HOMILY: Unlimited Potential and the Master Gardener

Fr. Brian Zumbrum’s homilies and reflections are posted weekly at Leaven in the World. To see the archive of all his posts, just click here: Salesian Sermons

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time | June 13/14, 2015

PROTIP: Before reading on, be sure to take a look at the readings here. This week’s homily is based on the Gospel reading.

So it is no secret that I am not a fan of gardening.

I just don’t understand why I would want to spend time fighting Mother Nature.  If she wants weeds to overtake the marigolds, far be it from me to stop her.

And yet, I am aware that I am vastly outnumbered in my sentiments within my family.

In fact, over the weekend, my aunt and mother were reflecting on how they gained their love of gardening from their parents.  They recalled the beautiful rose bushes that adorned the family house in Buffalo.  They reminisced about how my grandmother would spend hours patiently laboring in her garden.

It was obvious how much both of them cherished gardening, for the fruit that it bore and the memories that it evoked.

But that night, when my aunt’s 6 children and 19 grandchildren gathered around the pool for a BBQ, I couldn’t help but draw a connection between the literal gardens that she had tilled over the years and the symbolic garden that was her family.

For both of these gardens started small. But through hard work and patience, through good soil and life-giving water, both of these gardens bore tremendous fruit.

Yes, there were weeds.  Yes, there were plants that struggled to survive the blistering heat.  Yes, there were plants that were overwatered and plants that didn’t get enough sun.

But those failures did not deter the master at her work.

Yes, there were moments in which my aunt struggled.  Yes, there were moments when her children made decisions that she had to grapple with.  Yes, there were moments in which mistakes were made.  Yes, there were moments when she tried too hard and moments when she was stretched too thin.

But those moments did not deter her from the work that she had been called to.  The work of cultivating her garden, the work of raising her family.

I thought about my aunt as I reflected on the gospel for this weekend.

For in her life, I see the parable of the mustard seed.

She may have been just one person.

But contained within her was the infinite potential contained within each of us.  The infinite potential that comes with being a child of God.  And when that potential is unlocked, the world is forever changed.

Now my aunt did not grow on her own.  There were many gardeners who tilled the soil of her heart and helped her life to bear fruit.

It took her parents and her siblings.  It took her amazing husband and her dear friends.  It took her church community and her ministers.

But most importantly, it took her cooperation with her God.  Allowing the divine to work through her.  Uprooting the weeds.  Pruning the branches.  Fertilizing the soil.  Watering the roots.

This process was never easy.  Gardening rarely is.  But if I have learned anything from my family, it is that the work is worth the reward.  The reward of watching one’s seeds burst into bloom.

And as my aunt flourished, she too began to send forth her own seeds.

Seeds that would blossom into a close-knit family swapping stories in the backyard and co-workers committed to helping women through their unplanned pregnancies.  Seeds that would blossom into young people rediscovering their faith and communities in India hearing the words of the Gospel for the first time.

In my aunt, I see an example for each of us.

An example that is at the heart of this parable for today.

We are the mustard seeds my friends.

We are unlimited potential.

We are the varied array of plants that comprise the garden of the Lord.

None of us has borne fruit on our own.

Our lives have been tilled by the work of all those who have come before us and all those who have labored beside us.

And yet, ultimately, our lives are measured by own choice.  Our choice to allow the Master Gardener to work with us to bear fruit.

So that we too can send forth our seeds into the world.

So that we too can contribute to the beautification of God’s garden through the words we speak, the actions we take, the witness that we give, the life that we lead.

We are God’s little mustard seeds.

Let us dare to bloom.

May God be Praised.

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