Seeds scattered. Growth, mysterious and hidden. Fruit, abundant and life-giving. Life, beyond formulas, calculations and predictions. Seeds sprout and grow, we know not how. Life presses on towards its fulfillment. Seeds are transformed and grow into the mature plant that yields its fruit. By the grace of God we become what we are meant to be and reach our full potential as human persons. How does this happen? How do we explain the mysterious process of human growth? As much as experts try to explain life to us it still remains a mysterious journey. The simple truth is that “we know not how.” The how of life lies beyond our knowing. As much as we want to “make it happen” and control the outcome of life according to our plans and purposes, there is still a mysterious grace that is at work within us and beyond us. One moment we are small, vulnerable and dependent on others and before we know it, we have matured and grown to our full stature and we strike out on our own to take our place in the great Body of Christ, ready to bear fruit and contribute our gifts to a world that awaits us. One day we look to others to meet all of our needs and the next moment we are at work to meet the needs of others. One day follows upon another and growth happens within us and around us. We sleep and rise night and day and through it all growth takes place beyond our conscious awareness. That is just how it is with the kingdom of God.
Jesus, the teacher of life and human flourishing, knows. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, the Eternal Word, the “logos”, through whom all things came into being, knows life, both human and divine, inside and out. Through the Incarnation, the Eternal Word takes on human flesh and is sent to dwell among us and to teach us the way to life. Jesus will tell his disciples, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.” (Jn 14,6) Jesus knows and he was sent to live among us so that we might come to know the Way to life. Jesus wants to teach us about the fullness of life and he wants us to have an abundant life that bears great fruit. The apostle Philip pleads with Jesus to “show us and that will be enough for us.” (Jn 14,8) Jesus responds to Philip that he has been with them a long time and they have seen life through him, and yet they still do not understand. They do not understand because they do not yet believe. As St. Paul reveals to us in his letter to the Corinthians, “we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2Cor 5,6) Life is a journey of faith. The materialist, like Philip, says, “let us see and we will believe, then we will know” but Jesus teaches his disciples, “believe and then you will see wondrous things and you will know a truth that will set you free.” Jesus teaches his disciples through parables that reveal life’s secrets but in hidden ways that call for humility and faith. Human experience and reason can teach us many things about the natural world but there is more to know about life that is accessible only through faith and that opens us to a supernatural understanding of the world. Jesus reveals to us the works of God, the grace that transforms our existence and the Spirit that begets spiritual life within us. “Faith is the realization of what is hoped for and evidence of things not seen.” (Heb 11,1)
A beautiful gift of my priesthood and pastoring of God’s people is to be a witness to the wonder of human growth, both physical and spiritual. I will meet a young woman who shares with me the joy of having conceived a child in her womb, after much prayer and hoping, and in the intimacy of her womb this child will grow and form in a hidden way. Is it a boy or a girl? We will see when it is fully formed and is given birth. I then baptize an infant, still small and asleep in its mother’s arms. What will this child be? I then meet a group of mother’s of pre-schoolers who are trying to keep up with the rapid growth and change in their very active young children. How can we teach our children the things that they will need to know? I see a mother who is dropping off her child for the first day of school and facing that separation for the first time. Is my child ready to go out into the world on their own? I meet another family that is celebrating the graduation of their child, now a young person, from high school who is preparing to soon go off to college and live on their own for the first time. Will they be safe out in the world away from the family home? I then celebrate a wedding and the parents of the bride and groom give their children away to make their own home and their way in the world. How did they grow to be so strong and independent? As Jesus expresses this mystery in his parable: “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.” (Mk 4,26) We know not how but God knows. He causes the growth in his grace and he watches over and cares for life. What has small beginnings is destined for greater things according to his wondrous will and purpose. The mystery of life is written on his hand.