A friend of mine wouldn’t buy any produce that’s not organic. Her reason: She fears passing manmade chemicals agents into the body of any child God would allow her to carry in her womb. I was told by another friend who is a Microbiologist to be sure to wash my tomatoes and apples with soap before eating them because they’re treated with chemicals that aren’t good for the body and, in fact, are carcinogens. You wonder how much of the plants and animals of our day grow on their own as—Jesus suggesting in today’s gospel—the Heavenly Gardener intended them; having not been genetically altered or crossed or manipulated to feed our insatiable wants? Be that as it may, the farmer or the gene scientist remains a proofreader of the works of creation; he can observe them, enhance them, rearrange them, or even frustrate and hinder them, yet he lacks knowledge of the secrets of life and of growth itself. He cannot create life from the scratch, full final stop. For in vitro fertilization, he needs someone’s egg and another’s seed; and to make rose bushes with gold petals, he needs Another’s rose bush. I challenge him to make his own egg or rose bush.
If this is so for the natural order, which God placed under our care, how much more would God preserve the mysteries of His kingdom and reign over us. In Jesus He has revealed the desires of His inscrutable wisdom. God works His mysteries slowly in us. Like the seed planted on the ground which slowly grows into a mighty tree, once the seed is sown in us—as in baptism—we become a soil where God’s reign can take place. We must then consciously nurture the seed (the word and graces of God); and knowing that the clock of nature ticks slowly, develop real patience to allow the seed permeate its roots of faith, hope, love, and forbearance deep into the ground of our soul. Those who trust in Him and yield to the designs of His inscrutable wisdom will flourish like the palm tree and grow like the cedar of Lebanon (Psalm 92:13).
Jesus’ parable speaks of the Church as the kingdom of God, which, like a mustard seed, grows into a large bush putting forth large branches for birds of all kinds to shelter in its shade. This image presents the Church as a great empire in which peoples of all nations (Ezekiel 17:23), languages and ethnicity meet. One of the things I admired about Holy Family Cathedral, and especially school, is that it depicts this image of the Church as an abode for all God’s children—rich, poor, brown, black, or white. Walk into any classroom at the school and you’ll see children from any imaginable race and background in the world. There, God is truly tearing down the barriers made by man. While we lament the evils of our time, we can’t fail to acknowledge what we’ve overcome: We’ve nearly put behind us slave trade, child labor and subjugation of women. We must, however, continue to highlight the imbalance between the over-privileged few and the miserable many; the injustice of a First World versus a Third World, with no room for a Second World. The Church is called to let in birds of all kinds to every branch, providing adequate shelter for all.
We must understand, too, that a person can frustrate the word planted in his heart through neglect or impatience. St. Theresa of Avila warns that an untended garden becomes overgrown with weeds. Many a believer has been drawn to the enemy by over-reliance on worldly wisdom, which scripture says is foolishness before God. The enemy is all too ready to furnish spurious alternatives to destroy the seeds of faith planted in us. He seeks to poison the life of the Church with demagoguery meant to obfuscate and call into question the essential truths of the faith. In this enterprise, he finds recruits even from within the faith—wolves in sheep’s clothing—who team with worldly forces to hem believers to submit to worldly errors. St. Paul urges us to be courageous, always aspiring to please God, “for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7).
Fr. Chukwudi Jo Okonkwo