“This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.” (Mark 4: 26-27)
Only in the Gospel of Mark, is the parable told about the seed that grows in secret. What are we to make of this? Maybe that how the Kingdom of God grows is as mysterious as how a seed grows? Can we as humans ever wrap our minds around the mystery of how twelve Apostles preaching and teaching and scattering the Good News of Jesus Christ, would have grown to over 1 billion believers today?!
Mysteries of the Seed Growing in Secret
When I reflect on examples of this mystery of the seed growing in secret, I recall the experience of being part of the RCIA team at my parish. The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) is the communal process in which adults become full, participating members of the Catholic Church.
When we gather for the inquiry phase of RCIA, we ask each person:
“Why are you here at this time, this year, at this place? What are you seeking?”
The stories I have heard almost always speak to a seed growing in secret that has led the person to inquire more about the Catholic faith. A few illustrations of these seeds:
- Memories of a grandparent and their strong Catholic faith, taking them to Mass, praying the Rosary with them, and talking to them about God
- Engaged to be married to a practicing Catholic, and asked by their future spouse to be open to converting so as to share a lifetime of faith together
- Witnessing the strong faith of someone fighting a battle with cancer or a life-changing disability and the peace and strength that is present in their life
Sowing the Seeds of the Kingdom
What becomes apparent in these stories is that our words and our actions, while not the cause of God’s Kingdom, do still matter in the coming of the Kingdom. Our words and actions sow the seeds of the Kingdom.
But the Kingdom arrives not through our efforts but by God’s grace…
Planting and gathering depend upon human work. Sprouting and growth depend upon God’s design. God takes what we do and puts even the smallest seed to magnificent use.
We ask the RCIA candidates once more as they are closer to being received into the Church at the Easter Vigil, that same question about what brought them here…. and this time their response moves beyond the person who sowed the seed, and they recognize the hand of God and His grace in growing the faith within them. The Holy Spirit has revealed the mystery of the seed sown in secret once again!
Jesus’ parable gives me such great hope and encourages me to be aware of my words and actions, to be persistent in prayer for those who are separated from God’s love, and to trust that God will use my words and actions to reveal His love to others. Jesus’ words are a challenge to ask myself: how is God calling me to plant and water the seeds of faith, and how am I inviting God into my life to help me do so?
This excerpt of a prayer written by Msgr. Kenneth Untener, speaks so well to the mystery of our earthly pilgrimage and our time spent sowing the seeds of God’s Kingdom:
It helps, now and then, to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is even beyond our vision.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted,
knowing that they hold future promise.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way,
an opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results,
but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders;
ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future that is not our own.
This beautiful prayer gives me the hope I need when I am discouraged that the seeds of faith I sow in secret may not bear fruit and may not lead souls to God.
Lord God, you have given us the gift of faith. Help us take time to water that seed of faith in our hearts and the hearts of others. Let us always invite you into our hearts to give it growth, and may we remain your steadfast prophets of hope. Amen.
Debbie Garza is a parishioner of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church in Leon Springs, and is an experienced Pilgrimage Group Leader with Pilgrim Center of Hope. She has traveled with Pilgrim Center of Hope to the Holy Land, Italy, and Greece. She says, “On pilgrimage, I know the ears and eyes of my heart have been opened by God’s grace and I’ve experienced the Joy of the Gospel. I am committed to helping other pilgrims experience their personal journey of faith.” Debra is also a member of Pilgrim Center of Hope’s Speaker Team.
Answering Christ’s call, Pilgrim Center of Hope guides people to encounter Him so as to live in hope, as pilgrims in daily life. See what’s happening & let us journey with you! Visit PilgrimCenterOfHope.org.