We are living in what appears to be constant turmoil. I don’t need to share a list of the hardships we are going through as they are all pretty apparent and many of us also have our own unique struggles that we are wading through. A few people have said to me that the world may be coming to an end or that we are in the end times.
This same question of the end times even came up with the disciples. They asked Jesus when that day would come and Jesus said that only the Father knows the time or the hour (cf. Mt 24:36). I believe Jesus was saying then as he is saying to us now, that is the wrong question to be asking as a disciple. Spending time speculating about the end of the world is not to be our focus.
St Paul also chimes in when he writes to the Church in Rome, “Brothers and sisters: I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothingcompared with the glory to be revealed for us” (Rom 8:18). From Paul to this day, each generation has had to face its own trials and tribulations. There is hope in that this life is not all that there is, but that does not mean we just indifferently endure and trudge through this life until the end.
There is a powerful scene in the movie, The Lord of the Rings, where one of the main characters, Frodo, a halfling, is speaking with Gandalf the wizard. Frodo was feeling overwhelmed with the task that he had been entrusted with which was to destroy a great ring of power. He turned to Gandalf and said: “I wish the Ring had never come to me. I wish none of this had happened.” To which Gandalf replied, “So do all who live to see such times but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”
The Lord of the Rings was written by JRR Tolkien who personally witnessed the atrocities of the First World War. If you are looking for a good book or trilogy to read, I would highly recommend it. It is not only a powerful parable of hope, courage, and transformation, it is deeply Christological parable.
All of our readings today as well as what I have pointed out so far are interconnected with the principle that God works in small ways to affect and bring about change. No matter the time or season, his word does not come back void. This change is not just about some abstract ideal. What God offers each one of us is personal transformation. This comes forth rather powerfully in the Parable of the Sower.
The question Jesus poses is, “Do we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear when he comes close?”
There are happenings or incidences, I like to call them God-incidences, where Jesus is present and active in our lives, where he draws close to us each day. He is constantly being sown into our being through our interactions with one another and our experiences. We are invited to receive him, allow him to take root in our lives, and we are to share the fruit of his love as a result of our growing relationship with him.
Let me give you a few examples from my own life of seeds sown, of God-incidents, of Jesus drawing close.
Growing up we would often share holidays with my mother’s parents. As we settled in around the table we would continue to visit as the last of the food was placed on the table. My grandmother would sit down, and if the conversation went on a little longer, she would say something along the lines of, “Ok old man, let’s go.” My grandfather would say in a mock wounded way, “Snucksie, I’m talking.” She would give him the look and then he would make the sign of the cross and pray the Our Father. Sometimes he read a short prayer from a little devotional. My grandfather also encouraged me to take time to be still and quiet and also passed on to me his love of books and reading.
Each of these were seeds that found good soil in my heart and mind. They impressed me and moved me deeply and I believe these were times when Jesus drew close. If we allow ourselves to recall, we can look back over the past years of our lives and see where Jesus has drawn close through the people and experiences he has allowed to happen in our lives.
We are dealing with a lot right now. Even so, I learned from my wife, JoAnn, that life is short and we cannot take the time we have for granted, nor ought we waste time or expend energy in ways that are not helping us to be who God is calling us to be. We can be better than we are and that starts with ourselves and our willingness to be led not by our egos, but by Jesus.
I invite you as my grandfather invited me to spend some time in silence and to be still each day, to allow God to speak to us in the silence of our hearts. Let go of the worries, the anxieties, the false promises, the lures, and half-truths, allow your hearts and minds to soften. Allow the seed of God’s Word, Jesus, to find root in your life. Allow the Holy Spirit to nourish you with his love.
Even in these troubling times, we are not to be strangled by the growing uncertainties, divisions, and even expressions of inhumanity. Instead, we are to till the soil of our hearts and minds, remove the stones and weeds, thereby preparing rich soil that is open to receiving the seeds of God’s love. In this way, we will produce the rich fruit of his love so to empower and lift up those in our midst.
It is our choice regarding which soil we want to have. As Gandalf said to Frodo, “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”