In today’s Gospel we have two parables, but the first one really grabs my attention at this point in my life. How fascinating and appealing and puzzling is the mystery of the farmer in this story. Farming today is a science – carefully chosen seeds planted in organized, calculated rows and cared for intensely so that they produce high yields. In our country we even go so far as to scientifically develop the perfect seed and fertilize and water it in perfectly measured ratios. Our intellect and discoveries have created the highest-producing fields in the world!
But wait – this story seems to turn that model on its head. Mark’s gospel presents a farmer who doesn’t even know how the seeds grow. Far from planting in evenly-spaced rows, he simply “scatters” the seeds across the land. But somehow, mysteriously, the full grains come and the farmer can harvest.
On both a personal level and a societal level, it is sometimes tempting to think of building God’s kingdom as a formula. If I complete x task, and do x thing, the result will be the kingdom. If I can control all the details just right, I’ll get the right outcome. But what we find here is that the kingdom of God isn’t like that. The kingdom of God doesn’t depend on me figuring out just the right formula to find inner peace or to solve world hunger. It depends on one thing: love. God, the planter, has already scattered the seeds of love all over our world and inside of me, all I have to do is let it grow, and the fruits will baffle us all. Obviously, my intellect and abilities are gifts to help me share that love. But when I start thinking that it depends on me, and I act out of my own desires and my own interests, that seed is choked.
If I strive to unite my actions to the will and love of God, all I have to do is trust that the fruits will come, and they will. And as the second half of the Gospel reveals, even the smallest act of love can produce the largest, fullest tree where all the birds can find shade.