Is there anything more hopeful than planting a seed? Whether it is a garden in your back yard or a few seeds in a flowerpot, we plant in hopes that something much bigger will come. Gardening with children is an investment in their future, teaching patience, planning, nurturing, and the dignity of work. It somehow harkens back to our origins in the Garden of Eden.
A garden goes through stages – it has a beginning, in which it is planted, then a period of growth. Finally, the garden bears fruit and is harvested. The readings today are about the growth of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God has already begun. Jesus is God made man: the divine seed of the Kingdom of God has been planted. The time for harvesting has not yet arrived, so we are in the time of the growing of the Kingdom of God.
In the first reading the prophet Ezekiel shows us God as a gardener who transplants a tender shoot that then grows to be a majestic cedar, welcoming all the nations of the world to gather in its branches. In the Gospel we just read Jesus tells us that the Kingdom of God grows like a seed planted in a field. The field represents the world. The Kingdom is like a seed that is planted and grows, a mustard seed that becomes a large bush welcoming the birds to its branches.
Jesus uses these two powerful images to show us “how it is with the kingdom of God “. What can the growth of a seed tell us about the growth of the Kingdom?
Well for one thing, the growth of a seed is mysterious. Even with today’s science, the exact nature of seeds, how they stay potent for long periods, and how they know when to sprout is cryptic. It’s just as Jesus said in the parable – “the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit”.
The growth of the Kingdom in the field of your heart is also mysterious. The seed of faith has been planted in each of us through our baptism. When we permit God to nurture it with tender loving care, it grows miraculously into gigantic proportions. The growth is slow and microscopic in the beginning. But this seed grows by using the power of the Holy Spirit, given to us through the word of God, the Mass, the Sacraments, and prayer. God’s rule in the human heart transforms individuals and communities into God’s people doing his will in his kingdom. We participate in the growth of God’s Kingdom on earth, a growth which will be completed in our heavenly life.
Another thing we know about seeds is that they fully represent the fruitfulness of what they will become. A mustard seed does not become a watermelon vine. Although a mustard seed does not look like a mustard bush, in some sense it is, always has been, and always will be what it will become. The mustard seed begins its road to fruitfulness through its pushing through the soil in which it is buried. Its growth is slow and dependent on the gifts of sun, rain and wind. It is going to be more than it was, but only in time and with help. Its fruitfulness will be a result of its being what it was, is and will be. So it is with the seed of faith – it always grows into the Kingdom of God. Although you may not recognize it in yourself, you hold the Kingdom within you. Allowed room to grow and nurtured by the Holy Spirit, faith irrevocably leads us to God and his Kingdom, maturing and growing as a mustard seed matures and grows into a large tree. The reign of God has always made much of little and the little rises to extend its branches for welcome and sharing.
One more thing about seeds. They always have an impact that is much bigger than themselves. A seed changes and betters the soil in which it grows, taking and giving nutrients as its roots spread. The growing stem gives shelter and shade to birds and creatures of every kind that dwell beneath it, in the shade of its boughs. At the proper time the plant flowers, yielding pollen and nectar for bees, butterflies, and moths. Finally seeds form. So it is with the Kingdom of God. As the Kingdom grows within you it changes you and those around you. For those who are parents, this is especially true in your children. Your faith gives shelter and encouragement to others, and your fruitfulness enriches the Kingdom. You will produce seeds that help the Kingdom to spread into more lives.
The growth of the kingdom in your heart may seem like a slow process. Think of the mustard seed struggling to break free of the dirt. Knowing that growth of the Kingdom of God is the work of the Holy Spirit gives us the courage to cooperate with God and makes us optimistic in continuing our work of bearing fruit for the Kingdom. We help the seed of faith flourish with words of love, and deeds of charity. Parents, teach your children about the Kingdom of God and how to care for and grow the seed of faith. The Holy Spirit will touch their hearts and will grow the Kingdom in their souls and lives.
The most perfect example of the fulfillment of the Kingdom is in the communion we will all soon share in. The little white host contains both the promise of the Kingdom and the Kingdom itself. It is mysterious – in fact one of the central mysteries of our faith as the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus. He nourishes our bodies giving strength and he nourishes our souls as he grows the seed of the Kingdom. Your faith allows you to approach the altar, and at the same time the Eucharist you receive is the source of your faith. The Eucharist is always fruitful, for nothing God does fails to complete its mission. The fruit of the Eucharist is to both embody and enrich the Kingdom.
God has planted the seed of faith within you. Is there anything more hopeful than planting a seed?