Weedy But Trying to be Wheaty – Beth Liou

Hello to everyone in the St. Charles community. My name is Beth Liou, and I have been a parishioner here since August 2002, when I moved to Brooklyn with my husband Eric and newborn son Frank. Eighteen years later, that son is headed off to college (assuming, of course, that conditions allow) and we will only have our younger son Paul at home for his last two years of high school. It’s a bittersweet moment and a time to reflect.

When we moved to Brooklyn, we weren’t sure how things would shake out – where would our home church be? Where would the kid(s) go to school? What would the daily fabric of our life be like, etc.? Over the intervening years, as we’ve navigated the answers to those questions, we’ve established strong roots in the neighborhood. This includes at St. Charles, where I have served as a catechist, lector and parish outreach volunteer, and where both boys were inculcated with a strong sense of faith and community. Even my husband, who is not a Catholic, has felt welcome and supported.

Personally, I have been comforted in recent months by the many ways St. Charles has helped us stay connected as a parish during the darkest times of the pandemic lockdown. The Sunday online Masses were a lifeline, and the Sunday morning faith formation group has been a treasure I have valued dearly (and still do!). Meanwhile, Paul has become a regular with the St. Charles crew at Catholic Charities packing up boxes of food for those in need, a task that helps us put our own situation in perspective (we have much to be grateful for). Most recently, I have been helping with St. Charles’s reopening effort as an usher. It’s great to be back in church again, and it’s reassuring to see all the steps our parish leadership has taken to ensure we are able to worship together again in as safe an environment as possible. It’s truly a blessing.

On the subject of worship, I wanted to take a moment to talk about this week’s Gospel from Matthew. Last week we heard the parable of the sower; this week, we hear yet more parables, including another related to cultivation: letting the weeds grow with the wheat.

I have to admit, I am not much of a green thumb and our apartment doesn’t get great light, so our plant life is pretty scarce here in Brooklyn. But the story brings me back to my childhood in New Jersey. My paternal grandmother lived across town, and sometimes when we visited, she would set me and my siblings to the task of weeding her flower beds. To be clear, it was not the high point of our visits, but it’s something we laugh about now. If only we had thought to present this parable to her as a way of getting out of the job!

On a serious note, and as an adult, I view this parable in a couple of different ways. First, if this is meant to be about us, just who are the weeds and who are the wheat here? I feel at times that any of us could be either one. It’s important to realize that we’re all in the same patch, and what we do has an influence beyond just ourselves.

As I reflect on this parable, I think of the ways in which I sometimes am too “weedy” for my own or anyone else’s good, and I pray for the strength and wisdom to become more of a source of nourishment to others. This story also makes me think about how easy it is to get “in the weeds” — especially these days, with the added pressures of lockdowns, remote work, the extra family stresses of all being under one roof 24/7, etc. It’s very easy to get entangled in the distractions and irritations of these everyday things and lose sight of the big picture; ultimately, this can be a hindrance to growth.

One tool for helping me keep the right balance is daily prayer, and in that prayer, I ask for patience and perspective. As “weedy” and “in the weeds” as we can all be at times, I believe we all also have the chance — through God’s grace and mercy, and at any time of our lives — to clear out the brambles, renew our souls and aspire to be more “wheatlike.”

Have a great weekend and rest of the summer. God bless.