When I was growing up, my family kept a garden. There would be a certain day in the mid-spring, a warm and dry day, when we’d start the work of planting. The first thing to do was to prepare the ground, and so we uprooted the weeds that had grown in the autumn and died in the winter. Splitting open the hard, cracked earth with shovels and garden hoes, we poured on fresh soil and mixed it in. Finally, we carved long furrows for the seeds.
As a child, the first part was the hardest. The sun fell hotly down, and my little arms and soft hands found the labor painful. Yet, every now and again I’d be amazed by the discovery of a mantis in the weed-pile or a ladybug in the grass.
I always liked planting seeds. Their various shapes and sizes delighted me, and I marveled at how different they were from what they would become. My parents instructed me how much I was to space each variety, and so, clenching small fistfuls of seeds at a time, I would either carefully press them one by one into the soft soil or would let them fall in steady streams on the seedbed. The planting was finished with a blanket of dirt over the rows.
Then came the game of watering and waiting, of gleefully greeting the first glimpses of green and methodically marking the maturing leaves, stems, and flowers, of sighting infant fruits and discerning their time of ripening. At long last, I would gladly pluck the fruit from its plant and bear it triumphantly inside.
These memories are rich for me, especially because of Scripture. For in the parable of the sower, our Lord speaks of prepared ground, ground that’s neither rocky nor thorny. Such ground points to a soul that is patient amid trials and persevering, without undue affection for dying things, peaceful and unafraid of what it might weather. To prepare such a soul for ourselves, however, is no easy task. Yet, as the Psalmist sings, “Those who go forth weeping, carrying sacks of seed, will return with cries of joy, carrying their bundled sheaves” (Ps 126:6). Hence, within timeless vision, our present pain yields future joy. How important it is, then, to clear away the weeds!
St. Paul also speaks of seeds. Our bodies are like seeds, he says—little, weak, imperfect, and they must die, they must be sown. Yet—what wonder!—we are called to a kind of transformation, as the seed transforms into the plant. Every day we labor to prepare ourselves, scatter ourselves in love to another, hoping that God’s precious Word, stored in our poor vessels, might reach others. Generous, indeed, should be our hopeful scattering; for “whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully” (2 Cor 9:6).
Finally, we wait for the seeds to grow and bear fruit. This is through no human art, though we can profit the soil and clear away new weeds. Only our God can cause the growth; only He can grant us a share in His resurrection.
Br. John Peter Anderson, O.P. | Meet the Student Brothers in Formation HERE