Being Mercy: Everything Belongs

Author: Father Joseph V. Corpora, CSC, ’76, ’83M.Div.

I think everyone would like to go to their graves having no regrets in their lives. Wouldn’t you like to be on your deathbed feeling grateful for everything that has been in your life and not regret anything? This can only happen if you accept the mercy of God, always and forever, freely given.

Consider St. Matthew’s parable that we all know as the “Parable of the Wheat and Weeds”:

Jon Holland, Geograph, via Wikimedia Commons

The kingdom of heaven may be likened to a man who sowed good seed in his field. While everyone was asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds all through the wheat, and then went off. When the crop grew and bore fruit, the weeds appeared as well. The slaves of the householder came to him and said, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where have the weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this.” His slaves said to him, “Do you want us to go and pull them up?” He replied, “No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, ‘First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

Those listening to the parable would have been surprised to hear Jesus’ saying, “Let the weeds and the wheat grow together until harvest.” And why? Because you might not know one from the other, Jesus clearly implies: “If you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them.”

Is it too much to say that everything you have ever lived and done and tried, whether you succeeded or failed, has purpose and meaning in your life? Let God determine what is what. That’s not really our job. Our job is to accept everything that is part of our life and to trust that God knows why everything that’s in our life is in our life.

The definition of a weed is something that does not belong. A blade of wheat in a rose garden is a weed. A rose in a wheat field is a weed. This parable is an invitation from God to trust that everything that is in our life belongs in our life. In the end God will remember all the good we have done and will launder the bad so as to make it clean and good.

We’ll all be shocked when we get to heaven and are able to see our life as God sees it — that is to say, with the eyes of God — to find out that the very things we would have uprooted actually belonged in our lives, and not only belonged, but were the very things through which God saved us.

The poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

God wants us to get to the point in life where we come to accept everything that has happened in our life as belonging there. A failed marriage? Mental illness? A job I was fired from? Something I was unfairly accused of? A pattern of sin I am unable to turn a corner on? I am not saying these are necessarily good things. I am not putting any label on them. I am only suggesting that they might be in our life for some reason, that God can work through them, that God can bring life through whatever is the truth of our life.

God will determine what is wheat and what is weeds, and he will then separate one from the other. And he will do this in his time and in his way. Were it up to us we might uproot the very experience, the very truth — as painful as it might be — that is in fact saving our lives.

God is present at every moment of our existence, independent of the content of the moment. God is always present. God is in all things. It is not possible to say that God is more present in this than in that. God is always present.

God is equally present when the doctor tells us that our cancer is in remission as when the doctor tells us that our cancer has returned. God is equally present when the parish community gathers for a parish mission as when two or three prisoners on death row call upon him for help. God is equally present when a woman is giving birth as when a woman is having an abortion.

This does not mean that all things are equal or have the same value. But it does mean that God is always present. And no one can say that God is more present in this situation than in that one. You cannot quantify God’s presence, for he is always present. Another way of saying the same thing is this: God cannot be absent.

So everything that is in your life belongs there. This is another way of saying that God is saving you through everything that has ended up in your lap — whether you chose it or whether it came to visit you. This does not mean it’s all easy or fun. It only means that God has chosen it for you, or for some unknown reason has allowed it to visit your life. And, for the most part, you don’t know whether it will turn out to be weeds or wheat. You don’t have to know. You only have to believe that God knows and will separate out the wheat from the weeds at harvest time.

We have to accept the lives God has given to us. And for the most part that means learning to live with wheat and weeds, and with not knowing which is which. God will take care of this in his time and his way.

If we can accept this truth, we stand a chance of going to our graves not regretting anything. Instead, we may be thankful for all that has ended up in our lap — because, as St. Therese of Lisieux says over and over, “Everything is a grace.” She doesn’t decide what is and what is not. Rather, she says, everything is a grace. If we follow her lead, we will meet the Lord with no regrets.

Father Joe Corpora, CSC, is the director of the Catholic School Advantage campaign within Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) program and associate director, pastoral care of students, in the Office of Campus Ministry. He is one of 700 priests whom Pope Francis appointed in February 2016 to serve as Missionaries of Mercy and his book of reflections on this experience, The Relentless Mercy of God was published this spring by Corby Books.