By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO | Published November 13, 2014
There is a DVD down at our monastery welcome center that we had made for our visitors. It gives a thumbnail sketch of our life here. It is not very long—20 minutes, give or take a few. But it does a good job of touching most of what we are about here. There is one section where Father Anthony is standing in his garden and he talks about how he ponders the ways of God as he finds these in his garden’s growth, and how he cannot understand how people can question the existence of a higher being in the face of the wondrous mysteries of vegetative growth.
Something as small as a seed is alive—and through the interplay of sun, rain, soil and care, it grows to its full stature and is given to us as food.
Jesus likens the Kingdom of Heaven to many things. In a brief Gospel passage from Matthew, we are told that it can be likened to a pearl of great price and to a treasure hidden in a field. In other passages, Jesus likens it to a net cast into the sea, or to a mustard seed. These likenesses tell us of something that is of great value, something of fantastic growth, and something as well that is hidden from our view.
Jesus also says that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. It is here, in our midst.
Father Anthony looks at his vegetables in his garden and draws from them a likeness to the power and goodness of God. And God beholds Anthony and sees in him the same growth, the same goodness, the same wonder that grows in the garden. For we are called to be sustenance for each other.
And we too experience growth through the sun and rain, the soil and human care. We are among the fruits of this dwelling place we call earth. We are God’s garden.
Jesus tells his disciples that the Kingdom is here, but it is hidden. But I think there are those who know the way to find it. They are those who no longer look to the big plans of life to solve everything. They are those who know that the Kingdom cannot be brought any closer with a lot of money, or persuasive rhetoric, or a pious life. They are the ones among us who discover the fascinating things that are alive and growing right at their feet and, in Anthony’s case, in his garden.
And they learn from what they see the importance of patience, the wisdom of waiting, the need to trust in all that the seemingly small and insignificant things in life are telling us. That something vast and good and wondrous is growing all around us and within us.
We may be tempted to look for holy ground, thinking that it may offer us some clues as to the ways of God and the Kingdom. But maybe we are asked to look closer, like where we live, and look at a man who is standing in his garden, silently contemplating the seeds, the soil, the rain and the sun.
You can learn, I think, many things from him about the Kingdom.
Like a human smile can be as bright and warm as the sun, and that rain can be likened to human tears which soften the heart and open it to further growth, and that the wind will surely bring both stormy weather and balmy days so that we learn how to support each other through every season of life. And the soil—we cannot know the ground on which we stand unless we bend low and get our hands dirty working the soil.
If we work it with patience, and faithfulness, and a kind of love, all that we need for life will be given us right where we stand. The Kingdom may well be hidden, but if we work hard enough, it will give itself to us and feed us so that we might learn to feed each other.
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.