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God, the Good and True Farmer
A Reflection on the Gospel of Mark 4:26-34
The Gospel Reading may be found at https://bible.usccb.org/bible/readings/012723.cfm
Internet image - The Sower with Setting Sun by Vincent van Gogh 1888 (WikiArt)
God is the good, true, and very patient farmer. He sows the seeds of faith which grow and produce even more seeds, waters the world with love and grace, and cultivates the kingdom with mercy to reap a bountiful harvest of souls.
The Lord does not delay his promise, as some regard “delay,” but he is patient with you, not wishing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
It makes sense that Jesus often speaks to us in agricultural terms. Creation finds its source of life in and through the Word of God. God is He who has designed all of creation on an incomprehensible scale so that it serves those created in His own image whom He loves beyond all measure. One could describe God as a farmer who patiently prepares, cultivates, and waters all creation to produce the greatest of harvests love may accomplish. Yet, unlike the farmer in the Gospel today, “who knows not how.” (Mark 4:27 NABRE) God, the Farmer, knows precisely. In this, we should rejoice. In his sermon on Psalm 66, St Augustine declares that God is the true farmer. He writes,
Whichever way you turn, you will always find that God is your farmer. If he works through his angels, he is your farmer; if through the prophets, he is your farmer; if through the apostles, still you must recognize him and no other as your farmer. … We labor only with the strength he has conferred on us, and by the grace he has given. He cultivates the crop himself, and gives the increase. An ordinary human farmer cultivates a vineyard to this extent, that he weeds, and prunes, and carries out all the other procedures required of diligent vine-dressers; but he has no power to send rain on his vineyard. Even if he has the ability to irrigate it, where does he get that power? He channels water into the conduit, but it is God who fills the spring. And in the end he cannot induce growth in the young branches, or form the fruit, or cause the seeds to germinate, or change their time of sprouting. God can do all these things. He is our farmer, and we are safe. (Augustine Enarr. in Ps. 66.1)
In Mark’s Gospel today, God, the true farmer, uses a metaphor of seeds to describe the Kingdom. Good seeds, seeds that bear fruit, carry within them the potential for incredible life and abundance. The potential from the first seed carries forth into eternity and multiplies without measure. As our Lord describes, using the example of a mustard seed, even the smallest of seeds has incredible potential. For example, a wild black mustard seed that grew in Israel at the time of Jesus, living only one season, has the potential to produce between 2000 and 3500 seeds. (Gonzalez) Each of these 2000 to 3500 seeds carries within it the imprint of that first seed planted and in turn each produce 2000 to 3500 seeds in each season. Though the lifespan of the plant is incredibly short, the life contained with each seed carries on and multiplies into eternity. If that little seed could envision its own potential, it would boggle the mind. In just ten years, that single seed, planted in good soil, cultivated by even the worst farmer, produces at least 2000 ×10. That is a lot of seeds!
Internet Image of Fields of Mustard (Prateekdarolia)
With God as our true farmer and the faithful as seeds, the Kingdom of God has a similarly incredible potential for life and growth. As a single seed, we have no comprehension of the impact that we have in the realms of heaven across time. Yet we do! Each seed in God’s Garden, to bear fruit, must be rooted in the soil of righteousness and watered by the grace of the Sacraments. The seed has but to put down roots and God, who is the true farmer, will do the rest. The author of the Book of Proverbs writes that,
“A wicked person desires the catch of evil people, but the root of the righteous will bear fruit.” (Proverbs 12:12 NABRE)
Today, reflect on all those who rooted in the Word incarnate, have passed on salvation, eternal life, to you in both their words and how they lived out their life in faith. It is their faith that we carry with us. We carry the ripple across time of that first seed that said, “yes,” to the Lord. Rejoice and thank God for their faith!
The first person, the first seed, that handed the faith to you, is the result of another’s faith. Consider now, all those who brought the Gospel to those who gave you the Good News in an unbroken chain all the way back to Christ. Seeds produce even more seeds. This is the power of mustard seed faith. In such a reflection, you get a sense of the size and power of the Kingdom of God and the gift you have received. God, the good and true farmer, intends a great harvest!
Also reflect on how your life too, is like a mustard seed that has the potential to carry the Gospel to uncountable generations, if we stay rooted. Rooted in righteousness, reject apathy and fear! Give your faith away freely. We have but one growing season, we must make it count in word and deed for the Kingdom.
We have received the gift of faith handed on from generation to generation. Thanks be to God and our Lord, Jesus Christ, for each seed and for God our good and true farmer.
St Augustine from Boulding, Maria with Saint Augustine. Expositions of Psalms 51–72. Ed. John E. Rotelle. Vol. 17. Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 2001. Print. The Works of Saint Augustine: A Translation for the 21st Century.
Gonzalez, Gerardo. “Do Mustard Greens Have Seeds?” Sweetish Hill, Sweetish Hill Fresh Goods, 7 Aug. 2022, https://sweetishhill.com/do-mustard-greens-have-seeds/#:~:text=How%20many%20seeds%20does%20a%20mustard%20plant%20produce%3F,plant.%20Where%20does%20a%20mustard%20seed%20come%20from%3F.
New American Bible. Revised Edition. Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011. Print.
Prateekdarolia. “Mustard.” The PhotoShop, 1 May 2012, https://thephotoshopindia.wordpress.com/2012/05/01/mustard/.
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