull up the weeds, but the master said to let them grow together until harvest time, lest in pulling them up they also accidentally pull up the good plants. They could then be pulled up and burnt at harvest time.
Now I think a good gardener might quibble with the analogy. But that’s not the point. The point is good news, and the good news is this: however much we may resemble the weeds from day to day, Jesus gives us the time to grow into much lovelier plants during our lives. He doesn’t blot us out of the book of life for one transgression. But the warning is that we only have so much time until the harvest. If we are going to turn to the God who sowed us and provide good fruit, we need to do it now. If we wait until the harvest, it may well be too late. Our God gives us the freedom to choose to be the good seeds in the field of the world, blessed are we who choose to grow that way.