Last year at this time we were stuck at home and not feeling particularly hopeful in general, and we were looking for something we could do together as a family, so we started a pandemic garden! It gave us something to do together that would keep our attention throughout our time at home and it would be fun to see what we could grow. We had dabbled at growing things in years past but this was a step up for us. We plated herbs like chives and basil, pumpkins, sweet peppers, sunflower plants and hot peppers. We started most of them from seeds in our kitchen and then planted them out back to watch it grow. It was life when we needed life! I would say we had moderate success. The rabbits ate the sunflower plants as soon as they sprouted. The pumpkin plant was our largest plant… and it yielded a grand total of one pumpkin. The herbs thrived and we get a few sweet peppers, but we struck out completely on the hot peppers much to my disappointment. But we had fun and we are back at it again this year. In looking back on it, our gardening gave us hope and life when we needed it, and a good harvest for our home.
The Old Testament reading and Gospel parables today are rich in their depth and imagery of planting, growing and harvesting. Through Ezekial, God says that he will pluck the tender shoot from the crest of the cedar and plant it on a mountain in Israel. It will grow and become a “majestic cedar” where birds will dwell in its shade. This mighty tree will dwarf other tress and all will recognize its magnificence and see God’s hand in it. This story is a prophetic one of God sending a Messiah into the world who will provide a safe place for all who believe.
The Psalm continues this theme of growth and our finding a true home only in God. “They that are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God.” I like that, shall flourish in the courts of our God.
In the Gospel parables, the theme of planting and growing is again dominant. Often when we read this passage we remember parable of the mustard seed and kind of pass over the other one, but they are very related. Both parables are Jesus’s way of explaining the Kingdom of God to his listeners in terms they can relate too. The first parable is about a man scattering seed and how, like my garden, it grows and he is not sure exactly how until the time of the harvest. And we know the mustard seed parable – it grows to one of the largest plants from one of the smallest seeds.
When I spent time with these, I found myself thinking about who or what I was in these stories.
- Was I the man scattering seed on the land… like my diaconal calling to spread the Good News?
- Was I the seed that was planted, sprouted and grew longing and hoping for the harvest? Corinthians reminds us that we would rather leave the body at the harvest and go home to the Lord.
- Or was I one of the birds of the air that found shade in the large branches of the cedar or mustard plant seeking protection, calling it home?
Certainly we can see ourselves in in all of these images – longing for shade and a safe home, yearning for the harvest, to be chosen to come home, and doing God’s work scattering seed. Parables of the Kingdom of God.
Theologians have described the Kingdom of God as: “Already…but not yet.” It is “already” here in Ezekial’s Messiah that walked the earth, is present in our lives and hearts, is real and present in our Eucharist, is present in our love and being loved, in the mercy we have received and in the hope we have.
“Already…but not yet.” The Kingdom of God does not yet exist in its fullest glory as it unfolds over time and at His pace, not ours. I think Jesus is telling us we can and should bask in the “already” while understanding and engaging in the work of “but not yet.” Here the image of scattering seed is paramount to this “but not yet” work to be undertaken. Saint Paul VI said simply in Evangelii Nuntiandi, “The Church exists in order to evangelize.” And Saint John Paul the second frequently spoke of our baptismal calling to spread to good news of Christ.
We are all planting seeds in how we witness to God, in how we live our lives, in the choices we make, in the love we give and the words we say. Some seeding is passive, some is deliberate as we suggest to others a better way or witness to how Jesus Christ has changed our lives. Like our garden last year, some seeds did absolutely nothing, some gave us an abundance and some gave us a grand total of exactly one pumpkin. In all circumstances the soil was rich, fertilizer gave ample food, all were watered regularly but yet some just didn’t take. Like the farmer from the parable, I know not how or why.
But try we must! The seeds of the Kingdom of God need to be planted, that loving care needs to be applied so that the birds of the parable can find that shade in an everlasting home. And when the harvest is ready, when the sickle is being wielded, we are straining to stand up tall, eager for the harvest calling out, “Here I am Lord, here I am!” And it is at the time as we look around, who will we see standing with us? Which of the seeds we have sown have grown, are straining to stand up tall and are also calling out in a yearning voice, “Here I am Lord, here I am!?”
The Kingdom of God. Already…but not yet.