Seeds of Life (posted 2/3/07, delivered 3/15/06)
May 3, 2007
In today’s Gospel reading (Mark 4:1-20), Jesus talks about four different conditions in which a sower’s seed falls along a path. In the first condition, the seed is immediately devoured by the fowls of the air. In the second, it springs up and dies shortly thereafter in rocky soil. In case three, the seed is choked by the thorns. And finally, the seed is sown in fertile soil and yielded good grain. Today I want to parallel this parable to finding God’s purpose for our lives.
As college students, we are at a point in our lives in which we are basically planning out the rest of our lives. We are discussing graduate schools, internships, MCATs, LSATs, Teach for America, spiritual discernment and a plethora of other post-graduate opportunities. We are constantly looking at deadlines and benefits and rankings and starting salaries. We want to become the best of the best of the very best. We are striving to live into the expectations of our friends, family and colleagues. We are seeking advice from our parents, advisors, spiritual leaders, even best friends. But do we ever ask God what purpose God has for our lives? How do we know that we are planting our seeds in fertile soil?
To answer this question we must first know what type of seed it is that we are planting. We are all blessed by God with our own “seeds of life.” These seeds represent the potential within us to continue to do whatever it is that God has planned for us to do. Because we are all individuals, we are each gifted with different seeds that produce different fruits. How, then, do we know what type of fruit it is that we as individuals are to yield? The answer comes by spending time doing inner work, especially during this Lenten season. God speaks to us all differently, for different reasons. Therefore, we cannot listen to what God is saying to others to determine what God is saying to ourselves. We each need to have a personal relationship with God to “germinate” these “seeds of life.” The best way to find God’s presence is to look for it within ourselves. We must go to our quiet space and search within ourselves to find what God is saying to us. We need to go into our dark rooms in solitude and allow God’s presence to show itself to us and engender growth within us through introspective prayer and meditation. Once we have sparked that relationship of growth with God, then we can begin to determine what type of soil is best for us to sow our seeds for prosperity.
Observation is the key when it comes to beginning a new chapter in life. We need to be cognizant of the conditions that surround us. We need to be aware of the company we keep, the false institutions of security we give ourselves, and the worldly ideals and expectations we find ourselves lost and trapped in. Note that in the Gospel reading these seeds weren’t intentionally planted, but fell along the path. Just like the birds in today’s Gospel, there are outside forces in our lives that try to come in and devour our seed before it even hits the ground. To fulfill God’s purpose for your life, the most important thing to do is to cherish it and not take it for granted. The moment someone sees a door of opportunity that you did not walk through, they will not only walk through it themselves but they will also close and lock the door. You don’t need to do too much active searching to look for those outside forces that will try to devour your seed. If you just sit back and observe the conditions that surround you, these outside forces have a funny way of showing themselves to you. Just silently become knowledgeable of your surroundings before making hasty decisions and your enemy, who or whatever it may be, will show itself to you. Once you have seen your adversaries and obstacles, you will be able to use the tools that God has given you through your solitude to choose and fight your battles wisely.
We also need to be mindful of the false sense of security that we give ourselves when we want things to go a certain way. We get so caught up in the illusion of our desires that we fail to realize how much patience and hard work is required to bear our fruits. We try to find easy outlets and 1-2-3 plans for success when, in actuality, it takes great time and care to fulfill God’s purpose in our lives. We cannot base our success on the fact that things seem to be going well initially. Our zeal for success cannot blind us from the fact that we may be planting our seeds in rocky soil. We must realize that there is a process for everything. There must be a plan. There must be some experimentation. There must be some follow through. Just as depicted in the parable, the seed may seem to be growing rapidly, but it will surely wither and die as soon as it sprouted without proper time and care. Usually, if it is as easy as 1-2-3, it’s not meant to be.
Lastly, we need to make sure that we don’t get smothered by the standards and expectations of the world. In America, we are exposed to so many images of what the standard for success should be. We feel like if we don’t have the nice suburban house or the loft in the downtown high rise then we have not established ourselves. Through personal experience I have found that the only reason a lot of college students are even in college is to get the 6-figure salary job. We get so bogged down on personal appearances and personal beliefs and personal practices that we have come to a point where we expect everyone to maintain the same standards as ourselves. The reality is that God doesn’t measure success by public acceptance. If you don’t necessarily fit the mold of what success looks like in our society, that doesn’t mean you aren’t successful. Often times people end up buckling under the pressures of the world by trying to fit into this model for success when all the while God had a different purpose. God’s purpose for your life probably will not fit into the worldly idea of success. You probably won’t have the husband or wife, the 2.5 kids, the two story house, or the luxury vehicle. We have to realize that our personal desires for success may not be in line with God’s. So in order to keep the thorns of society from smothering our success and growth, we need to constantly remind ourselves of the purpose God has for our lives. Continue to look within and maintain that strong personal relationship with God and realize that God’s will is not necessarily what the rest of the world would have you do. However, it is the only way to produce the best fruit possible.
As you go out into the world, I ask you all to think about the things I’ve discussed this evening. Look within to find what God has planned for you. Be aware of the outside forces trying to block you from success. Don’t try to find the easy way out, but be patient and steadfast in your work. Continually listen to God’s will and don’t get pressured by the standards of society. If you use these suggestions while continuing your journey through life along with constant prayer, success is sure to come your way in due time. God’s Peace…
Br. Ashton J. Reynolds, Secretary
Order of St. Anthony, Ordo Precis Contemplativae (Order of Contemplative Prayer)