The Power of a Seed: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus uses the easily comprehended image of the seed in today’s Gospel. It doesn’t matter how often the image is offered; I never tire of seeing it as a powerful image of potential. It could be a literal seed that is planted in the soil and nurtured.
It could also be the many figurative seeds that are planted in our hearts in childhood and youth, take root within us, and then come to fruition at a time of our life when we most need their fruits.
My ministry often involves planting seeds in the hearts of men and women with whom I work. That’s true of any of us involved in Christian ministry – being a parent or mentor, teaching, writing, spiritual direction, or generally being a companion on the journey.
Yet, we never really know if any of the seeds we have planted will take hold. There are many factors that are involved over a lifetime.
I devote a great deal of time and energy to accompanying others in the experience of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. There are the Exercises that a person makes in life – whether in thirty days or in the context of everyday life. And then, there are the real exercises that we may be called upon to live at a later point in life. The hope is that the working of God and the assistance of the spiritual guide will plant some of those seeds that sometimes lie dormant for many years.
The theologian Karl Rahner offers a good example of a person who made the Exercises at the start of his Jesuit formation and saw their graces come to fruition at a pivotal moment of his life. Fr. Alfred Delp, a German member of the Jesuits, was executed for his resistance to the Nazi regime.
Unable for political reasons to continue his studies, Delp worked on the editorial staff of the Jesuit publication Stimmen der Zeit (Voice of the Times), until it was suppressed in 1941. He then was assigned as rector of St. Georg Church in Munich.
Delp secretly used his position to help Jews escape to Switzerland. He was eventually arrested and spent time in a Nazi camp. Delp was offered his freedom if he would renounce the Jesuits. He refused and was hanged February 2, 1945.
It was in thinking of Delp that Rahner offered these thoughts in a retreat.
The most important Exercises in life are mostly not made during the Exercises as such. Rather they happen where God brings us up against life’s final, bitter, serious moment.
Other writers have used the words of Rahner to speak of ordinary and extraordinary people who provide evidence that the graces of our prayer took root. It could be a person hearing a medical diagnosis that has the possibility of being devastating. It could be a false accusation against a person. Many seeds have been planted in us over our lifetime. How have been nurtured? Will we have the grace that is needed in those most important moments of our life?
Today’s Responsorial Psalm is Psalm 92. It provides images of those whose seeds have been nourished.
The righteous flourish like the palm tree,
and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
In old age they still produce fruit;
they are always green and full of sap …