This Is How It Is

As a child, I listened to the news each night, not really understanding what I heard. However, one phrase repeated each night: “And that’s the way it is.” The familiar voice of Walter Cronkite, his factual details and his faithful coverage all helped us to believe ‘And that’s the way it is.” It was his person that made that line believable. It was his person that entered homes each night for so many years.

Our Gospel today, points to “This is how it is.” Jesus shares with us more than events, more than facts. He is reporting the “mystery of the kingdom.” A kingdom not of this world, but it is in this world. It is divine presence, our growth and eternal life. The kingdom of God is a call to us to live lives as faithful disciples. It is a call to live divine life even while we are caught up in our own human life and events.

The kingdom is found in the intersection of our work [plant the seed] and God’s work [mystery of life growing and bearing fruit]. The Good News is that God’s kingdom is assured – the seed will yield a harvest; the tiny seed will grow into a large plant. [Living Liturgy 2015]

It doesn’t matter if we do tiny things or earth-shaking things. What matters is that we take up God’s work of planting life.

Our cooperation with God is simply to be faithful followers of Jesus. Our tiniest acts of kindness – a simple smile or hello- bring forth life and make the kingdom present. Our lifelong journey is to live the gospel making the kingdom of God present. God uses us to make the divine presence known. This is how it is!

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.