March 2017: Weeding For Sinners

~by Virginia Rhys-Anson, OFS

The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep, his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” His slaves said to him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” He replied, “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time, I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’ ”

~Matthew 13: 24-30

Weeding has never been a pleasant task. Okay, it is a down right chore. It is, quite honestly, tedious. I dislike tedium. Yet, to coin a needing to be retired phrase, weeding is a necessary evil for the gardener. Most of us likely endure it so that we can flaunt knockout gardens—or at least aspire to such.

My pollinator garden harbors a healthy crop of weeds. Since the garden is in its toddlerhood, many weeds remained unplucked as I cannot, as yet, determine weed from flower. However, obvious weeds among the more adult flowers go by way of the reaper—me. Such an endless bore.

Yet wouldn’t you know that God could turn my monotony into a moment of deep inspiration. Tugging uninvited greenery from my garden one quite pleasant afternoon became a good bit less laborious. For God interrupted my mind’s meandering with reflections on the parable of the weeds among the wheat. Just as weeds grew among the wheat, weeds mingle with my flowers. Just as weeds grew among the wheat, sinners walk among the holy. The weeds in my garden became sins—or unwanted vices. The pluck of each weed became the pluck of a sin.

God had enticed me to offer the pulling of each weed as a prayer for a sinner, to uproot a sinner’s sin, to remove a sinner’s tendency toward that sin. So each weed pulled became, hopefully, a sin torn from a sinner’s heart. I asked God to make some sins those of a hardened sinner, from one of the greatest of sinners—the dandelion sins.

My hope, assuredly inspired by the Holy Spirit, was that the weeds in my yard represented the sins that we commit, just as those in the parable represented the hardened hearts of sinners ever so distant from God, yet intermingled with saintly souls. Each weed wrenched from its spot—some being deep rooted and stubborn—became a prayer to God for a sinner. I wanted the sinner’s transgression to be eradicated. To evaporate into Hades, never to be seen again. I hoped that the plucking would start the sinner on the path of conversion to God. I wanted the sinner to know God’s infinite mercy and love.

Some sins are small, easily uprooted. Still others are as stubborn as a dandelions, which does not easily relinquish its entire root. Most of the time, the tip remains in the ground and lives to grow another day. So, too, our sinful inclinations. A sinner seeks forgiveness only to recommit the same offense time and time again. The tip of the sin is left embedded and is only uprooted with great difficulty and usually with a horde of attempts. Yet other sins incessantly fight back, their prickles jabbing, making it nearly impossible to pluck without injury. The stubbornness of the sinner who loves the sin.

It is amazing that God is so infinitely patient with us, though He knows that we are going to go right back and commit the same offense multitudinous times. Oh, the poison of Adam and Eve’s sin.

The dream of a utopian garden, a floral beauty devoid of uninvited weeds. The dream of a world devoid of sin, a world of sinners converted totally to God’s love, a world with no leprous sins to deface the garden of God’s children. If only converting sinners, ridding us of our sins, were as simple as pulling weeds. Yet, could it not be so if human beings weren’t a proud, self-absorbed species? But alas, we don’t make it simple.

Weeding for sinners. A prayer for sinners with each yank of a weed. Funny, but extracting each weed as a prayer did make for more carefree labor, for seemingly quicker work. Maybe the saints have something here. Trial offered out of love for God and sinners makes the task pleasant. However, I wouldn’t go so far as to call it joyful. I am, after all, not a saint and don’t share their cherish of the hardships of life. Still, it did make the burden a tad lighter.

“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Working in tandem with God truly does make the burden easier. I fear that I do protest this tandem ride far too often, thus making for a heavy burden.

A prayer for a sinner with each pull of a weed did, indeed, create a load that inched toward becoming an almost non-burden. It was unexpectedly simple to see each weed as a sin, each blemish in my garden as a pockmark on the spiritual world. Hopefully, as I saw a garden depleted of weeds, the spiritual world was shy a few sins. Hopefully, a sinner or two were a tad nearer to converting to God’s love.

A weed, a sin uprooted. A garden, a soul cleansed of its blemish. The pluck of a weed became a prayer for a sinner who was gathered into God’s barn.

First  collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.


Virginia Anson grew up in the shadows of Sandia Crest in New Mexico. Family camping trips may have sparked her passion for nature. She holds an A.S. in Electronics Technology, a B.A. in Writing, an M.F.A. in Creative Writing, and a certificate in Wildlife/Forestry Conservation. Her book, Mother Earth’s Caretakers, targets middle school youngsters and is published as an e-book for Kindle. Virginia is a Vietnam Era veteran of the U.S. Air Force, and her volunteer endeavors see her as a lector, Eucharistic minister, and sacristan in her parish and as a habitat steward for the National Wildlife Federation. She especially cherishes her life in the Secular Franciscan Order, following in the footsteps of St. Francis of Assisi.


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