About four months ago I asked my brother back in the Philippines to build me a house. So I asked him to give me a budget proposal. He got back to me and said that a cheap, yet native-looking typical country house would cost about two-thousand Australian dollars (in the current exchange rate).So I said to him to build me one. So I purchased the materials and he began the construction right then.
While in Australia, I heard reports from my in-laws and siblings saying to me that the design of the house is simple yet remarkable. That got me so excited to have a look at it myself.
And so I went home as part of my holiday. It was almost done except for the polishing and finishing touches. But I heard that at some stage my brother was complaining about me asking him too much to build that house. I also heard that if I were not so insistent to have it done quickly he could have delayed the construction or left it unfinished.
Anyway, one evening I gathered all the family members (my brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces) for a house warming. I did the blessing of the house myself. Yet before the Rite of Blessing I expressed my gratitude to my brother who built the house, to my brothers-in-law who have helped my brother in building, and to my other siblings for their support as well. And I told him and all there present: ‘Actually this is not my house.’ I can see the expression of surprise in everyone’s faces. Yet I continued. ‘This house is for you bro (my brother who built it). This is my gift for you since you are already engaged and getting married early next year.’ Everyone wasn’t expecting that revelation. But I can sense my brother’s joy and surprise at the same time when I personally gave him the gift. Deep inside of him, I can surmise that he thanked himself for persevering in the work, for being patient of my demands for it, and for doing the best that he can in just three months to build that house. Despite his complains before he can now say his patience is paid off.
Friends I’m telling you this not to brag about myself but because our gospel today is telling us more or less the same thing. Jesus is telling us to be patient because if we just persevere and go on with our Christian journey despite all the trials, hurdles and challenges, we will be paid off with joy, with real contentment and everlasting life of happiness in the end.
Jesus is telling us that the Kingdom of God is at hand, meaning it is definitely coming, or more precisely, it is already in the making. That’s why he said, ‘the Kingdom of God like a seed.’
A seed needs to be planted, to be nurtured, to be watered in order for it to grow and to bear fruit, a good fruit. In a way, this is what the Kingdom of God is like. It is like a seed given to everyone of us to be planted, to be nurtured and to be cared for so that our prayer for the coming of God’s kingdom will be realized as we always pray in the Lord’s prayer. In our personal way, in our individuality, in our uniqueness, in our talents, skills, abilities and capabilities, God plants in us the seed of his Kingdom. Our generosity, kindness, humility, goodness, our care for others are just few of the million other seeds of the Kingdom that God has given to each and everyone of us. The question is what are we doing with this seed? Have we nurtured it?
We also have to remember always, that God does not make this seed grow overnight. That is why we need to exercise the virtue of patience.
To be patient in our day and age, is quiet a hurdle to get over with. Being patient today is like climbing a very high and steep mountain. Why? Because we are in the world where ‘instant gratification’ is the name of the game. And we can easily be caught up with this. Even myself is guilty of this. Many times when I feel hungry and not feeling like cooking, I would just drive-thru a fast-food chain and had my fill. Many a times, I can’t sit still in the restaurant, while waiting for a friend to arrive. I have to do something while waiting. And so I start fiddling with my phone, scrolling on the contact lists or reading old text messages. I don’t have the patience to wait eagerly for my friend’s coming. At times I would just make the situation light by praying the prayer of patience that Fr Rob Galea once said: ‘Lord, give me patience right now!’
Friends, Jesus today is reminding us the importance of the virtue of patience. He also reminds us that yes, we’ve got the seed to be planted and cared for, yet, it does not mean that because it is given to us, it is already completely ours, to the extent that we forget it is God who gives it to us. In fact, as Jesus would say in the gospel, we can’t do anything to make the seed grow. In our sleep, or even when we are awake, it is God who tends to it, who watered it, who caused it to sprout. It is his gift and it is his own doing. What we can do rather is to be like the soil, be patient, making ourselves available and fertile for this seed of the Kingdom to grow in us. So instead of complaining, let’s offer our contribution to the best of our ability in order that this Kingdom of God would be realized and that we are part and have taken part in the realization of it. We just have to be patient.
However, it is really hard to exercise this virtue now, since the world has all this allurements of instant gratification offered before us everyday. And as human as we are we can easily fall back into it. It is frustrating at times. But we are not alone. St Paul himself was struggling with this. In our Second Reading today, he is proud to tell us that in Christ, he’s got all the confidence to overcome the worldly persuasions, yet he is also honest to say that from time to time, he like others, would also fall back and give in to the whims of the world or of ‘the flesh’ he would say.
