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Reflection on the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Posted on June 16, 2024, by Johanna Brian SL

Our Gospel today fits right in with the harmony and décor of the zoom meeting we had on Friday. It also reminds us once again of the essential and dynamic components of “Contemplation and Action 101. “ Jesus had a vital message to teach about how God works and continues to work in the world and he had very little time in which to teach it.  One commentary suggested that by wrapping his teachings in the folds of parables, he was able to convey the bulk of his message to his listeners by using the power of their own imaginations. That seems to be especially true with the parables we have today.

The first parable describes how seeds are scattered on the ground, time passes, and the garden grows of its own accord to produce the blade then the ear then the full grain.  We all know that, while that is essentially true, there is a lot more to it. My mother was an avid gardener, and she would come upstairs on summer mornings with some very emphatic messages ordering us to get up and go work in the garden before it got too hot. Although some didn’t think it was a good idea, most of us, including yours truly, would always go.  

Loosening the impacted soil around the plants and pulling up the tenaciously embedded weeds so that the soil could maximize the benefits of water and sun was laborious and exhausting work made even more difficult by the heat, the sweat, the blisters and the bugs. It was truly hard work! And yet, besides being the cause of the generous output of the garden, the process itself was somehow immensely rewarding, rejuvenating and satisfying. It produced a ripple of joy and energy that bonded the participants and permeated the rest of the day.  I once saw a sign which said that one is closer to God’s heart in a garden than anywhere else on earth. I have sensed that is true from my own experience and I’ve heard many people say the same thing in different ways.

At this particular time we are all very busy working hard in our individual gardens and our communal garden. Through prayer and contemplation, each of us has his or her own unique understanding of who we are and what we are about as we grapple with questions and search for answers concerning how we will be present and what we will do in the future. In our growing understanding of the vision of Teilhard, we now know that the parameters of our garden are continuing to expand and we believe that God is building a universe through an evolutionary process which continues to move toward greater complexity and higher levels of consciousness of who God is and who we are. Impacted soil and invasive weeds continue to be our challenge as we engage in the process of bringing our understanding of that vision into reality. Also, just like in my mother’s garden, there are factors which make our work even more difficult: the diminishing strength of our diminishing numbers, aching joints, weariness, the inexorable thralldom of anxiety coupled with impatience with the people who don’t see things nearly as clearly as we do. And also, just like in my mother’s garden, we experience the joys of gratitude, satisfaction, amazement and the energizing, nourishing and healing effect of communal sharing. Basically, the seeds of who, what, where and why are ours to choose and to plant as we move forward. The seeds of when and how we must leave confidently in the hands of God.  

The second parable tells of a mustard seed which grew into a humongous tree of unanticipated strength and abundance. Using the same comic irony he used when he launched his final act of trust in God by mounting a donkey and riding into Jerusalem, Jesus assures us that we can trust God as we plant our seeds. In the culture of the time, the mustard seed was common parlance for the smallest and most insignificant of elements. Once again, turning to Teilhard we are urged to believe that our work, grounded in our faith in the incarnational Christ, will ultimately lead us to a future where we and all created beings will be united in the peace and justice of the loving culture of God. As we diligently search for and plant our seeds, we can continue to trust in the amazingly generous response of God who is and has always been with us!

I would like to close with some words from a master gardener. In his book “Seeds of Contemplation,” Merton tells us that contemplation gives us spiritual vision, which empowers us to see beyond factual knowing. He reminds us that if we act on our own ideas, judgments and efforts, we will create something that is stiff, artificial and dead. He also reminds us of what we already know so well — that we must rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us. And finally, let us pray that as we persevere in the hard work of gardening, we will continue, in the spirit of I Am The Way, to profess unshakable reliance upon God and human reliance upon one another.    


Johanna Brian SL

Johanna came to Loretto from Colesburg, Ky., which is just over the hill from Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Ky. She attended Bethlehem Academy and Loretto Academy in Kansas City, Mo. She also attended Webster University and St. Louis University. Twenty-six of her 38 years of teaching were spent in El Paso, Texas, where she taught English and religion. For the past 25 years, Johanna has been on the staff at The Healing Place in Louisville, Ky., helping women to recover from alcoholism and drug addictions. Since moving to Loretto Motherhouse a few years ago, she has been having a great time participating in all that is going on there.