Two parables fill the Gospel for this weekend – the seed and sower and the mustard seed. Jesus in the Gospel of Mark seems to be bursting with the reality of the reign of God, and he just has to find every way possible to share that good news. The reason why God loved the people of Israel so much, according to an ancient Hebrew Midrash, is that he couldn’t resist a good story. Parables drag everybody into them (sometimes kicking and screaming) so that the variety of hearers (present and to come) could connect with his message.
“The seed and the sower” comes at a good time in early summer. I have never been drawn to gardening and know nothing about how plants work. But, I am learning that a garden in the desert takes tremendous energy and focus. A desert garden teaches one how mysterious are the plants we tend. Planting, watering, fertilizing, cultivating and harvesting are a lot of work. And you have to manage sun exposure. But, still we are never really in control. Much depends on the seeds or shoots, the condition of the soil, the rain, or drought. Mostly we just water and work the soil especially around desert heat and hope for the best. And one never really knows the outcome until the final day. As Jesus said, “The sower scatters seed … and the seed sprouts and grows … but the one who scatters the seed does not know how” (Mark 4:26-27).
“The kingdom of God is like this …” Jesus said. We are among the sowers of seeds in the kingdom. We sow seeds in gestures of kindness and encouragement. We sow seeds in words of understanding and solace. We sow seeds of goodwill, love, collaboration, and challenge. Will those seeds take root? We don’t know at the time. We must continue to sow these seeds of the reign of God and trust in God for the outcome.
But, we also are the seeds planted by the divine farmer. God is lavish and prodigal. Abundant growth is expected of the tiny mustard seed, adequate to provide shade and rest for “the birds of the sky” without reserve. Even for a tiny seed, there are high expectations, because mustard is usually a golden dandelion-like flower that soon takes over a lawn or a field. This shrub turned tree implies welcome, abundant lodging, and respite. The reign of God has room for all. Anyone coming along is welcome to find shade and rest.
As disciples of Jesus, we have been planted by a God who dreams big. He planted our Basilica community, our local and universal Church with great sacrifice. Any hospitality we can “muster” here at St. Mary’s reflects the divine gardener. Our outreach into the community and especially to the poor reflects his sunlight … Or I as I said last week, “SON-light.” Our church is a cool spot to pray in the middle of the day and brings “Sabbath rest” to many weary Phoenix visitors. The welcome at the door means everything. We are proud of that. “This is how it is with the Kingdom of God.”
A gentle week,
Fr. Michael Weldon, OFM
Many thanks to Deacon Ross Beaudoin for the shape of this 2016 Celebration reflection.