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Uncle Wally's Chalice

How do you deal with your imperfections? 16th Sun. A

How do you deal with your own imperfections?

Even experienced farmers could not tell the difference in its early stages between wheat and darnel, a weed that also grew in the holy land.  By the time that the stalks grew large enough to differentiate one from the other, it was too late.  Pull up the darnel, and the intertwined roots would take the wheat with it as well.  The problem with the pesky darnel is that its seeds were poisonous, and could cause death or blindness in those who ate them.  So they had to be separated.  The question was when.  And by the time you could tell, it was too late.

Jesus’ solution should be infinitely comforting to us.  Let them grow together, side by side. And then sort it all out at the harvest time.  Once the plants bear fruits, then you’ll be able to tell what is good and what is not so good.

Sounds so easy, doesn’t it?  Let them grow side by side, and eventually you’ll be able to sort it all out.  Yet somehow, my human heart always seems a bit more complicated than that.  How will I ever sort out the wheat from the darnel in my life?  How will I rid myself of those pesky, poisonous habits that grow right alongside my truest and best ones?  In the time of the gospel writers, the question took a more serious and deadly turn.  How would the early church survive those within who would betray them and turn them over to the authorities?  Weeds and wheat, all growing side by side!   Gospel people and gospel traitors – living right next to each other – How do you sort it all out?  What Jesus tells them and us is simple.  It is the great care of the harvest master which will infallibly bring the harvest into the barn.

So let me tell you just one story about weeds and wheat growing together, and the great care of the harvest master bringing in a harvest.

<< Show them Uncle Wally’s chalice.>>  The chalice that I use to celebrate mass belonged to my uncle, Fr. Wally Boul.  Wally was the founding pastor of St. William’s parish near the airport.  What many did not know about him was that he also was a raging alcoholic for many years.  He began his problematic drinking after he returned from the great war.  There were some images in his head from WWII that were hard to stomach.  So he drank to forget.  And then he drank because he liked the taste.  And then he drank because he couldn’t not drink.  And he was not always a nice man to his associates when he was drinking.

Then, through the grace of an intervention, (which is a story about someone else’s darnell) he was sent off to treatment, and came back a changed man.  At his golden anniversary of being a priest, he told me, “Billy, (he and my mom and aunt Rita are the only ones to call me Billy) it is my greatest grace.  I count my alcoholism my greatest grace because I know I need a savior.  There is not a second, a minute, an hour that passes that I am can do it on my own.  And now I know how to work with people who are also struggling with the same disease with compassion and not judgment.”

I am sure that if you asked him, he would rather have torn out the weed of alcohol in his life.  In fact, that is exactly what he had to do – let the alcohol be burned in that unquenchable fire – as he never touched it again.  But his alcoholism – that was the wheat disguised as darnel that produced a harvest of mercy and compassion and tough love of support for those who needed it.  And each time I use his chalice, I am reminded that the great patience of the harvest master will bring the harvest into the barn, sometimes despite the weeds – or in this case, because of them…

Weeds and wheat, growing side by side in the fields of the Lord, and in the fields of our own lives.  This week, the gospel invites us to bring our imperfections to the harvest master.  All the weeds and darnel and habits we know we need to break but can’t find the will to do – bring those in deep prayer to the Lord.  And realize, like my uncle, that perhaps God needs that weed to grow in your life for a time until you learn to depend on him at every moment.  Pray about your imperfections – and ask God to teach you what he needs YOU to learn through them.  And then, like my uncle, may you learn to trust that the great care of the harvest master will bring the harvest home in your life and world.


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