“The Seed Sprouts, We Know Not How” Mk 4 (2/1/2019)
Fr. Ignatius John Schweitzer, OP
At times, we really need to count on these words of Jesus in the Gospel today. For, sometimes it seems like not much is happening in our spiritual life, or in our apostolic efforts. Yet the Kingdom of God is like the seed that sprouts and grows, we know not how. We know not how it happens, but God is still at work when we are not. We “sleep and rise, night and day”; and “of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” So says Jesus, the Lord of the harvest. We need to count on this and trust in the Lord.
There are different seasons of the soul, something like spring, summer, fall, and winter for the soul. One season need not be better than another but all are needed at different times. So we find ourselves in different seasons of the soul. At present, it seems fitting that we consider the winter of the soul.
What happens during the winter for plants? It really doesn’t seem like much. But something is happening deep below the surface. That’s why you want to add fertilizer in the fall to help the next growing season in the spring. And the period of winter in between has its own importance. The roots must still be going a little deeper and soaking in nutrients during those cold and arid times. And even winter as a period of rest for the plants is not without value. Periods of rest are also important for growth.
It can just be a little discouraging to look out into your garden and see nothing going on. But if you know the cycle of seasons you can simply rest in hope.
St John of the Cross observes that “the most delicate flower loses its fragrance and withers fastest.” So, he says “choose rather for yourself a robust spirit, [a strong spirit persevering through everything with constancy], and you will discover abundant peace and sweetness, for delicious and durable fruit is gathered in a cold and dry climate” (SLL 42).
A cold and dry climate, he says, will produce the most delicious and durable fruit in our spiritual lives. So that’s the place of winter in our spiritual lives and in our apostolic efforts. In the winter of the soul, we need to remain constant and steadfast, knowing in faith that the Kingdom of God sprouts and grows, we know not how. We “sleep and rise, night and day”; and “of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.”
How does it happen? We don’t know, and we don’t need to know. The Lord knows. We simply need to trust and remain faithful. Something is happening deep below the surface. The Lord is at work. We need simply to soak in his love. Fields and valleys spend so much time simply soaking in the rays of the sun. Nothing much seems to be happening, but they are soaking in the life-giving rays of the sun as seeds germinate deep below the surface. Likewise, we too remain faithful in prayer, soaking in the radiance of the God who is love. And who knows what is germinating deep below the surface?
So, as we begin February, in this time of winter, it’s good to reflect on the hidden growth of the Kingdom of God. It’s good to recall the purpose of the winter of the soul that sometimes overtakes us. Our first reading points us in the right direction when it says, “Do not throw away your confidence; it will have great recompense. You need endurance to do the will of God and receive what he has promised.” The promise of the springtime of the Kingdom helps keep us faithful, under the nourishing rays of God’s love.
To close, I’ll leave you with two stanzas from that charming English hymn about this promise of the Kingdom. “Now the green blade riseth, from the buried grain, Wheat that in dark earth many days has lain;… Laid in the earth like grain that sleeps unseen: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.” “When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain, Jesus’ touch can call us back to life again, Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been: Love is come again like wheat that springeth green.”