One of the most striking points of the wheat and the darnel in today’s Gospel is first, when the seeds and shoots of the wheat and darnel are young, they are so very similar; that made it very difficult, if not impossible to distinguish and separate them. Second, the evil one who sows the darnel (weeds) when the farmer is asleep symbolises the “evils” of this secular world which is intent on destroying the good seeds (symbols of the “wheat” or the Truth and Love of God) that God has planted in our hearts, when He created us.
In other words, if we want to live a more meaningful and fulfilling life, then we need to live more a discerning life; a life that knows how to distinguish between what will draw us closer to God and what will distract and draw us away from God in our daily living.
But, even more fundamental than this is the truth that, in order to live a more discerning life, we need to have and develop the basic human quality of love in our hearts – the less love we have in our hearts, the more difficult it would be to discern God’s promptings of His Will in our hearts and live.
Arn Chorn lived a loving, peaceful childhood in the beautiful countryside of Cambodia. But on his ninth birthday, the nightmare began. The Khmer Rouge, under the brutal Pol Pot, took control of Cambodia and one of the cruellest bloodbaths in history began. Cambodians watched in horror as their homeland became “the killing fields”. Young Arn Chorn was taken from his family and marched to a child labour camp.
For four years, Arn was schooled in hate, forced to watch as thousands of innocent people were tortured and executed. Arn remembers, “I had to kill my heart in order to survive.”
In 1979 Arn was able to escape into the jungle. There he lived for many months; his only friends were the monkeys. Arn Chorn learned to survive by watching them, seeing what they ate, eating only what they ate. He came to trust the monkeys, more than he had human beings. The tenderness they showed him was the first he had experienced in years. Inside, a tiny part of Arn began to heal.
Once day, Arn Chorn miraculously stumbled across the border into Thailand. Rescue workers found the starving boy and brought him to the Sakeo refugee camp. Arn could hardly believe his good fortune when he became the first Cambodian orphan permitted entry to the United States. Shortly after arriving there in October 1980, Arn began working with young people from Cambodian refugee communities. Hearing their experiences helped to soften his own frozen feelings and opened the closed doors of his heart. He discovered a deep connection and compassion for them.
In 1990, Arn returned to Cambodia and organised the Cambodian Volunteers for Community Development. Fifty thousand young people are part of the programme designed to rebuild and heal their homeland. “It seems almost unbelievable that I could forgive what happened to my people.” Arn confides. “Sharing with other young people who have endured similar horrors has helped me to feel again: their pain as well as my own. I am alive after all these years because I can love again.”
My brothers and sisters in Christ, in today’s Gospel of the “wheat and darnel,” we mentioned that the “evil one and enemies” are those who daily intends to destroy the wheat; the “wheat” the Gospel of Christ that is rooted in our hearts.
These “evil” of the secular world and people are those who distort the truth of the Gospel by attracting us to the half-truths of life; the life of the gold, glamour and glory of the secular world that will make us “self-centred in our thinking and living; they are the destructive influences that in the end destroy our relationships in families and most tragically in our relationship with God. When we lose our sense of our relationship with God, we will surely lose our sense of our meaning, value and purpose in life.
For some of us, the “darnel” that is sown in our lives so very subtle that we begin to believe the half-truths that for example, in-so-far as we come to Mass on Sundays, we need not be too “religiously God-centred” in our daily living. This is because God understands that we are busy people and that even if we have little time for our families and prayers, God will not judge us harshly as He is also very forgiving God. Rationalisation is living in “half-truth” that keeps our faith and relationship with God superficial, routine and even superstitious.
My sisters and brothers in Christ, such trends of thinking and believing creates a lukewarm faith that pacifies and soothe our consciences that prick us and challenges us. The great danger of living such a lukewarm faith is that when our faith in God dissipates, our family unity will one day too disintegrate. If we do not nurture the love we have for God, which is inseparable from our love for our family and loved ones, then sooner or later, we will also lose our family, our career and the true meaning of our daily living.
There is a story of a young man, Jack, who could not find the deep peace and joy of life regardless of how much he tried and how successful he became in society. So Jack went to consult a wise man in a monastery. The wise-man told him, “in life we need to have something to do, someone to love and some particular thing to hope for . . . then you will find peace and joy in life. Some years later this young man returned and was visibly joyous in his disposition. He told the wise-man, “I am much more peaceful and joyous with my family and my life, but I am still not yet, fully joyous and happy and fulfilled in life.
The wise-man then told him, is the thing that you do, the someone you love and the particular thing you hope for connected and related to Christ, our Lord and Saviour? He pondered for a moment and then left the monastery. The young man never returned and many years later he died living a very happy and fulfilled life. The first person he met at the gate of heaven was this wise-man. He immediately thanked him profusely for his words of wisdom that truly saved him and his family.
The wise-man then said to him. Actually, what I advised you was nothing new. You had been hearing the Word of God proclaimed in Church weekly when you went for Mass, you had your Bible in your home and you had the Church to remind you of how to live the Gospel. The big difference is that after you sort my advice, your mind became more open to the Truth and your heart was more receptive to the great blessings that God was giving you all the time.
To conclude, let us remind ourselves that first, like Arn Chorn in our story, we are called and challenged to reaffirm our need to nurture the basic human love that God has planted in our hearts. In our reflection today, we see clearly that unless we develop this love which we have in our hearts, we would not have the basic foundation to build meaningful and deep relationships within our homes, with our families and more importantly with God.
And when we have God at the centre of our lives, and daily nurture our relationship with Him through living a more discerning life, then the little steps we take, even if they are expressions that are of the size of a mustard seed, we will surely and truly inherit the “Kingdom of Heaven” that in this life and in its fullness in the next life; a life of eternal happiness with one another and with God in heaven.
(cf. Happiness Manufacturers, Hedwig Lewis, SJ.: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash: 2001: pp.118-119.)
Msgr Philip Heng,S.J.
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