During the planting season, my mother taught us to plant the corn in a straight line and about 46 centimeters or a foot and half apart from each other. When the corn starts to sprout, we were prohibited from helping with the weeding. My mother explained that the reason for the rules in planting and care in weeding is to distinguish the maize from a weed called in Igbo, “atta.” They look so much alike that even adults often mistake one for the other. But as they grow, the maize would start budding its seeds while the atta grows and grows without buds, revealing itself as weed to be uprooted. So, like my mother, Jesus -- the garden expert -- tells us in this parable, let the weeds grow along with the wheat; the difference would be clear at harvest time.
Here is the practical lesson for the spiritual life: Be patient, do not jump into hasty conclusions about what you see. It takes time for the true nature of things to be revealed. Things and humans don’t always turn out the way they seem at first. It is often impossible to know for sure who is what, since we normally judge by appearances. Jesus warned about the Pharisees of his time who appeared very religious, but in God’s eyes, were hypocrites.
Nothing is more hazardous than to pass a moral judgment, especially, regarding a person’s relationship with God. Even in cases of fairly obvious wrongdoing, we cannot always know every circumstance of a perceived action. For example, if St. Joseph were like many of us, he would have accused Mother Mary of infidelity and reported to the authorities that she was pregnant out of wedlock. Mary would have been stoned to death with her divine child, stalling the incarnation. Don’t judge by appearance; and suspect those who blindly throw out accusations of misogyny, racism, and the other isms.
Jesus isn’t asking us, anyway, to overlook a person’s primary behavior, rather, that the mysteries of the kingdom are often imperceptible -- may be present but not clearly evident. Its start may be unspectacular, like the mustard seed or the yeast that leavens the dough. The tiny mustard shouldn’t be despised. The leaven mixed with the dough might be relatively insignificant and disappears into the mix; yet, it doesn’t cease to work its magic of transforming the life of the dough with its intangible presence.
Jesus asks us to plant the seed of faith and grow it in love. Love is like a mustard seed, like the leaven, like the kingdom; it’s not grandiose, yet able to change everything. A problem child who frequented the principal’s office for extra admonitions was put with another teacher who moved her close to her desk. Rita reported to her mom, “She smiles at me.” Rita’s new teacher praised her artistic talents, found her dependable and would often send her on errands. Rita blossomed, and even helped other kids. The new teacher brought the kingdom of God right into her classroom, and the love multiplied. Rita herself turned out a celebrity teacher that every child wants to be in her class. She smiles at them and celebrates their accomplishments with high-fives. Like the leaven or mustard seed, once sown, love spreads out to more and more people. Sow love, not hate.