BY FR. BRIAN ZUMBRUM, OSFS
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time | June 17, 2018
This past week, I was actually in Brooklyn, Michigan with 50 high school students helping to facilitate a leadership program rooted in the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales and St. Jane de Chantal.
It is always a really powerful week, sharing our charism with some pretty amazing students. And you get to witness some awesome moments of healing and growth and courage.
But there was one conversation that really stuck me this year.
A student came up to me on the final night, as everyone was saying their tearful goodbyes and she said. I need to say thank you. Because what you’ve done for me this week has really changed my life. You may not have known that, but I felt that you should.
She gave me a quick hug and then disappeared back into the group of students.
And yet, her conversation stayed with me.
Because in a few words she reminded me of how education can be such a difficult ministry to undertake.
For often she is right.
We have no idea the impact we are making.
We have no idea the fruit that is being borne.
We often never get to see the harvest.
We are gifted each year with a group of students that come to us as seeds in various stages of germination. And we are tasked for caring for this garden that is not ours.
And no matter how hard one labors, at some point you realize your limits.
That these students are not ours to control. That we can teach and preach, mentor and discipline, prune and water with every ounce of our strength. That we can love as unconditionally as we can.
But we ultimately do not determine the results. There are no guarantees. There is no certainty.
Which is why I find these readings for this weekend so challenging.
For in them, our Lord is reminding us all of our limits as human beings.
We may plant seeds, but we do not control how they grow.
We may tend a garden, but we do not control when or how or in what quantity the fruit will appear.
We may at times to be called to reap a harvest, but we did not produce it on our own.
And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, most of us resist this truth.
We are uncomfortable with the thought that we are not in control. That the gardens in which we work are not actually ours. That the seeds we plant grow independently of our labors.
We tell ourselves that if I am the perfect parent then my children will turn out perfectly. And therefore we struggle to understand how our child could possibly suffer from an addiction or why they have stopped coming to the Church that we raised them in.
We tell ourselves that if I am the perfect spouse that my marriage will be perfect. And therefore we can’t comprehend why our spouse is seeking a divorce or admits they have been unfaithful.
We tell ourselves that if I am the perfect employee then I will achieve every goal that I have dreamt. And therefore we refuse to accept that the position we have labored in for years is no longer necessary or that the project we have poured our energy into still fails.
But that is not how it works.
As Mother Teresa reminds us, we are not called to be successful, we are called to be faithful. We are not judged by the harvest but by the love with which we tended the garden.
And ultimately this is what true faith looks like. This belief in things unseen.
That the work we do is part of building the kingdom, the full extent of which we will never see.
That the work we do is helping to yield a tremendous harvest, the likes of which we will never taste.
So let us recommit ourselves this day to living our lives in imitation of the one in whose gardens we labor.
May our blood, sweat, and tears mingle with the soil that we till, the water that we pour, the weeds that we uproot, and the seeds that we plant.
May we endure the aching back and blistered palms, the dirt-encrusted finger nails and sunburnt shoulders.
And may we rest at the end of each day, trusting that the seeds will continue to grow despite our not always understanding how, that fruit will be borne though we may never taste it, that others will continue our work in gardens that we will never return to.
For as Bishop Untner reminds us
This is what we are about.
We plant the seeds that one day will grow.
We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise.
We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.
We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an
opportunity for the Lord’s grace to enter and do the rest.
We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master
builder and the worker.
We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs.
We are prophets of a future not our own.
May God be Praised