I am now deep in the countryside of South Devon and have all about me the natural world that we all love so much.! The Gospel today, and last week, on seeds and sowing and reaping and weeding (Matt 13:24-43) reminds us how often Jesus uses examples from nature and agriculture to speak about God. Of course we must first remember that Jesus does not want us to take his examples literally. A bit further on from the passage we heard today, he warns his disciples about yeast (Matt 16:5-12) and they take him literally and think he is talking about bread. His response is quite sharp “Oh you of little faith”, he says, “Why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread? ……. How is it you do not understand that I was not talking to you about bread?
But Jesus does want us to recognize that in the mystery of the workings of nature, indeed of the whole created Universe, we see glimpses of the mystery that is God. This is why I am infuriated when atheists try to use the Big Bang Theory of the beginning of the Universe – a theory first put forward by a Catholic priest and physicist – to try to prove there is no God. What is extraordinary to me, and probably to you too, is that they can work out, using very complicated Mathematics, how old the Universe is and how far away the Sun and the Stars are from us. How they do it beats me, as I have only to see a very simple Maths formula and immediately get confused, but the fact that they can do it, that there is an order in the Universe that they can discern and calculate from, is just one more reason for believing that there is a God, a power, behind the whole thing.
This idea of God as the power underlying the Universe is a fairly constant theme of mine, isn’t it? People tend to think it is a modern idea, getting rid of a rather childlike view of God, a response to the Scientific discoveries of the 20th Century. It is therefore interesting to note that a well-known hymn written way back in the 1830’s also uses this theme. Let me remind you :- Immortal invisible, God only wise In light inaccessible hid from our eyes Most of what the scientists now know about light wasn’t known then, and yet the author gets right to the heart of it and places God there, underlying all that was later discovered about the Universe he created.
In the Gospel today however, Jesus talks also about things that go wrong in the natural world. Again we need to be careful not to take literally his description of the devil planting the weeds deliberately. He is using the story to remind us that the world is a place where all is not well, a place where there is evil as well as good. And that is certainly an important thing to remember. It is always dangerous to underestimate evil, not least the way it can be at work in us, often without us realizing it.
It is all too easy for me and you to go all dreamy about the beauty of nature and the wonder of the stars, and forget all the troubles we all face both personally and in the world as a whole. Surely the point Jesus is making is that if we zoom out from the things that are wrong and sad, and look at the glory of the created world as well, we will find it easier, not to understand, but at least to cope with all the sad things our world has to face. It is right for example that we should be really sad about the conflicts and cruelties going on in the world, but we must never forget all the unreported good things going on too in the midst of all this. The acts of love, heroism and self-sacrifice that happen daily but are rarely reported. That’s surely what Jesus is getting at when he says that if we try to rip up the weeds we will pull up half the wheat as well. We might of course contemplate what the Universe would be like if there were no difficult things to face, but what’s the point of that, since there is nothing we can do about it. Somehow we have to live with both the good and the bad, to face the fact that this is what Creation is like, and get on with making the best of it. For what else can we do?
So let’s look at the glory and goodness of the world that God has given us to live in, and use it to inspire us to work for a growth in the good crop even in the midst of the weeds – a crop which is love, kindness, gentleness beauty and truth. Let us be good farmers rather than stupid moaners! Let’s remember encouraging words from our 1st Reading (Wisdom 12:13) “There is no God, other than you, who cares for everything”, and when we do get down, let us hear St Paul reminding us that in our weakness the Holy Spirit of God is within us and will come to us and help us to go on. (Romans 8:26)