Today’s readings are very appropriate for September 18 in the
northern hemisphere. It generally is harvest time across these latitudes,
and the yield from the crops is directly related to some of the factors both
Paul and Jesus mention today. Was there good seed? Did it fall
on good soil? Does it send down deep roots? Does it mature and
Each of the last twenty years we have put in a vegetable garden. I
always tend to overplant, and my wife always reminds me we have too much
produce. This year our local Catholic Charities food pantry sent out
a message in May asking for surplus from gardens to be shared with the pantry’s
clients. I always share with family and co-workers, but the reminder
was communicated while I was planning and planting, so I added more plants
and mentally made arrangements to deliver sacks of good, organically grown
produce to the St. Martin de Porres Center.
Well, the best-laid plans, as they say, are only plans. The summer
was cool and very rainy in June and July. The tomatoes and squash and
peppers just never took off. And about the time they did, in early
August, the baby deer discovered that tomato vines and pepper plants are
tasty alternatives to their normal browse. To date we have harvested
about ten tomatoes, twenty peppers, four eggplants and no zucchini – hardly
an abundance and not even enough to share with family.
So what went wrong? The soil was good, I planted the plants correctly,
they were tilled and tended with care. But factors I couldn’t control
– uncooperative weather, uncontrollable wildlife – kept the harvest from
being what I had envisioned. What else could I have done? Did
I plant too late, or too early? Should I have added fertilizer?
Scarecrows or fences? All these are possibilities. And next year,
God willing, I will persist and try again.
I think the lesson from Jesus is that this receiving the word, this seed,
is not a one-time event. He uses the parable of a sower, someone who
every growing season is out in the fields, sowing seed in the hope that a
bounteous harvest will come at the end of the season. The sower who
is careful will do all the right things, and if conditions are favorable,
will receive the harvest. The sower who is persistent will cultivate
plants that bear abundant fruit.
So too with us. We receive the seed regularly – from both public and
private reading of the gospels, from reflective and contemplative prayer,
from observation of and interaction with our brothers and sisters.
Sometimes when we receive the seed the conditions are not right, and it does
not bear fruit. Sometimes the conditions are right and we bear great
fruit and do wonderful things. But as Jesus reminds us, if we are persistent,
our efforts will bear fruit. If we keep trying, eventually all the
growing conditions will be favorable and we will enjoy bumper crops.
The key is not whether the seed falls on favorable ground the first time,
but whether it ultimately bears fruit because the both the sower and the
receiver are persistent in trying to make the crop.
And so my prayer today is that I persist in preparing my growing conditions
so the seed I receive will bear great fruit.