The kingdom of God is like a seed.
The Gospel for this Sunday focuses on a common image in the parables of Jesus. A little seed yields abundance and the kingdom of God that Jesus is proclaiming is like that.
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”Mark 4: 26-29
What strikes me the most in this passage is how the silence and waiting bring about a harvest. A seed is scattered on the land, but unlike some parables, the focus isn’t on the soil. Rather, the emphasis is on the seed. Despite the sleeping and rising of the farmer, the seed flourishes and gives rise to a harvest for him to gather. Does the farmer understand it? The Gospel proclaims “he knows not how” the seed sprouts and grows.
The same is true in us. God’s work is slow and gradual and we know not how He does it. Like the child who plants a seed and then looks eagerly each day, expecting immediate growth, if we are fixated on seeing magical growth, we will be disappointed. The seed of God grows in us, slowly and almost imperceptibly. Weeks or months or years later, we have the joy of looking back and seeing how God moved and worked. In the particular moment, we don’t always see the movement or the purpose.
The work of God is silent. So much takes place beneath the surface before we even see any fruit. But the Lord loves to work in the quiet. An immense work is happening in wombs and Eucharistic holy hours and monastic life and a night’s sleep and the quiet of the early morning. We often want the Lord to be striking and bold. Sometimes He is. But sometimes He is thirty hidden years at Nazareth, cared for a father with no recorded words in Scripture and a mother who is so often pondering things in her heart. A hushed unfurling of God’s word in our hearts leads us into a love that is not showy or boisterous but rooted and deep.
In so many areas of my life, I want things to happen quickly. I don’t like the struggle of the waiting or the in between, the time of growth that is often painful as we develop roots to sustain us in later storms. The act of starting is so often delayed because I fear what happens once something is set in motion. Or sometimes it is the opposite fear: what won’t happen despite the steps taken. But if the kingdom of God is like this little seed, then the same could be applied to God’s kingdom dwelling within me. It grows, step by slow step, in the hidden hours, though I know not how.
However, the growth won’t happen if the seed is never planted. Even less than that, the Gospel uses the word scattered, something that seems even less intentional than planting. Perhaps I need to let what has been scattered into my life take deeper root and grow, even the things that seem inconvenient or unexpected or unfortunate. And I need to receive the rains and nourishment the Lord offers to me. Without even knowing how, I want to wait for the rich harvest to come, even though it will be accompanied by a sacrificial gift, laid low by the piercing blade.
As it says later in the Gospel passage, this tiny seed can grow into a place where others can find rest. This is true regardless of if we speak of the Church at large or a particular member of the Church. Giving way to God’s plan and its accompanying growth means that we will become a place of respite for others, a home where they can be renewed as we journey to our Eternal Home.
Help us, Lord, to yield to Your slow and silent growth within us. Allow us to flourish so that others might encounter us as springs of living water, restful homes filled with Your presence.