Seed Scattered and Sown

sembrador02No modern farmer would do what the first parable of this gospel relates. Seeds are not “scatter[ed] . . . on the land” but carefully placed in precise rows. The farmer does not “sleep and rise night and day” without any regard for what has been planted. Instead, the farmer knows that of “its own accord the land” may not yield what the farmer needs to cover costs and make a living. So the farmer fertilizes, irrigates, spreads weed killer and pesticides, checks weather reports, and prays a lot! Farming has become big business and an exacting science. But, ultimately, the farmer knows that neither nature alone nor human effort can guarantee a desired agricultural outcome. In Jesus’ time husbandry was still the largest of human occupations. It is no wonder Jesus draws so many parables from what would have been very familiar to his listeners. In the end, however, seeds planted, growing, and yielding a harvest remains a mystery somewhat under our control, but largely still a mystery to which we must yield. We know that a fruitful harvest is, ultimately, a gift.
In this gospel both the land and the mustard seed actualize their potential—they do what by nature they are created to do. At least in the ideal circumstances of parables. A parable is meant to take us beyond the literal. These two are used by Jesus to help us grasp what is surely a mystery: the “kingdom of God.” This kingdom is not a place or space. It is not something we can discover or conquer. Instead, these parables invite us to be who we are and allow God’s kingdom to conquer us. These parables call us to surrender to God’s word and action within us, to cooperate with God in bringing about a world filled with abundance and promise. These parables challenge us to make the kingdom of God a visible reality shaping our daily living.
The “kingdom of God” is visible when we, like the land and mustard seed, actualize our own potential and do what we are called to do as Jesus’ disciples. What are we to do? Hear God’s word, nurture it in the fertile soil of our hearts, and let it sprout good works. In other words, God’s kingdom is visible in us when we surrender ourselves to God’s ways, when we hear God’s will for us, when we live in a way consistent with who God created us to be and how God intends us to do. In this way we become living parables doing what God created us to do and being who God created us to be. In the end we ourselves are God’s abundant harvest. And perhaps this is the greatest mystery of all.