As I look at this weekend’s readings, and think about being a dad, a grandfather and a son, a few themes emerge and I’d like to share them with you, in case they’d be useful.
In the second reading from Paul’s 2nd letter to the Corinthians, the apostle acknowledges the tension of living in the here and now, and yet living by faith: “… we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what s/he did in the body, whether good or evil.” Clearly patience is required to live with this tension. Patience is also required of fathers, grandfathers and sons. I don’t mean only the patience a father must have as his children grow and learn and make mistakes along the way. I mean also the patience that fathers must learn to have with themselves, grappling with the truth that they are not perfect any more than their children are, nor than their own fathers were. The stakes are unbelievably high, though, when it comes to raising our children and we so badly want to get it right from the beginning. In Hearts On Fire, Teilhard de Chardin, S.J. puts it this way:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient on the way to something unknown, something new.
In our first reading from Ezekiel, we are reminded that the LORD operates in ways beyond our understanding: “I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.” Dads know what it is to see our children turn out differently than we had planned, or to arrive at a good place but by a route we had not foreseen, nor endorsed! If our children, who are really only on loan to us, don’t succeed in some way to teach us to allow God to operate in his sometimes strange ways, then I don’t know who or what will. Chardin continues:
And yet it is the law of all progress that it is made by passing through some stages of instability – and that it may take a very long time. And so I think it is with you; your ideas mature gradually – let them grow, let them shape themselves, without undue haste. Don’t try to force them on, as though you could be today what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make of you tomorrow.
In today’s passage from Mark’s gospel, Jesus tells the parable of a man who scatters seed on the land and goes about his business, rising and sleeping, night and day, trusting that through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.
Since the man’s livelihood, indeed his life are dependent on what happens “of its own accord,” that is, the land yielding fruit for the harvest, it’s clear that trust is in play here. And so it is with fathers, and grandfathers and sons. It may be that we come to trust in God only with great struggle. It may be that we have to renew that struggle daily, or maybe in different seasons of our lives. But trust we must. Chardin concludes:
Only God could say what this new spirit gradually forming within you will be. Give Our Lord the benefit of believing that his
hand is leading you, and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself in suspense and incomplete.
And why are we counseled to accept this anxiety and to trust? Because “of its own accord, the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.”
So, our children, our dads, ourselves … one way or another we all become ripe for the harvest, in God’s mysterious way, in God’s time.
Director of Music and Liturgy