Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
We have had a bit of rain here recently which has refreshed the grass and the plants. Of course, it has also refreshed the weeds, which are a constant problem for gardeners! After all, no gardener plants weeds in his lawn as a matter of course and they do seem to require increasing attention. It has been said that a weed is simply a plant in the wrong place, but what purpose do they serve?
Weeds certainly do not get a good press in Holy Scripture but then Jesus is using them, along with their counterparts, wheat, in his parables to represent something else, i.e. as allegories. Wheat represents the believers, the just perhaps, whilst the weeds represent the unbelievers, the unjust. Yet as Matthew tells us: ‘He makes the sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous’ Matt 5:45 NRSV.
Again, no farmer in his right mind would deliberately sow weeds alongside his wheat crop. Yet the concept of rotational farming, where a field is left fallow for a year, has been common practice for a long time. More recently the European Union paid farmers to set aside part of their land whilst we gardeners are encouraged to leave part of our gardens untouched for the benefit of the wild life.
St. John Henry Newman once said: “God created me to do Him some definite service.” A service specific to him and to no-one else. I take the Franciscan view that all of Creation is one family with each element having been made with a specific service for God in mind. So Brother Sun and Sister Moon, wind and weather, as well as each tree, plant, animal, bird, insect and, of course, human being has his or her specific task to perform; a service not allocated to anyone or anything else. In the plant world, for example, since it is in the wrong place, the clover that has taken root in my lawn is a weed. Therefore I should dig it up it and dispose of it. But wait, the humble bee is feeding on the nectar it provides before going on to pollinate another plant and in due time serve as food for a passing bird. So the clover in the lawn is performing the service it was created to do.
And, like Newman, you and I have been created to do a definite service. We may not know what it is, but as Thomas Merton once wrote: ‘My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end, nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen.’
That mission, that definite service, may take us out of our comfort zone. We may have to meet with people, take on tasks or enter situations we would rather avoid, but if that is what we are called to do, then so be it. As Merton says: I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.
With that assurance, what are you waiting for? What am I waiting for?
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years