Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 8, 2004
Let the soil of love nourish life's seeds
Light One Candle
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
When it seems like the long winter will never end, most of us look for any sign that spring is really on the way. Some folks anticipate the first pitch of the baseball season; others content themselves with waiting for a glimpse of that first robin or crocus.
I've noticed that my friends who love to garden just can't wait to start working in their backyards, so they turn to their catalogues. They peruse those thick, colourful seed catalogues until the pages get dog-eared.
Gardeners avidly plan which flowers, fruits and vegetables they will plant as soon as spring breaks winter's icy grip. What could be more natural? After all, while each season plays its part, we most often associate the cycle of growth with the time when the world feels like it's springing back to life after the drudgery of winter.
Surely, seeds are life in its most concentrated, yet tangible, form. And we humans have long known about their commonplace, yet miraculous, ability. Starting with the first chapter of Genesis ("Let the earth put forth vegetation"), we see God creating this amazing form of life and beauty which would then become food for people as well as animals.
In the Gospels, we find Jesus using his listeners' knowledge of plants and seeds to teach them: "If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move" (Matthew 17:20-21).
Jesus knew the power of a good story and used the seed image in several parables, most famously that of the Sower. Remember? Some seed was eaten by birds or fell on rocky ground or were otherwise wasted or could not flourish, but "other seeds fell on good soil and brought forth grain. . . . Let anyone with ears listen!" (Matthew 13:8-9).
Two thousand years later, we're still listening, still trying to understand Jesus' words, and what he wants of us - and for us.
"Every moment and every event of every person's life on earth plants something in the soul," according to Thomas Merton, the spiritual writer and Trappist monk. "For just as the wind carries thousands of winged seeds, so each moment brings with it germs of spiritual vitality that come to rest imperceptibly in the minds and wills of people.
"Most of these unnumbered seeds perish and are lost, because we are not prepared to receive them: for such seeds as these cannot spring up anywhere except in the good soil of freedom, spontaneity and love."
All those gardeners browsing their catalogues know that the most elaborate plans for gorgeous flowers and bountiful vegetables mean nothing if the soil isn't good; if it isn't ready to receive the seeds; and if the watering and weeding isn't done, day after day.
If we equate the seeds of spring with hope, then the fruit of the gardener's long labours over the seasons must be love.
That's true in our backyards and, certainly, in our souls. If we want all that is good, holy and life-giving to flourish within us, we can't expect to just sow a few spiritual seeds - an occasional wise thought, a kind word or a generous action - and have an abundant harvest.
Not surprisingly, it takes work and prayer throughout the lifetime of God's seasons.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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