I didn’t like weeding our garden as a child, and, I’m not much of a gardener now. Since today’s readings are all about seeds, planting, and growing, I am, perhaps, not the right person to give the homily. But here we are. You’re stuck with me.
Every farmer and gardener knows that while they do the planting, God—through nature—does the growing. Seeding and growing plants is something that requires our attention, but the actual growing is beyond our power.
We heard two parables today, and both promise growth, the first from seed to abundant harvest, the second from seed to a shrub for birds.
You don’t have to be a farmer, or a gardener, though, to get the message of today’s readings: like seed, God’s Word takes root and grows . . . in us. While we go about our lives of eating, sleeping, working, and playing, there’s more going on than meets the eye. The Holy Spirit is working miracles in our lives to further God’s purpose.
And so, God’s purpose comes through ordinary, everyday actions of seemingly insignificant people, whose seeds of faith and passion for justice have the power to make hope blossom right in the midst of despair.
The person who takes an itty-bitty mustard seed and sees a bush full of birds is either a crazed optimist, or one who simply lives in the reign of God. The one who sees giant cedars growing on mountaintops in Israel with every type of bird resting in its branches is either delusional or one who simply knows that God can do anything. That’s faith. What seems improbable or even impossible is just what God does. Faith, that is nurtured and tended, always sees potential in ourselves and our world—no matter how troubled.
That’s the lesson we learn from Ezekiel in our first reading. Giant cedars on mountaintops in Israel makes no sense. Cedar branches bearing fruit make no sense. Every type of bird resting in its branches makes no sense? What seems to make no sense is just what God does.
What seems improbable, even utterly impossible, is just what God does. That’s a key theme that runs throughout the Bible, Old Testament and New!
So I wonder . . . What seeds has God planted in us, the St. Charles community?
I reflect on the effect of the pandemic on the parish. Yes, we have continued to worship throughout. And yes, we made some real efforts to discuss and address issues of racism and calling this last year. And yes, we prepared youth and children and families for various sacraments. But I have to say, even though we have carried on with many parish activities as before, it has felt like we’ve been half dormant for a year or more. It’s not a criticism. We’ve done what we had to do. I just wonder what seeds the Spirit has planted in us during this period of semi-dormancy.
I reflect on how our physical footprint is greatly reduced from what it used to be (although I personally think we are closer to right-sized than we were before). But our campus is still a construction zone mess that seems anything but welcoming and hospitable. I’ve heard some of the grumblings about parking and the rest, and I know some are staying away until the dust settles . . . literally. Again, not criticizing, just musing and wondering what seeds has the Spirit planted in us as we make room for, and partner with De La Salle North Catholic High School. Are there new families coming our way?
I reflect on our always precarious financial picture. June is a tough month for me, for Kathryn, and for the Admin Council, because we have to establish a new parish budget, a balanced budget, for the new fiscal year that starts July 1. It’s always tough, but this year it is particularly challenging. While I am truly grateful to so many of you who have remained faithful in your financial generosity—you have literally kept the lights on for more than a year—our decrease in numbers has resulted in a decrease in financial giving. Not criticizing, just wondering. I wonder what seeds the Spirit has planted to keep us afloat in the coming year.
And I wonder . . . what seeds has God planted in you, personally? In me, personally? What is a recent mustard seed moment for you? Like the seed planted in the ground, our yes to God’s call yields surprises that could not have been predicted. What are your mustard seed experiences? Can you identify at least one?
This much I believe. This much I know. The Spirit has surely planted seeds among us. The Holy Spirit is just as active today as she was on Pentecost, as she was in the early days of the Acts of the Apostles, as she was throughout church history, as she was at Vatican II, as she was in the heyday of American Catholic life.
Even if we don’t yet know just what those seeds are, we must tend and nurture the soil in which they are planted. That’s you . . . and me. Your head, your heart. Mine too. And so, let us heed words of St. Paul that we heard today to walk by faith, not by sight. Takes courage and intention.
This is exactly what I intend for us with the Spiritual Growth Challenge that I’ve been talking about. If each one of us tills the soil of our own faith, the seeds the Spirit has planted will germinate, sprout, and grow into something akin to cedars on the mountaintops of Israel. What seems improbable, even impossible is just what God does.
So, let us tend the soil of one another’s faith together. Let us be tolerant of the lingering anxiety associated with the pandemic. Let us be patient with the construction mess and parking woes, knowing that in a few short months all will be in place. And let us come before God with sincerity and singular focus seeking simply to align the things that we do in the world with all the things that God is doing in the world. The rest will take care of itself.
While I have told it before, allow me to conclude with this simple, poignant, and apropos, short story called “God’s Fruit Stand” by John Shea. A woman went into a marketplace, looked around, and saw a sign that read “God’s Fruit Stand.” “Thank goodness. It’s about time,” the woman said to herself. She went inside and she said, “I would like a perfect banana, a perfect cantaloupe, a perfect strawberry, and a perfect peach.” God, who was behind the counter, shrugged and said, “I’m sorry. I sell only seeds.”