God produces the yield from our random efforts to proclaim Good News,
beyond our expectations.
Driving on the highway passing fields of corn in my corner of the Midwestern U. S. it looks like it could be a good year for the crop. I’m not a farmer, but I have been around enough farmers and corn fields as a child and in 33 years of priesthood and to me it looks like it could be a year for a high yielding corn crop. Saturday morning, in the paper I saw that there is some concern that the corn crop, if things continue as they are right now, may be too good and prices will drop triggering government subsidies to keep prices from being too low. Some would say it’s luck farmers have had the right weather so far. Other people might say the abundance is a gift of God.
Now having said I’m not a farming expert but have been around farmers since childhood, I also know enough that it would sound silly or crazy if I said to one of my parishioners who’s growing corn “Bet you’re going to get fifteen hundred buss els of corn per acre this year! And your neighbor, it’s looking like he’ll get at least a thousand bushels of beans per acre! I did hear a few farmers are only going to get 800 bushels of corn per acre, though.” The farmers in the parish would think this priest was at best joking with them and at worst he had gone delusional!
But that’s the kind of thing Jesus was saying in the gospel we proclaimed at Mass this weekend. The wild amounts of harvested crop that could be expected by the farmer in the Gospel who just throws seed around here and there is outlandish. Jesus was predicting unreal amounts of grain would be harvested. Unless we understand a little about farming in the first century in what we call the middle east we’ll miss the point of the Gospel of the sower and the seed.
People who grew wheat or barley in the time of Jesus did not have the knowledge of seeds germinating and growing roots that took up nourishment from the soil like the modern farmers among us. The farmer in the time of Jesus didn’t even plow nice neat rows into the soil so the seed could be covered by dirt. Farming was a random act that depended on the generous mercy of God. Throw the seed out, expecting some to miss the targeted softer ground and land where people walked a path because it was short cut to where they wanted to get to or in the hedge row that kept out animals. Then hope God blessed you with enough to feed your family and sell a little to the townspeople. In a sense, to them it was a miracle that stalks of grain appeared. First century farmers didn’t know how it happened but God must be involved because, amazingly, grain appeared on stalks where the farmer threw seed a few months earlier. Today’s general knowledge of agronomy shields us from hearing the parable. By God’s willing it, a miracle of abundance happened. Everybody knew that, then. But, Jesus takes things a step further and says that the Kingdom of God is like an outlandish yield of crops.
It’s a metaphor. God’s kingdom isn’t really a field of unexpected high yielding grain. But it’s like that. Jesus uses one image to get those who listen to him to have an experience, an insight into what it’s like when God is in control of life.
Whenever you and I have an experience of an outcome to something that we’ve done that far exceeds our expectations, or surprises us that anything even happened, that’s experiencing the Kingdom of God in our midst. What’s it like to experience life in the Kingdom of God? When ever a seemingly random selfless action has results far beyond expectation. When we let God do his thing instead of trying to control the outcome of everything we do.
Think of it like this. Once there was a young girl who had trouble paying attention in school. Her parents told her they believed in her, to make sure she took the opportunity to help others like they were helping her and then spent a little more time with her doing homework. That’s just normal parent behavior. The mom and dad did nothing grand or planned out for results. Then, many years later on the day the girl retires from a long career of teaching in a school in a poor area, having inspired many other students to be the best they can be she says “I owe it all to my mom and dad who did something so simple as to believe in me and help me study that I was able to help so many children be more than they thought they could be!” That’s experiencing the kingdom of God in this world. God took the small random act of selflessness and produced an abundance of life for many people.
Or, maybe one of us has said a kind word of support to a grieving widow at the funeral home visitation after her husband’s death. Some time later the widow says “You know, something you said at my husband’s funeral made it o.k. for me to go on enjoying life instead of dying in grief. Thank you!”
Or, a family brings some cans of food to Mass and places them in the food pantry barrel in the vestibule. Because of that act, some unknown recipients in another part of town won’t have children that go to bed hungry but who can grow and get through a rough financial patch. Who knows how much someone will be helped by a selfless act of a disciple of Jesus. But, to live in the Kingdom of God, even here and now, is to trust that a random act will produce more benefit, or even make a better life possible, than can be “rationally” expected is to experience the Kingdom of God in our midst.
Whenever you and I have an experience of an outcome to some act that we’ve done or word that we said that far exceeds our expectations, or surprises us that anything even happened, that’s experiencing the Kingdom of God in our midst. Disciples trust that God will make a harvest of good, an abundance of life, come out of our feeble efforts to proclaim the mercy of God revealed in Jesus.
Let God do great things through you. Don’t let your heart be choked off by the thorns of other people’s cynicism that something can’t be done for the poor. Don’t let your own self-doubt that you can’t do anything about the state of society or other people’s difficult situation become a hardened path to a place of inaction. We do what we can, throwing the seeds of seemingly random small acts of selflessness into the world and let God grow the harvest of His kingdom.