Our Lord's Guide to Gardening.
The Thirtieth Tuesday of Ordinary Time.
Lessons from the primary feria, according to the ordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Romans 8: 18-25.
• Psalm 126: 1-6.
• Luke 13: 18-21.
The Twentieth Tuesday after Pentecost.
Lessons from the dominica,* according to the extraordinary form of the Roman Rite:
• Ephesians 5: 15-21.
• Psalm 144: 15-16.
• John 4: 46-53.
8:34 PM 10/29/2019 — In the first of the two mini-parables told by our Lord in today's brief Gospel lesson—one on an agricultural theme, the other having to do with cooking—he likens the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds which, when it's fully grown, becomes one of the largest of plants. It always reminds me of an incident that occurred early in my priesthood: I was in residence at the time in a particular parish while serving as a hospital chaplain; and, while I typically didn't have anything to do with the parish in which I was residing, I did occasionally have opportunity to help the pastor there by taking a few appointments with parishioners who needed to speak with a priest. And years later, long after I had left that assignment and was serving as pastor of my own parish, I got a note from the pastor back at this place, who told me that one of his parishioners had told him that what I had said to him about his particular problem had completely changed his life. And I remembered the guy, and I remembered that our meeting lasted no more than fifteen minutes; and, what I had said to him was nothing special or particularly enlightening but, by the grace of God, was what he needed to hear at that crucial moment in his life. A few words, as small as a mustard seed, which just happened to completely change a man's life.
It happens more often than we know: we can be sitting in church listening to Father Sominex droll on and on with words that drift in and out of our ears like water running through our fingers, but which might, by God's grace alone, change the life of someone sitting a few pews over.
Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that, when we do something for someone or say something to someone, the success or failure of what we've said or done must be immediately apparent. We raise our children a certain way, then they go astray or get themselves into trouble later in life, and we assume, therefore, that we've failed as parents. We try, with our words, to convince someone to turn away from an immoral life, and they scoff at us and turn away. We try to make amends to someone whom we've offended in some way, but they seem to reject our apology. In all these cases, we've convinced ourselves that we've failed because we expect to see the results of our good efforts right away. But the effects of our good efforts often act like seeds: you don't plant a seed then sit there and expect something to pop out of the earth within the next ten minutes. And, more often than not—especially in the case of our children—the seed of goodness we plant in someone may not germinate until long after we're dead.
Insisting that we see the effects of our good efforts right away is a spiritual defect. It's rooted in the mistake of thinking that the good we do is done by ourselves and not by the grace of God working through us. In the Divine Liturgy of Saint Basil the Great, which is used in the Byzantine Churches at certain times of the year, there's a line in the anaphora—the Eucharistic Prayer—where the priest tells God, “We have done nothing good upon the earth.” That's very true. Everything we do that is good is done, not by us, but by God's grace active in us. That doesn't mean that there's no merit in doing good; it does mean that the merit is not from us doing something good, but from us getting out of the way so that God can do something good in spite of us.
So, as we now turn our attention to the Holy Sacrifice of our Lord's sacred Body and precious Blood, let us strive ever more perfectly to get out of God's way so that we can be effectively used by Him; and, let us resolve not to look for any evidence that we've succeeded, but resolve instead to leave it in God's hands.
* In the extraordinary form, on ferias outside privileged seasons, the lessons from the previous Sunday are repeated.