The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come (Mark 4:26–29).
Jesus speaks of a farmer who sows a seed in the ground and, without his understanding, the seed germinates. The parable says that “the earth produces of itself” (Mk 4:28). Jesus is amazed that the farmer sows the seed and then, whether he “would sleep and rise night and day” (Mk 4:27), without his direct intervention, the seed germinates and a new plant and a new harvest come from it. Jesus marveled at this miracle of nature and proposes it as an image to understand the way in which God acts in history.
This is what the Kingdom of God is like, how God acts, how his saving power and merciful love are manifested: the Kingdom of God grows with a power of its own, which isn’t dependent upon us. We can neither force nor provoke the coming of the Kingdom. This doesn’t mean that the parable is an invitation to passivity and indifference. Rather, it is a call to trust in the loving power of God, who always acts with a mysterious but real force, often discreetly and silently but effectively. The parable is meant to teach us that God acts irresistibly, independently of our imperfect efforts, and by ways and means that are unknown to us, beyond our logic and foresight.
The parable teaches that we’re called to do all we can, as much good as possible, but with the awareness that the work belongs to God and that it’s God who assures us that none of our efforts to sow good will go to waste. St. Teresa said that we have to do “the best we can” [cf. Letters 200, 299]. Sometimes we can do very little; almost always our works are small, limited, and imperfect. However, we have the certainty that God will make fruitful what good we sow in life. It’s worth remembering here what St. Ignatius of Loyola teaches: “Act as if everything depends on you, knowing full well that in reality everything depends on God” [cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2834].
This parable should fill us with consolation and hope, especially in those moments when it seems that nothing is working, that our efforts are useless, and that the fruit we obtain doesn’t correspond to our expectations. This is the moment of serene trust in God’s action. The parable teaches us that, although God seems to be absent, in reality he is always acting mysteriously, sometimes imperceptibly and silently. There is no need to give up or give in, to drown or break down. Our trust in the discreet but powerful action of the Lord must continually sustain our efforts.
There are moments in history when injustice seems to triumph, when the power of the wicked seems invincible to us, and when we realize that the efforts we’ve made don’t bear the fruit that we expected. Moreover, those who dominate the peoples sow despair and disillusionment in order to provoke fear and weaken solidarity and generosity (cf. Fratelli Tutti, 75). In times like these, we mustn’t lose heart. We must act with the clear awareness that not everything depends on us and that nothing can stop God’s action in history. Beyond our small efforts, the gracious hand of God is present, transforming everything.
Our greatest contribution to social transformation is the dynamism that springs from our faith. We must trust in the irresistible power of goodness, truth, and justice, and then we must spread this trust to others. The seed of the Kingdom of God will germinate into a great harvest. This should encourage us not to lose hope and not to stop fighting the good fight. The Lord’s love and faithfulness assure us that it will be possible. Being realistic shouldn’t mean that we have less trust in God’s loving action (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 84).
Life isn’t only about seeking, but also about waiting; in order to live we not only must work, but we also must know how to receive; human existence isn’t only about producing, but also about welcoming what God gives us. We aren’t called to be heroes, but simple people who know how to accept God’s gifts with empty hands, who never tire of filling everything with life and light, even the darkest corners of the world.
Silvio José Báez, O.C.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Managua
Homily, Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (excerpts)
Translation from the Spanish text is the blogger’s own work product and may not be reproduced without permission.