By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published May 21, 2009
Night before last I was in the retreat house and sitting with Father Anthony, at the kitchen table. He held in his hand a small plastic bag, with a picture on it of a bright red tomato. I asked him what was in the bag, and he smiled and said, “Seeds, tomato seeds. They have been in the freezer.” He went on to say that given the right conditions of sun, soil and water, they will grow. He did not mention himself in the process. Soon, he will carry the seeds to his garden, and they will indeed respond from their frozen sleep when the conditions are right.
Early one morning this past week, Brother Michael read another passage about seeds in our second reading at Vigils.
And we know how fond Jesus was in comparing the Kingdom and the power of God to a seed, a mustard seed. From the smallest of things come wonders.
After Easter there are a lot of post-Resurrection stories. We hear again about the appearances of Jesus to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the eleven gathered at a table. The appearances are rich in meaning—Jesus is revealed through the calling of a name, in the breaking of bread. In other accounts, Jesus promises that where two or three are gathered, he is there with them. He presences himself in the weak, the poor and the hungry, the strong and the satisfied. Indeed, there is nowhere and no one from which he is absent. His presence is the sacrament permeating all creation. It seems that no matter what you do, no matter where you are, there is a way of knowing that the presence of Jesus is with you.
Jesus also admonishes the disciples for their unbelief—they are stubborn in their lack of belief in those who conveyed the good news of his resurrected presence.
All the things said by Jesus about where he is still speak to us. His words of stubbornness may apply to us as well, in varying degrees. We can easily want to reduce the presence of the Lord to this or that way of thinking, seeing, believing, loving, remembering. It seems to be a long-standing human problem to situate the divine in one place or another. We are reminded again in the Scriptural offerings of these days that there is no meal, no gathering, and no naming in love from which he is absent. His call to each of us is to broaden our vision and expand our hearts to trust his living presence in everything and everyone.
Anthony will soon take a packet of seeds and sow them in his garden. In doing so, he will allow to come into play the wonders of growth, of a power that comes from the distant sun, from the intimate nearness of soil and rain. With the right temperature and care, there will be growth. He held the seeds in his hand—as God holds us in his hands, with the same kind of loving power.
God has sowed his spirit, his very life, through all of creation.
Perhaps we are asked to see that we grow at different rates, given the variation of our lives and capacities for growth and possibility. We see things differently. We respond to things differently. But as we gather in our places of worship these days, we should, I think, ponder our own capacities for stubbornness. Jesus asks us again to respond to his presence in the unfolding mystery of any given day, in our sharing of food, our planting of seeds, our calling each other by name, our walks with each other along the roads of this town, this monastery.
Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery Web store at www.abbeystore.com.