Pope warns against trying to “divide the wheat from the weeds”


Pope Francis has urged Catholics to reject “the temptation to divide the wheat from the weeds”, a metaphor for acting abruptly and even violently to bring about a “pure society” or even a “pure Church” that simply does not exist.

“When we see ‘wheat’ and ‘weeds’ living side by side in the world, what should we do? How should we react?” the pope said this past Sunday during a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to mark the World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.

He said the coexistence of good and evil is found on many levels, as we are faced with wars, corruption in the world, scandals in the Church and the miseries of everyday life.

He then used the Gospel passage to carve out ways of confronting the evil that is present even in the midst of the good in this world and in ourselves.

“Christians are realists, they know there are wheat and weeds in the world,” Francis said.

“In human history, as in each of our lives, there is a mixture of light and shadows, love and selfishness. Good and evil are even intertwined to the point of seeming inseparable,” the pope pointed out.

Beware of the naïve who “live in a fairy tale, pretending not to see evil”

But to achieve this, he said, Christians must guard against two dangers.

The first is a “poisonous pessimism” that is contrary to Christian hope.

The second is a “sterile optimism” or form of naiveté in which people “live in a fairy tale, pretending not to see evil and saying that ‘all is well’,” he said.

How can we arrive at this clear-sightedness?

Francis said it’s not just a question of being aware that both wheat and weeds exist in the world.

It also means we must “recognise that evil does not only come from ‘outside’, that it is not always the fault of others, that there is no need to ‘invent’ enemies to fight against in order to avoid looking within” ourselves.

Cultivating “serenity and patience” in dealing with evil

The question remains: “When we see ‘wheat’ and ‘weeds’ living side by side in the world…, How should we react?”

Francis said we must first overcome “temptation to divide the wheat from the weeds”, in the name of a “pure society”, a “pure Church”, because “to reach this purity, we risk being impatient, intransigent, even violent toward those who have fallen into error”.

The consequences of acting this way, he said, are often worse. “With the weeds we pull up the good wheat and block people from moving forward, from growing and changing,” he said.

Instead, the pope said the Gospel parable invites us to cultivate “serenity and patience” in caring for others, “and – in our families, in the Church and in society – to welcome weakness, delay and limitations, not in order to let ourselves grow accustomed to them or excuse them, but to learn to act with respect”.

Francis said “the purification of the heart and the definitive victory over evil are essentially God’s work”.

“In the end, the good will be stronger than the evil”

On this Day for Grandparents and the Elderly, Francis – who will be 87 in December – dwelt particularly on the example of seniors because looking back, “they see so many beautiful things they have succeeded in doing.

Yet they also see defeats, mistakes, things that – as they say – ‘if I went back I would not do again'”; and because old age is par excellence, “the season to be reconciled, a time for looking tenderly at the light that has shone despite the shadows”.

“Today the Lord offers us a gentle word that invites us to accept the mystery of life with serenity and patience, to leave judgment to him, and not to live regretful and remorseful lives,” the pope said.

“It is as if Jesus wanted to say to us: ‘Look at the good wheat that has sprouted along the path of your life and let it keep growing, entrusting everything to me, for I always forgive: in the end, the good will be stronger than the evil’,” he added.

In his homily, Francis stressed two further points.

First, he said we need to forge an alliance between the young and the old, “so that the sap of those who have a long experience of life behind them will nourish the shoots of hope of those who are growing”, and that from this fruitful exchange a fraternal society may be born.

And second, he said we must be careful not to marginalize the elderly and relegate them to the rank of “unprofitable waste”, a point he has made many times before.

“May we not chase after the utopias of efficiency and performance at full-speed, lest we become incapable of slowing down to accompany those who struggle to keep up,” he said.

  • Céline Hoyeau is the deputy head of Religion at La Croix International.
  • First published in La Croix International. Republished with permission.


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