A young boy came home excited about his science project. The teacher gave each student a seed which they were to plant in a styrofoam cup at home and were to keep a journal of what they did to nurture the seed into a plant. He and his father went in the yard to dig up some dirt, filled a cup with it and gently pushed the seed into the soil. Then they watered it and placed it on the window sill where it could get plenty of sun.
The next morning, the boy woke up at 5:00 and ran to the window to see if the seed had grown yet. But nothing seemed to happen overnight. He woke up his father and asked him why the seed had not grown. The father told him that he had to be patient. That it takes time for the seed to grow.
The morning after, the boy ran up to the window again, and still nothing had happened. He started sobbing, ran to his father to wake him up and said, “I think we killed the seed! It’s still not growing!” Hugging the little boy tightly, the father tried to calm him down and explain that it takes time for the seed to grow. Then the boy asked, “How will I know that the seed is growing? What if it isn’t growing and it’s dead?” The father explained to him that as long as he took care of the soil, the seed should grow. However, they would not know for sure until they saw it sprout up. They just needed to trust that it would grow because that is what seeds do.
The boy accepted his father’s answer but still ran every morning to the window to see if there was any progress.
Then one morning, he noticed a little green shoot peeking up from just below the dirt. He ran to get his father and show him, “See, Daddy, you were right! It did grow!”
In today’s gospel, Jesus uses the image of the seed to describe how God works in our lives and in our world. For the people of his day, planting seeds was not just a science project or hobby but a way of life. They depended on the seeds they planted to grow to provide food for their families. Most people grew their own food, so whether the seed flourished or not was a matter of life and death to them. They could till the soil and water it regularly but, like the young boy, they simply had to trust that the seed they planted would grow.
Jesus explains to the crowd that God’s Kingdom works in much the same way as a seed planted in the ground. God works in hidden ways. We cannot always understand what He is doing or why things are turning out the way they are. We wonder why He is not doing more to end suffering or why so many people are so slow to hear and understand the gospel of love. But somehow our Heavenly Father is using all the world’s events - both the good and the bad - to bring His Kingdom to fruition. All we can do is trust that He has it all under control and that He knows what He is doing. And we have to wait patiently until it is finally manifested in all its glory.
Many of us who have lived long enough can understand the meaning of Jesus’ words. There were times when we could not comprehend why certain people left our lives, why our careers did not turn out the way we thought or why what we expected out of life never came to pass. Looking back over the years, however, we can see how everything fit into place. Without our knowing it and without our controlling it, the pieces came together and we could not imagine our lives being any different. Like the seed growing hidden in the soil, we grew and have flowered in ways that we could never have planned on our own. We realize that it could only have been by Our Heavenly Father’s plan that it all worked out.
Saint Paul describes the attitude we are to have. “We walk by faith and not by sight.” We live with confidence that God has everything under control even when things seem to be unravelling. In a culture that is hostile to the gospel of life, we base our decisions not on what is popular and not on what is convenient, but on what God has revealed through His Church. In a society that fails to value the dignity of every human life, we work to feed the hungry, care for the sick and visit prisoners. We can only persevere in living the good news even in the face of ridicule by trusting that God will somehow make it worthwhile even if to our eyes it seems to be a waste of time and energy.
The greatest example of this is the cross. When Jesus was crucified it seemed as if all that He had done was being brought to a bloody end. It seemed that the authorities who had put Him to death finally won. It seemed as if God had abandoned Him. But God was working in a hidden way using the torture that Jesus suffered to bring new life to the world. The cross was like the seed watered by the blood of Christ which sprouted into the Church giving eternal life to all the world. We are the roots, the branches and the fruit that have grown up from that seed. And by living His message of love and peace, we are assuring that the branches will continue to grow to cover all the earth.
We walk by faith and not by sight. God’s Kingdom is growing silently but surely. We will not see the Kingdom in full flower until we enter, by God’s grace, into our heavenly reward. But we can be sure that just as the flower is more beautiful than the seed it grew out from, so God’s Kingdom will be infinitely more glorious than anything we can imagine. Until then, no matter how dark and hopeless our world may seem, we live, work and pray with trust that it is all going according to God’s plan.