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When I was growing up, Dad planted his vegetable garden next to the old chicken coop. Naturally, the soil was well fertilized so the vegetables grew like they were on steroids …and so did the weeds. One Saturday I weeded the garden. The neighbor, a barrel-chested guy with a thick beard, came over. He asked me, “What are you doing?” I said, “I am weeding the garden.” “Why?” he replied. I said, “So the vegetables will grow better.” He said, “You are wasting your time, they grow just fine with the weeds. Check out my garden.” I said, “What garden?” He pointed to a field of weeds that was about chest high and said, “Over there.” We walked toward his garden and using his hands to make a path through the weeds he said, “I know there is a tomato plant around here somewhere.” Sure enough, he found one hidden in the weeds, and it was covered with tomatoes. I said, “How is that possible?” He said, “Camouflage, even the bugs can’t find them.” According to the parable of the weeds and the wheat, the kingdom of heaven prefers the camouflage tactic for gardens. The term for the weeds mentioned in the parable is “zanzara.” This weed looks exactly like wheat. You cannot tell the difference until harvest. One produces wheat; the other does not. Does that mean that goodness is always hidden?
I live with a fairly large religious community. When something breaks, like a vacuum cleaner, there are three options. Option one, if it doesn’t work, put it back in the closet and let someone else deal with it. Option two, post a sign on the vacuum: “Out Of Order.” Option three, fix it. The problem with number three is that no one will ever know it was broken, and you will never get credit for fixing it, at least that is the theory.
Last spring, I needed to photocopy some papers for my class. It is my personal opinion that photocopy machines have a built-in stress detector. They know when you are in a hurry, or you have something very important to copy. They always malfunction at these times. So I put the syllabus in the copier and pushed the start button, and I hit the jackpot. Every warning light started to flash: no toner, no paper, paper jams everywhere, see service man …immediately.” At that moment, I was really tempted to opt for option one, which is to leave the scene immediately and let someone else deal with the problem. I decided instead of option three. One by one I resolved each of the problems. I loaded paper in the empty tray, added toner, cleared all the paper jams, and called service and got the re-boot code. After I made all the necessary warning lights go out, I finally started to get my copies. Someone came by just at that moment and asked me, “Oh, did you just fix it?” Which prompted me to think of two questions: “How did you know it was broken, Mr. Option-Number-One, and how did you know I fixed it?” It goes to show you that the good is hard to hide.
Take a look at the fingernail on your pinky. That is the diameter of an ancient penny. If you hold one between your two fingers it will disappear from sight. When the widow went to the treasury in the Temple to donate her two pennies, no one notices, except Jesus. He noticed and said, “This widow put in more than anyone else.” Goodness always stands out to God and to us. There can be a field of crabgrass but your eye will focus on the one beautiful tulip. The garden may have all weeds, but you will search out and find the wheat. If you feel your life is surrounded by weeds, never give up on goodness. It always stands out.Back to All Homilies