Have you ever tried your hand at gardening?
Gardening is a very intricate work, from what I have discovered of my limited time as a gardener. It takes time and planning, and it takes patience. It takes constant care and nurturing; knowing the right nutrients and soil composition for the different plants or vegetables. After watering the rest is out of the gardener’s hands. The plants will either grow or not. They will either be strong or maybe hardly come up. If you thin out the smaller ones the bigger plants will yield more, but the plants grow of their own, the gardener can not force them.
Today in the Gospel (Mark 4.26-34) Jesus uses parables to describe His Father’s kingdom. He uses a parable of a gardener who plants seeds and waits for them to grow. This parable is an analogy for our life of faith and of living in union with God as we prepare for His coming kingdom. God has already planted the seeds of faith in our hearts, I would say that is why all of us are here today. And this Gospel reveals 3 essential characteristics of living in union with Christ.
First, the life of our union with Him does not come from ourselves, but from God. Christ has initiated and planted the seed of faith, and the power of growth comes from Him, our Creator. It is He who constantly is breathing his grace into our lives, and no matter how hard we try we would never be able to grow in intimacy with Him of our own strength or will. We cannot force union with God by our own actions. Our life of union with Him depends primarily on God. He is always at work, as we hear in the parable, even while we are asleep. We must simply receive His nurturing.
Second, growth in holiness and relationship with Christ is a gradual process. Unlike in Hollywood movies where heroes become world-wide champions over the course of two hours, Christians develop wisdom, joy, and virtue through a patient and consistent effort to cooperate with God over our entire lives. We can often become discouraged when we don’t see growth happening or when we live with our ongoing struggles with bad habits, but we must realize, especially as we live in a society of instant gratification, that patience will produce the biggest yield when it comes to our relationship with God. The full-grown, healthy plant that will attract others to Christ and nourish those around us requires a patient effort and unshakable confidence in God.
Third, spiritual growth takes time. Imagine a gardener yelling at their recently planted seeds, “Hurry up! Grow faster!” It’s a weird picture, but every time we get frustrated with ourselves, at our slow progress, this is what we are doing. The seeds will not grow any faster, but we must trust that God is accomplishing all in His time.
So as you seek to grow in holiness, in your relationship with God, remember it all depends on God and His constant care. And it takes time and patience. Next time you are thinking about your growth in your faith journey, remind yourself of a gardener tending their garden.
This growth in our union with God that we experience, as we are reminded about in the readings today, is for the coming kingdom of God, that we may be prepared to be fully in Him.
This reminds me of when we pray the “Our Father”:
“Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”
The more we are open to the Lord, as we seek His will in our lives by following our conscience, the teachings of the Church, and the examples of Christ and the saints, the more abundant and fruitful our experience of life will become as His coming kingdom is revealed here on earth, in our lives.
So let us remember to be open and generous with the gardener of our hearts as we trust and patiently seek His kingdom from day to day!
Other readings for reflection from today:
2 Corinthians 5.6-10
*3 main points of the reflection taken from “The Better Part” by John Bartunek, pg 381