Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time at Mississippi Abbey
[Scripture Readings: Wis 12:13-19; Rom 8:26-27; Mt 13:24-434 ]
Jesus uses parables to teach people about things which they do not understand, by beginning from things which they do understand. The parable compels interest in a person by means of a story. It allows one to discover truth for herself; then she is less likely to forget it quickly.
Last Sunday's gospel of the Sower told us that an experience affects our hearts according to the height of the value and the depth of our response to it. When that experience is of the word of God (the highest value), and we are deeply receptive, it will leave traces deep in our hearts that will far outlast the actual hearing of it.
Today we meet the Sower again. The parable of the weeds and the wheat shows us the life-long task we accept of keeping that word alive in the depths of our hearts. I am talking, of course, about our interior, spiritual weeds and wheat.
In the last week, Sisters, you have been on an emotional roller coaster. You have joyfully celebrated 50 years as a monastic community and you have mourned the loss of one of your founding sisters, Sr. Regina. Yet, a monastic funeral is also an occasion of hope and inspiration. Admiration precedes inspiration. We admired Sr. Regina because she “persevered in the monastery until death.” “Persevere” seems to imply a “hanging-on,” or “fierce determination.” And we know that it indeed is just that at times! But we will see today that that is not the heart of monastic perseverance.
Now Jesus tells us that “an enemy” sows the weeds of desolation in the soil of our hearts. God does not. And they grow along with the wheat of consolation sown by Christ because both are nourished by sun and rain which “the Father makes to fall on the just and the unjust.”
Weeds are interiorly moved by the winds of daily events. Wheat is moved by daily events and the grace of God. St. Bernard described this “weeds and wheat” experience as “alternation”; as “walking by the two feet of consolation and desolation.” Most of us do this walk awkwardly and that is to be admired in others because in the measure of our admiration will be the measure of our inspiration. That is because, as Paul tells the Romans today, “the Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness.” It is then that we are in-spired.
So when we look at the life of Sr. Regina, or at any Sister who persevered until death, we are looking at a woman who endured this enemy that did not want her to persevere. This enemy sowed spiritual weeds of restlessness and discontent that may not have always been handled with poise. And so it is with each of us who survives her. Discerning those day-to-day movements of the spirit and deciding how to act, she (and we) may not always have felt admirable nor seemed so at times.
Yet, we can take heart: Jesus tells us today that it is at the harvest, at the end, that the angels sort out the weeds and wheat. We saw this when we witnessed the peace with which Regina spent her last days. Regina would attribute her perseverance to the wheat of consolation, gifts of peace and joy, so graciously given by the Father at just the right times.
So perseverance is not hanging on or fierce determination. The real driving force in monastic perseverance is consecration. Regina was a consecrated woman, living for the sake of Another; she was consecrated for a purpose. And she lived by the power of the one to whom she consecrated herself. Just as in a few moments our gifts of bread and wine will be consecrated for our spiritual nourishment, so monastics are consecrated for God and for the good of others. And like the Eucharist, monastic consecration has sacrifice at its heart. Thus, sacrifice is at the heart of perseverance. Regina shared in the consecration of the Last Supper because she was willing to become a part of that sacrifice.
We have this consecration in common with her. If we admire that, it will inspire us. It will leave traces deep in our hearts. And we will persevere until the angels come to sort out the weeds and the wheat.