Wheat, Weeds and Shades of Gray
By Amanda Hudson
The parable of the wheat and weeds and even Jesus’ explanation a few verses later (Matthew 13) can be puzzling.
Unlike numerous blockbuster movies where the evil characters are evil through and through, humans in real life are often a mixed bag, not purely good nor totally evil. 
People can, of course, choose to walk with God and make progress in becoming holier. Saints known and unknown have done so in all places, times and situations of life.
Or people can use their free will to completely reject God and embrace the darkness of Satan and his minions who do indeed “prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls” as it says in the St. Michael prayer for protection.
There are those equivalents of pure wheat and weeds in the world — along with a bunch of people who are more or less wheat-y or weedy. Most of us probably fall somewhere into that broader spectrum, which sadly means we aren’t exactly “all in” for Christ.
We should be, though. Jesus’ parable spells out a sobering end time that is frightening in its finality. Being “all in” for Jesus includes the gift of an all-in love.
Faith is meant to be an active thing, not merely a habit. But the rhythms of church and prayer can become habitual. We do what we do because that’s what we do, or perhaps because that’s what our family or friends do. We go along to get along, to meet the requirements or expectations of others and/or of the Church itself. The problematic part of that is we can end up going through the motions of faith and yet be disengaged. 
At that point, we are not living with the awareness of God’s love for us and our need to respond to Him in love. That connection with and devotion to our Lord can’t be overemphasized.
Should we lose that loving focus and the means of our faith are taken away, our reliance on “habits” could easily not be enough to keep our faith going. It doesn’t take a pandemic — an illness, a challenging work or family situation or even a vacation can upend the practice of a faith that isn’t well rooted in a love relationship with God.
St. Paul coaches his listeners about perseverance and endurance because faith in all ages requires effort. If we allow faith to become static and don’t accept Jesus’ challenges to grow and learn and do new things for Him, we’ll become planted down in a comfortable spot where we may feel holy — or at least rather righteous — without being so. St. Teresa of Jesus of Avila counsels her sisters always to challenge themselves to do better each day, not allowing the temptation of complacency to take over. Trust in God to save us, yes — but not to the point of presumption.
One long-ago retreat master said that it will matter what direction we are looking at the time of our death. Before that final point, we can ponder whether we are looking toward God each day, or not. 
Are we behaving like wheat, putting our efforts and blessings into providing good fruit for others according to God’s plan for us? Or are we striving like weeds do, taking nourishment away from others and working to spread and multiply ourselves in some manner?
In God’s mercy we have purgatory to “clean up” the imperfections we almost certainly will still have at our personal end times. We can be wheat even with a few unformed grains and bent stems fixable after death.
If we aim to become the best stalk of wheat possible, assisting the world with prayers and good works, we just may end up closer to perfection in love than we could ever imagine.
Working for God in whatever ways are available to us, accepting His gifts and challenges and keeping our soul’s “eyes” turned in His direction will help us do well in the present and future — including that on-the-horizon time when it will be finally determined if we are wheat or weeds.