There is an old truth that we will reap what we sow. That is the metaphor in today’s Gospel, the seeds we sow. As we go through life, we all sow seeds. Do we ever stop and think, what are we planting in our children, our friends, or our co-workers?
Years ago some reporters were interviewing Boris Yeltsin. Asking him what gave him the courage to stand firm during the fall of Communism, interestingly he credited Lech Walesa of Poland who first stood up to Communism. When Walesa was interviewed and asked what inspired him he said it was the Civil Rights movement in the United States led by Dr. Martin Luther King. When Dr. King was interviewed and asked what inspired him, he said it was the courage of one woman, Rosa Parks who refused to move to the back seat of the bus. Is it too much of a stretch to say that a brave little woman in the south brought about the downfall of Communism?
Seeds are like that. The moral lesson is how valuable the little things we do can influence people. I was going to tell you a story that I read, but instead, I will tell you a story that I lived through.
Many years ago, when I was a Deacon I was stationed at an African- American parish in Washington, D.C. One evening a confirmation was held for many children. Bishop Marino, an African- American Bishop officiated. The last child to be brought up to the Bishop was in a wheelchair and only 10 years old. The family had requested that the child be confirmed before she passed away.
After the mass was over, the Bishop said to me, “Do you know where that child lives?” I said, “Yes Bishop, but the police have advised us not to go there after dark.” He said, “Do you have a car?” So the Bishop and I took off for what was at that time the worst, most dangerous part of Washington D.C., me in my Franciscan habit, and he in his purple cassock.
As we entered the hallway of the apartment building which was very dilapidated we could smell marijuana. At the end of a hallway, there was a group of men smoking and shooting up drugs. They looked up to see a white Franciscan Friar and a black Bishop: they must have thought it was Halloween! We found the apartment, and after much fumbling with the locks, the door was opened.
You would have thought that Jesus himself had arrived, the family was so grateful for the Bishop’s visit. Before he left, the Bishop removed the purple skull cap from his head and placed it on the little girl. As we were leaving, and the door opened, we were amazed at the sight: the hallways and stairways were packed with people clapping as we descended. As we approached the entrance the men who had been doing drugs opened our car doors for us. I know I had previously locked them, but they opened them for us nonetheless.
Can you imagine the seeds that were planted that night? The people saw a compassionate and caring church. They saw a Bishop who, after an exhausting day, went to a dangerous part of the city late at night to visit a sick and dying child.
Who sowed the seeds of your character that made you who and what you are today? Who put meaning and grace into your life? I do not know, but it shows by your presence here today. And what kind of seeds are you sowing? Are you quietly and effectively helping to raise caring, sensitive and open-hearted people? What kind of example of Christian living do you give not only to family and friends, but at work, or at school?
Upon Jesus’ arrival in heaven, a vast host of angels greeted Him. After the formalities, they asked Him who He had left behind on earth. Who was going to carry on His work, His mission? Jesus replied, just a small group of men and women who love Me. Men and women who call themselves Christian. That is all? Said the angels, astonished. One group of humans has to carry on Your work? What if they fail? Your life teaching, Your death and resurrection will have been a waste. Jesus replied, I have no other plan: it is all up to them.
The reign of God is like a seed. That seed is the kindness we do, the worship we share, the conversation around the dinner table, the soup to the sick neighbor, the decision to put the family first. The seed is being at Mass with the family. I like the seed symbol in the Gospel, it fits most of us. We seldom have the opportunity or even the courage to do the big things, the really big, heroic things, but every day we all have the opportunity to do the small ones that display our values, and Jesus’s values. Your opportunity may be as small as a seed, but seeds that will bear fruit, thirty, forty, or even fifty years from now. So get growing.