Jesus said to the crowds:
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
Our Gospel reading today offers two images of seeds growing. In the first parable, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like seeds that are planted and beyond our sight they germinate and grow ultimately bringing forth a harvest. In the second parable, he tells us that God’s kingdom is like the smallest of seeds that can grow into a large plant.
One interpretation of these parables is that we must trust that our smallest of efforts – like a tiny seed – even when we can't always see it, can grow into something amazing. God can break through into someone’s heart through a word or action that often to us seems insignificant.
One of the most impactful moments in my spiritual life came from something I heard Fr. Richard Rohr once say on an audio tape. Years ago, I drove to Los Angeles frequently for work, and I decided to make that drive-time productive by listening to Fr. Rohr's bible study tapes.
What I remember most was something he said in an unprepared prayer. He said in a little prayer to begin his lesson, a prayer off the top of his head, something that changed everything for me. He said: “The experiences of our lives if we let God use them are the mysterious and perfect preparation for the work he would have us do.”
It doesn’t sound like much does it?
What I was going through at that moment in time made this little message life changing. You see I had cancer at that time and because of this short statement, I began to think of the cancer as something God could use. This simple sentence in a spontaneous prayer changed everything for me – in a moment.
Jesus is telling us with these seed parables that we should be aware that the smallest things we say or do can have an enormous impact.
Jesus' ministry must have looked so small to an outsider. He converted very few who heard him, and even his closest disciples remained relatively clueless throughout his ministry. And yet from that small start, his ministry changed the world. We just don't know what our small word or action might do. But Jesus tells us today that's exactly how God's kingdom is spread!
Paul tells the Corinthians – and he tells us – in today’s reading, “We need to walk by faith, not by sight.” We need to trust that God is working even when we don’t see it. If we let God use the experiences of our lives – the good and the bad ones – he can use our small lives to increase his harvest.
Cancer stripped my life down to what really mattered. You find out when you are seriously ill that the only thing that matters are the people you love. The only thing – in the end – that counts is loving others.
That simple little saying from Fr. Richard Rohr allowed me to give that experience over to God for him to use. Which changed the whole course of my life; I am a deacon today because of this simple phrase.
Hearing this Gospel reading on Father’s Day makes we think of this message in the context of being a Father who has raised four children. The text talks about how God plants the seed of his kingdom inside us. Which is truly the most important job a Father has, to plant the seed of God’s kingdom in their children’s hearts. And our reading today tells us we need to be patient; even though it's not always easy to see God's kingdom growing inside our children or us. Even though we don’t seem to be getting holier and our kids often are not responding as we think they should, we shouldn’t be discouraged. Instead, we must keep on cultivating the seed inside our family and us; especially by praying and by receiving the sacraments.
Raising a family takes lots of patience. Sometimes parents see little evidence of maturity in a child. What do parents do when this happens? They love the child even more and go on being patient. Our job is to plant the seed of God’s kingdom in our hearts and the hearts of our family members, and then we must trust God and be patient.
God is trying to grow something special in each one of us, something beautiful, something infinitely more marvelous than any tree could ever be. If we trust God, things will work out in God's own time and in God's way. I'm living proof of that statement for sure.
I survived cancer, and God used that experience to change me and to change my family. If we let God use our experiences the day will come when God’s kingdom will emerge from our heart and grow into something glorious. So the message in today’s readings comes down to this: God planted the seed of his kingdom in your heart, and your job is to nurture it. If we stay close to Him and offer our lives to Him, we never know how He might use us to plant the seeds of hope in someone else.