The Franciscan Action Network’s Director, Sister Marie Lucey, OSF, wrote an article entitled “How Does Your Garden Grow?” No matter what our planting and growing situations and ambitions might be, we can all relate to an agricultural parable in some way.
Jesus often used an agricultural setting to teach the people. Sister Marie begins her article by telling us that Jesus sat by the sea and began to teach with such a parable. “Why not?” she asks. He was preaching to a group of people who understood things pertaining to fish and the sea as well as those who tilled the land to produce their daily food. So from a boat on the sea, Jesus begins: “A sower went out to sow.” This parable is familiar to us and we know the rest of the story — how the seed falls on various conditions of soil. While we acknowledge the rocky and thorny patches in our lives, we all want to be the rich soil that Jesus refers to. But what the parable doesn’t describe is the consistent, patient work needed to maintain that good soil and produce abundant crops.
Some of us can look at the small veggie garden we plant near our home; it is green and healthy. It offers us a home-grown variety of wonderful foods. Even if we’re not a gardener, we know from watching others that “sowing” involves more than just throwing a seed on the ground. There is the task of turning the soil, providing nutrients, planting seeds, watering and weeding faithfully, not to mention the work of putting up various types of fences for protection from squirrels and other hungry animals. No small job! But obviously, Jesus did not want this parable to describe only those actual gardens. He wants us to apply the lessons to our spiritual gardens as well. Jesus tells us that he is the Sower and we must hear and understand, listen and practice and do the work that is needed to bring forth the final product.
That parable dates back over 2000 years, but we all know that even in this time the world’s circumstances in which we live and garden are anything but ordinary. The virus has brought out some of the worst in humankind and many are struggling to survive in what Pope Francis calls the “throwaway culture.” Yet, it also brought out the best. In spite of all the challenging things that have happened because of this new lifestyle, there are signs of fresh life sprouting all around us. Something new is trying to be born. Sister Marie asks us to feel its heartbeat. See the promise in well-tended spiritual gardens. Do the work needed to have Jesus say, “Blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.” And she adds her own words: “ Do the work needed to have Jesus say, ‘Blessed are you who have maintained good soil that has produced abundant food for your soul – a soul that is filled with the grace and the love of God’”
In response to this article we might ask ourselves “How is my garden of the soul growing? Have I planted goodness in the world? Do I continue daily to be rich soil in spite of my rocky and thorny patches? Sister closes with a quote of Pope St. John XXIII who asks:
“What have I done for Christ today? Little or nothing?”
“What should I be doing for Christ?”
“Everything, Lord, if you but help me with your holy grace.”