Reflection for Sunday – July16, 2017

Readings: Isaiah 55:10-11; Romans 8:18-23; Matthew 13:1-23
Preacher: Margie Benza

The joy of being one of rich soil! It is an immense endeavor and a lifelong journey for all of us—one that begins at birth and manifests itself through years of life experiences, prayer, reflection, conversion and hope.
Where are you in the midst of this scripture passage? Jesus is speaking to us through every line of this parable at one point or another in our lives: The pompousness of youth, the busyness of the thirties and forties, the inner prospection of the fifties, the wisdom of the sixties and the humility and grace of aging into our seventies, eighties and even nineties.
This reading reminds me of the appreciation I now have when I pass fields of grain. I notice the tender care of the farmers who plant, water and worry over the crop that will sprout and mature during a short growing season. They must deal with the birds who quietly steal freshly planted seeds, unpredictable markets and even the invention of new and better growing methods. The farmers’ rough hands show wisdom and soul.
My favorite aunt was a “farmer’s wife,” as she proudly called herself. At 95 she was still tilling a small side garden and proud of its small harvest of yellow and green beans, peas, corn, lettuce, rhubarb and strawberries.
In our younger years, my mom would send us to the farm to help my aunt prepare for the canning process by washing and cutting fruits and vegetables. My aunt would never ask for the help but she always welcomed us with her bright smile just because we came to visit. Each of us felt we were the only one there with her even when four or five of us sat on the grass or picnic table cutting, snapping, shucking or soaking. Time would just fly by.
As I look back, the wisdom of my dear aunt resonates years later, a reflection of her deep faith, hope and consolation. She would often say, “It is always important to gently and carefully till the soil for only then the soil underneath is prepared properly for what is to come. Never be hasty and always be hopeful.” Or, “One always hopes the seeds that are planted can grow deep roots under the watchful eye of the planter and the blessings of the Creator.”
In her faith life, I saw this “tilling” of her soul. Not only was she busy with her hands, she was busy helping others with hard hearts, softened over time by her kindness. She was always willing to believe that everyone is “worth saving” because in others she could always see the face of Jesus. She was always donating money, eggs, vegetables or baked goods to the poor and her neighbors when she sometimes had nothing herself. My aunt found her sustenance in the Word of God and the gift of the Eucharist. Gratitude was always on her lips and in her heart. Aunt Magdalene heard the Word and took it to heart—which was evident in how she lived life. She continues to bear fruit many years later through the gift of her memory.
In the midst of life’s distractions, seeds are placed in the palms of our hands every day. We must choose where and how to plant them. There have been times when I struggled quietly in discernment when someone’s kind and compassionate words of wisdom brought solace and comfort or an affirmation of God’s grace in the middle of confusion.

We are called to share those small offerings with each other, whether it be a kind word, a hospital visit, being present to the sick or bereaved, a thank you note or small gestures offered to friends and family. These are the seeds that are sure to multiply. God’s work of providence in the care of our gardens may be invisible but we trust in hope and confidence. May your soil be kept rich with transformation and conversion, rooted in grace through the blessings of our Creator.

Margie Benza
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