Like St Paul, we just have to be patient. God is doing something here. But he is working in his own time and pace. It is not an overnight project, it is gradual. What we can do is to nurture the seed of the kingdom given to us and do our best not only to make it bear fruit, but to produce a good fruit.
We might complain at times for the hard challenge we have to face and overcome, but if we just be patient, trusting and depending on God all the time while doing the best we can, our patience and hard work would be paid off.
If my brother didn’t persevere in building and finishing the house, I would still give it to him, but he had to face to huge task of finishing it himself. But because he continued on, now he is enjoying living in it while looking forward to their wedding next year.
Patience really pays off.
So let’s thank God for the seed of the kingdom, and pray that we would be more patient as wait in ‘joyful hope for the coming of our Saviour’ and for the fulfilment of God’s kingdom. Amen.
What is God trying to tell us today with these images of planting and growing? That first reading of a few verses from the prophet Ezekiel seems pretty straightforward: God is going to take a shoot from the top of a cedar and plant it and watch it grow into a big tree. So what? Well we need to look at this prophecy in its context. The context was the exile in Babylon of the leaders of the Jewish people. The Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar, had deported the Hebrew king Jehoiachin to Babylon and placed another, Zedekiah, on the throne in Jerusalem. But Zedekiah tried to get support from Egypt to restore the state of Israel. When Nebuchadnezzar found out about this, he reacted swiftly and violently and that was the end, for the time being, of the Hebrew monarchy. That was about 609 B.C.
What we have heard this morning is a message of comfort delivered through Ezekiel to the exiles in Babylon. God is faithful to his promises. Despite the military and economic catastrophe which had befallen Israel, God had no intention of abandoning his people, he would indeed honour his promises. Let them be faithful to their part of the covenant and God would be faithful to his.
This gospel has two growing-seed parables. I expect we’ve all had the experience of planting and watering seeds and then, after a while, seeing the first shoots emerge from the earth. We may have put the seeds into the earth, we may have poured the water – yet we know that we have not caused the seeds to germinate. Or, as the gospel says of the farmer: Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how he does not know.
There is a touch of story-teller’s exaggeration in the parable of the mustard seed. The seed itself may be tiny but the resulting shrub is nothing special. The important thing is that the seed does grow and the plant produces its fruit. Notice that Jesus introduces each of these parables with the words the kingdom of God is like … And the second concludes with the assurance that he spoke to the people in parables because parables were what they could understand.
In what way then is the kingdom of God like a growing plant? There are at least two similarities. Firstly, it starts in a small way and grows a lot bigger. If we compare the Church today with the band of believers in Palestine at the time of Our Lord’s ascension, the growth has been enormous. If, on the other hand, you compare the Church today with the total population of the world, you see at once that there is still a lot of room for further development.
Just as we do not know exactly what causes a seed to germinate, we do not know exactly why some people believe in the gospel. It seems likely that God presses the button which sets off the process of germination. And faith too is a gift of God. I can believe that everyone is born with a predisposition to religious faith – but it is necessary for that faith to be proposed and expounded to them. That is why Pope Benedict has launched a “new evangelisation” of Europe. We might add that it is just as necessary in Australia and in other parts of the developed world.
If we can see the hidden power of God in the growth of plants, we might also recall that Jesus’ own power was only visible intermittently during his earthly life. Indeed it seemed at the time of his crucifixion that he was altogether powerless. Yet we know that he rose glorious and immortal from the tomb. Let that contrast reassure us in our moments of doubt.
I’m not sure that we’d all agree with St Paul when he assures the Corinthians – as we heard in the second reading – that: We are always full of confidence when we remember that to live in the body means to be exiled from the Lord, going as we do by faith and not by sight – we are full of confidence, I say, and actually want to be exiled from the body and make our home with the Lord. Paul seems pretty sure of himself. Perhaps we are not so sure of ourselves. There’s the challenge of the Last Judgement. School exams, university exams, driving tests, intelligence tests – they have all caused us enough worries. How will we fare in the most important test of all?
When he was Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Hume sometimes contributed to the “Thought for today” spot on BBC radio. I remember once hearing him predict that our final judgement would be like whispering confidences into the ear of a loving father. Nothing to worry about! God knows all about the good – and the bad – we have done. Trust God and discover the immensity of his love for you. (Quentin Howard)