The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom* all who cause others to sin and all evildoers. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears ought to hear. Matthew 13:41-43
BY: ASHLEY BLACKBURN
In Sacred Scripture we hear often about weeds. Jesus uses this analogy to teach us about God’s Kingdom because we can see reflected and experience God’s Kingdom in the created world around us. All is made by God, the Creator of the universe, and thus is a reflection of His Divine Image. So what is it about weeds that is such a good tool to teach us about His Kingdom?
There is a pattern and rules that govern the life and death of weeds on this earth; thus they react in the same way to the same triggers because God created weeds in a particular way and they do not have a choice to do anything other than what they were created to do. Weeds often sprout up really quickly, almost as if out of nowhere. They catch us off guard and for gardens that are not actively working to prevent and get rid of weeds, the weeds will quickly take over and swallow up the plants.
This being said, weeds also have shallow roots at first. If the soil is loosened up and not hardened, the weed is very easy to pull and uproot if noticed early on. Conversely, if the soil is hardened and dry, the weed will break off, leaving the root stuck in the ground. When this happens the weed will sprout up again since the root was not removed.
Here we see that hard soil, unwatered & untilled, will make it difficult to remove the root of the weed. Without removing the root, we know that the weed will simply grow back. Even though the roots of weeds can go unseen underground for some time, when they break forth from the ground we then notice the weed that was there the whole time. Conversely, if the soil is well taken care of, if it is watered just right, if it is tilled over, the weed will be easily uprooted and thrown out.
These truths about weeds are also true of sin. This is why Jesus used the analogy of weeds to teach the people about sin and His Kingdom. By looking at the truth of sin that is also reflected elsewhere in God’s creation, we can view it from a detached perspective. When it becomes personal to our own sin, we oftentimes can reject the truth in order to try to preserve ourselves from judgement.
In relating sin to weeds, Jesus helps us to notice the similar pattern and rules that govern the weed, which in turn also rule and govern sin in His Kingdom. Sin can sprout up really quickly and it seems as if it comes out of nowhere. But in reality the root of that sin has been dwelling underground for quite some time. It has begun sprouting beneath the surface, within our hearts, lying wait until the time of its first breaking forth from the ground. The root of sin underground are the fiery suggestions, the bitterness and anger, the temptations that nag us, the hidden resentment and all other evil thoughts we may have. These roots of sin are dormant in our hearts until we act upon them.
Due to our concupiscence, our human nature will find it very hard to keep these roots from sprouting up in sinful behaviors. This is why it will never work to simply try to suppress all of our sinful roots because the only way to true healing is to uproot the sin altogether. The weed will always sprout back up until the root is removed.
The Sacrament of Confession can be a very useful tool in breaking off the weed and even uprooting it if the soil of our hearts is good and loose, or open to God. A hardened heart, much like hardened soil, will grasp tightly to the sin. So much so that it will be very hard to remove the root sin from it’s grasp. By going to Confession, we are forgiven for our sin, for the action we took based upon the root of that sin, but the root sin may still lie within our hearts when we leave the confessional. Each and every Confession does in fact break the weed off, it forgives the sin and we start clean again. But the root sin can remain lying dormant in our hearts until we act upon it again, much like the root of a weed lies underground until the weed sprouts forth from the ground once again.
This can really get us down on ourselves, to continue to go back to Confession time and time again for the exact same sins, especially if we are going to the same priest for Confession on a regular basis. But what happens in regular Confession is that through our going back again and again to confess the same sin, the soil of our hearts is being tilled and watered. The grace of God is nurturing and nourishing the soil of our hardened hearts, the part that has such a strong grasp on that particular root sin, so that eventually the sin can be uprooted and removed forever. With each Sacramental grace conferred upon us we are forgiven and the weed is broken off. But what also happens is the soil is tilled a little more, loosening the grasp on the root, so that our heart will be softened and ready for the sin to be completely uprooted.
The other option for uprooting a weed amidst the hardened soil is to dig it up with a shovel, to which the entire patch of ground around it is also removed. The grasp of the soil surrounding the root also goes with the root, leaving a gaping hole in the ground. In these instances, we typically have face to face with the truth of our mortality in one way or another. This could be from a critical diagnosis, a sudden or chronic illness, tragedy, a near death experience, or another such event that uproots our entire lives and the root of our sin along with it. These situations, although painful and sometimes traumatic, do in fact remove the root, albeit in a more painful way, and it leaves a gaping hole in our hearts. This hole, can be filled back with sin and destruction or it can be filled with the healing power of the Holy Spirit, which can mean life changing effects on our life.
In all circumstances, whether sin is uprooted over time or in one fell swoop, once a weed is removed, the hole that remains in our heart must be filled. When we are seeking the Lord, he will in fact fill it with His Spirit, who alone has the only healing salve to renew and mend our wounds. Oftentimes we try to do this step first. We pray and ask for healing, even though we are not willing or able to uproot the sin that is causing the wound. Without first asking the Holy Spirit to convict us and reveal to us what root sin needs to be removed from our hearts, we will continue to remain bound by sin. Where sin remains rooted in our hearts, we will be bound to it, until it is uprooted. The root of sin will always stand in the way of our healing, almost as a mask over our wound. Not until we remove the mask, remove the root, will we be able to truly heal.
So how do we uproot sin? It is only when we humble ourselves before the Lord in prayer, opening our hearts before Him as we stand vulnerable before Him, will we be able to identify the root sin. Then and only then, will we be able to work toward uprooting it. Regular Confession and a good examination of conscience are the tools the Church gives us to work on uprooting the sin that has a hold of our hearts. Deliverance Ministry or Spiritual Direction are other options that can bring a tremendous amount of healing. Working with a spiritual guide one on one to unpack your story and help you move forward in faith is what discipleship is all about.
But most important all of us must be grounded in prayer. We must allow ourselves to be personally discipled by Jesus. He is our true King and will lead us to freedom and fullness of life. Our wounds, that sin has filled in and is covering up, are keeping us from true freedom if we don’t let God heal the soil of our hearts. Through prayer we will cultivate the soil of our hearts, creating good fertile ground for the Spirit to bear good fruit, while always keeping watch over our tendency to sin and the roots that may lie deep within so that we may uproot them before they break ground.