Weed and Wheat

28 July 2007. Saturday of the 16th Week in Ordinary Time
Matthew 13, 24-30 The Weeds and the Wheat

There is a weed in the Palestinian field called the tare or the bearded darnel (lolium temulentum) which is an annual plant that occurs as a hated weed in grain fields and moist farm fields. The stalk is stiff, round, and hollow to grows to around 1-3 feet tall. It has linear flat leaves that are rolled up when young. Long, stiff bristles point upward from the flowers that have spikelets. The seed is small, yellow-brown to orange-brown. If you look at this description, it sounded like the description of wheat. It is because when the bearded darnel grows with the wheat, it is undistinguishable. Only when both mature that both the darnel and the wheat can be distinguished. By then, the roots of the darnel will be so entwined with the roots of the wheat that to pluck out one means to pluck out the other. Thus, it is made to grow together. It is also good to know that another name for the bearded darnel is “cheat weed.”

At harvest time, the wheat and the weed have to be separated. When large quantities of darnel seeds are ingested, they are poisonous; though doctors sometimes used them to treat dizziness, insomnia, blood congestion, skin problems (herpes, scurf and sores) and stomach problems. So, these seeds have to be separated by hand. In Palestine, the task of separation has been given to women who placed them on flat surfaces or baskets like the Philippine bilao used to separate small stones from rice grains.

There are things we learn from the Gospel. First, we know that good and bad elements influence or act upon our lives. We experience that there is something or someone who waits to destroy the goodness that we are. Each time we would like to be good, something comes along that devastates it like a growing anger, deep resentment, or an uncontrolled jealousy. Sometimes, it is in our manner of doing things or saying things. Because of these ‘bad’ elements in our lives, our resolution to be good is easily nipped at the bud.

Second, as the bearded darnel is allowed to grow with the wheat, so too with life. There are things that just grow and stay as we grow older. There are parts of ourselves that live double lives: we may be an amiable person to one and vicious to another — or both: we may look amiable to a person, but our hearts stab the person to death.

Here we see the importance of the Consciousness Examen and Discernment of Spirits of St. Ignatius of Loyola. To separate the darnel seeds and the wheat is a laborious task. Difficult but possible. It means that we may be able to distinguish them after long times of prayer and self-awareness.

*weed in the Bellarmine field of the Ateneo de Manila University.

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