God the sower

June 10, 2021

Mark has already set the scene. The hillside is so crowded that Jesus commandeers a fishing-boat to use as a pulpit. And now he says: “This is what the kingdom of God is like...”  

We often hear about “building the kingdom of God”; but we can't “build” the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God means God reigning in our hearts and minds and relationships, which is not something human hands can ”build”. This is not the way the scriptures talk. How can Jesus convey this to them?

The artist is probably right in guessing that from the boat a farmer could be seen sowing seed. So Jesus says: “A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps and while he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know”. These last 5 words are the point. Scholars write histories of Christianity but only the Holy Spirit knows the underlying story of its growth – because that growth is the work of the Spirit. How, we do not know.

As a very young Jesuit I was sent to “observe” teachers in five schools. My one clear memory is this: a sister, seated, was teaching 30 very young children as they sat around her on the floor. Speaking very slowly she said: “God thought, 'One day I'll want Susie Smith'”, and very slowly she pointed to little Susie, whose wide eyes lit up. “...And one day I'll want ... [pause] ... Jimmy Brown”. And Jimmy squirmed at the thrill of being chosen and named like that. And I thought: “Hmm. Excellent. After naming another 3 or 4 she'll move on to the next part of the lesson”. But no! Very, very slowly every child was named. You couldn't (surely?) do that in a secondary school, but for these infants it was perfect: a lesson that, consciously or not, they would never forget. And for want of realising this truth in their own case many lives flounder and despair: “unwanted”!

Susie and Jimmy – and you and I – were wanted, are wanted, chosen from all eternity. It's true of the Church, and it's true of each of us. God was planting the seed, the seed of God's love cherishing each; and throughout our lives the seed is growing – we know not how – if we will let the Holy Spirit keep the initiative so that God can reign in our hearts.

And so the beautiful words of the Preface of Christ the King evoke not buildings or planning or our achievements but God's Spirit in human hearts: “a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace.”

The more we let God reign in our hearts, the more fitted we are to play our part in the “building” of a fairer society.

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