Rethinking Our Lives

Rethinking Our Lives

Ask any horticulturist if it is possible to take a tender shoot from the crest of a tall cedar tree, stick it in the ground and watch it grow into a new cedar tree. What about taking a tall tree and bring it low or, vice versa, take a low tree and lift it high? What about making a dead, withered tree bloom? Clearly, what no human horticulturist could do, no matter how hard he tries, is easily accomplished by God.

And this is precisely the point that Jesus wants to etch in the back of our minds as we begin to rethink our lives in terms of God’s Kingdom, i.e. the fact that, in his Son Jesus Christ, the Father has gotten himself directly and forever involved in our lives. Thus, as believers, in order to keep our sanity, to sail through life on an even keel regardless of what might happen and to bear good fruit, we must always keep the fundamental separation between what is humanly possible and what we ought to leave up to God. Making a withered tree bloom, and anything comparable, should be left up to God.

There is a sweeping statement in John 15:5: “…without me you can do nothing,” which should be considered a catchphrase to keep us going while observing that vital distinction between what we can do (humanly speaking with the help of the Holy Spirit) and what must be left up to God.

So there are two crucial factors to be respected and taken into consideration at all times: 1) God’s infinite power and love for us, which are always applied for our wellbeing on this earth and into all eternity), and 2) our modest contribution to the establishment of God’s Kingdom. With genuine humility and realism, we ought to keep our innate self-importance and self-determination under control. All the while, we, who have known Jesus firsthand and refer to him as our brother and Lord, should always expect great things from the hands of the Father.

But, to be genuine, this expectation should be such as to do true justice to the infinite power and love of the Father. It must be an expectation which is always open to interventions and blessings beyond our wildest expectations!

This is the “natural,” “ordinary” inner disposition of the farmer mentioned in the gospel passage. His contribution is always the same, and it is rather simple, year after year, season after season. Thus, he is blessed with a serene life: He gets good-night’s sleep, and he gets to rise to every day without worries. Why? Because he is confident that he has done all that is expected of him.

True serenity, this most precious spiritual commodity, which, nowadays, is easily spoiled by so many unsettling pieces of bad news, is possible for us, no matter how small and insignificant we are, because we are, and will forever be, loved and taken care of. Serenity, if well nurtured by our faith, will flow naturally from the assurance that the Father will provide more quickly, more effectively, and with better results those wishes, desires, and even dreams that we all have.

The farmer gets to enjoy a serene and enviable lifestyle because he is anchored in the secret, inner power of the seed that he has sown in his field. Similarly, the seed of God’s word is meant to have unparalleled vitality for each one of us. This means that God’s Kingdom, God’s personal intervention (in Jesus Christ), is also direct in the sense that he is constantly grooming generous hearts to become attentive to pressing needs all around, and to respond to them with joyous service and loving care. The results are as surprising as those of people who would assume that a mustard shrub should be small because the seed from which it originates is almost invisible to the naked eye.

Whenever we allow our minds to remain troubled for a long time, and we let our hearts fill with worries, we are insulting God because we expect of our heavenly Father only a little bit more than what we could attain with simply a lucky break.

Hence, we ought to ask ourselves, “Is my faith so shaky that I forget about Whom the Father sacrificed on the cross? Is my faith so stunted that what I have learned about the Father’s love is insufficient to afford me serene nights and productive days?”

Along this line of thought, consider this:

Every other year I replace the soil in a pot on my windowsill. In this pot, I grow basil, which, as many of you know, is an indispensable ingredient of bruschetta. This year, I had three shoots of basil growing in my pot. However, in spite of my assiduous care, one of the three shoots died out.

Then one day I noticed that something was growing at the very edge of the pot. I did not dare to pull it up. Surprisingly, it proved to be another tiny basil plant allowed to grow to replace the one which I had lost. The only possible explanation for this little miracle is that a single seed fallen years ago from an old basil plant had clung to the edge of the pot and had come to life by falling into the new soil and benefiting from the water that I was giving to the recently planted basil shoots.

Let this little personal story be like a new parable about God’s Kingdom in our lives. In spite of our good intentions and diligent efforts, occasionally we experience losses. But our losses should never rob us of serenity and stifle our ability to bear good fruit, because our lives are forever unfolding within God’s personal and direct intervention—they happen always within his Kingdom. God’s power and love might remain hidden, even for a long time, but, if we remember anything about God being boundless love, we should remain always serene and open to divine surprises that so often surpass our wildest dreams.

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Written by
Fr Dino Vanin