11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
June 17, 2012
Lessons of the Seeds
There is the famous story about the Lord’s Store. A man had a dream. He saw himself walking on the streets of the city. He was moved to tears and disgust when he saw so many people living in poverty and destitution. He longed to help them but he did not know how. As he walked farther, he saw a big store. He walked towards it and entered its large door. To his pleasant surprise, he saw Jesus behind the counter. The Lord gave him a wide and warm smile and said, “Welcome to my store! This where you will find whatever you need. You may look around now, and just list down whatever you need. Everything is free. When you finish, hand me your list.” The man looked around the store and true enough, all the things needed to solve the problems of the world were there: food that will put an end to hunger and poverty, justice for all, medicine to heal all diseases, peace for the world, love and harmony in the family, and many more. He hurried back to the counter with his list. Jesus looked at it, and pulled out small packets from the large drawers at the back of the counter. “Here,” he said. “Take these with you.” “What are these?” the man asked. Jesus explained, “By the way, my store is different. I do not offer finished products here. These packets contain the seeds of everything on your list. You have to plant these seeds and make sure to nurture them until they grow and bear fruits.”
In the Gospel this Sunday, Jesus gives us two parables of the seeds to describe the reign of God. The first is the Parable of the Growing Seeds. It tells us that God’s kingdom, like the seed, will definitely come, regardless of any human intervention. The second is the Parable of the Mustard Seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth”. Yet when it is sown, it grows and become the largest of plants.
Why did Jesus use the image of the seed in these parables? Certainly, the seed has significant qualities that will help us understand the mystery of the kingdom of God.
First, the seed is small and, in the eyes of most people, insignificant. Only farmers truly appreciate its value. In the parable of the Sower, Jesus pictured God as the farmer who sowed seeds on the ground. And that is precisely how God works – always from humble and small beginnings: from the manger in Bethlehem to the carpenter’s shop in Nazareth and to the cross in Calvary; from twelve unlettered disciples in Galilee to the great forums of Rome and throughout the whole world.
This teaches us the lesson on humility and littleness. Fallen human nature tends to seek for recognition and appreciation. Hence, people aspire to become big – rich, famous, and powerful. But experience tells us that this is not the way to true greatness and happiness. The seed is a reminder that being little does not mean being powerless or insignificant. In fact, as shown by the example of God, it is the way to true greatness. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “A great man is always willing to be little.” In other words, it takes a lot of greatness to become little. The way of God is humility; the way of the devil is pride.
Second, the seed grows slowly. It follows the process of nature, which is gradual and slow. There is no shortcut to growth and development. This is the way the Kingdom of God unfolds. Unfortunately, many people nowadays do not subscribe to this truth anymore. Being used to the comforts and convenience in this age of technology, they think that success can be achieved quickly and easily. Everybody is in a hurry and impatient. They hate to wait. But the seed teaches us that the way to greatness and success is a long and painstaking process – “first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” Again, this is clearly illustrated in the life of Jesus. He has come to save the world. But he had to undergo the complete process of birth, growth and maturity. He had to patiently wait for thirty-three years before he stretched his hands on the cross to fulfill his mission. Indeed, as the famous director, Mario Puzo, said, “Great men are not born great, they grow great.”
Have we ever thought why during these times there are so many people afflicted with cancer? I will try to give my own reflection on this. Most of these cancer cases, apart from heredity, are caused by the food we eat. In the recent past, people raise chicken and hogs in their backyards that feed on organic grains, fruits and vegetables. Fish are caught in the seas. Cancer was almost unheard of. Nowadays, poultry, fish and meat products are farmed and raised artificially, with the use of chemical-laced feeds so that they grow fast. Even fruits, vegetables and rice are genetically engineered and bombarded with fertilizers and chemicals for fast growth and maximum harvest. All these are done for only one obvious reason: huge and quick profits. This greedy human intervention invariably results in the unprecedented rise in the number of cancer victims and the emergence of many other diseases. Blessed Pope John Paul II is perfectly right when he declared, “The greatest misfortune of this age is that people consider money as the highest good.” This sad reality teaches us the lesson, not only on the evil of greed, but also on the need to obey the laws of nature, and on the value of patience as we wait for the slow but sure unfolding of the Kingdom of God in our midst.
Third, the seed is totally dependent, not on the power of any human being, but on the providence of God. It is God who supplies the minerals and nutrients in the soil, and sends sunshine and rainfall on the seed until it grows and bears fruits. Again, this truth does not resonate with people nowadays. Progress in the fields of technology and science has made people think they can be self-sufficient, and can now conveniently put God aside. Pope Benedict XVI made this apt observation: “The crisis we are living through carries with it signs of the exclusion of God from people’s lives, a general indifference to the Christian faith, and even the intention of marginalizing it from public life.” It is best, therefore, to remind us of the Lord’s words: “I am the true vine, you are the branches; apart from me, you can do nothing.”
Finally, the seed, though nurtured by nature and God’s providence, still needs the caring hands of the farmer. God seldom operates directly in the affairs of the world. As a rule, He always uses the instrumentality of human beings who cooperate in His plan to bring about His Kingdom in the world. When people obey God’s will, the advent of His kingdom is hastened: “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” God gives only the seeds of peace, progress and salvation. And He expects us to plant and nurture them to full fruition. This we do by faithfully obeying His will. Ultimately, it is God who brings about His kingdom, and He invites us to join Him in building it here on earth until it reaches perfection and fullness in heaven.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
Santa Lucia Parish
J.P. Rizal Street, Bgy. Sta. Lucia
Novaliches, Quezon City 1117