This year, spring began with my front lawn studded with countless dandelions adding color to my struggling grass. Now, thinking about those dandelions, I am reminded of one of my favorite parables of Jesus: “The Weeds and the Wheat.”
Do you know it? Jesus tells a story in Matthew’s Gospel (13:24-30) about a man who plants wheat in his field. But then, during the night, his enemy sows weeds in among his grain. This isn’t discovered, however, until the plants start to come up and his servants see weeds growing among the wheat. They come to the owner offering to pull the weeds but the man says to wait until harvest time when it will be easier to tell what is weed and what is wheat.
Dandelions remind me of this parable. Everyone is so anxious about getting these flowers out of their lawn, but I wonder. Weeds are seen as pests and a problem, but how many moms receive beautiful dandelion bouquets from their young children every spring? And the tender young leaves make a delicious and healthy salad. And this year my wife and I even made dandelion wine which was so popular a generation ago. If weeds are a problem to be removed, dandelions seem just the opposite. This is not to say that I don’t understand the challenge that dandelions bring: how they can scar the lawn and take over everything. But there is a delightful positive side to them as well.
In the parable, Jesus says the owner of the field wants to wait until the harvest time so that he can judge what is a weed and what is not. What is bearing good fruit and what is not. To apply that to ourselves, which of course is what the parable is about, we are reminded not to be so quick to judge who is a keeper and who is not. That we, like God, need to give everyone an opportunity to show who they really are by the life they live and the love they share. And this is a lifelong project.
That applies to us as well, of course. Each one of us has been “planted” here to bear good fruit. That is our job, our vocation, our mission. All of the gifts and talents that God has given us are there to be used to build God’s kingdom here on Earth as we await the fullness of the kingdom at the end of time. But until the end of time, our job is to grow and to bloom and to bear the fruit of justice and love. And to help others to grow as well, knowing that each will bear fruit in their own way and in their own time. Together we make a garden rich in variety.
So, dandelions for me are a reminder to get busy growing and to not be so quick to judge how others are doing. It’s like what the poet Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What is a weed? A plant whose virtues have never been discovered.”
Mathew Weisbeck is the pastoral associate at Sacred Heart Catholic Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.