Are you a “green thumb” person itching to get your hands in the soil as soon as the first sign of the planting season appears? Though there may be some who do not share your enthusiasm, you are not alone. For many people, including me, the land is a primary concern. When I think of the earth, though, I imagine that land which we ourselves are—God’s holy people. As we are reminded on each Ash Wednesday, we came from the earth and someday we will return to it. How many of us think of ourselves as being not simply “earthy” people, but earth itself? How many of us are convinced that God wants to delight in this land which we are? And how many of us believe that we also have a right to delight in it? Sacred Scripture suggests this truth when God speaks to the chosen people of the Old Testament as well as to us, the new Israel: “Fear not, oh land!” (Joel 2:21); “. . .you will be a land of delight says the Lord of hosts” (Malachi 3:12); “. . .you are God’s field” (1 Cor. 3:9). Perhaps these passages have a message for us if we ponder them carefully, using our imaginations to consider the processes the land goes through. In the sping farmers begin to break up the ruts, cracks, and rigid chunks of soil hardened and encrusted by the cold of winter. It is arduous, tedious work. The earth, however, does not seem to mind because, becoming soft once again, it is open to receiving the rain and sun of summer, the most “fruitful” season of all. It is the season of growth and activity, bringing the experience of new life everywhere. At the end of summer the land is graced with beauty, and its fruits are ready to be harvested. Finally, it gladly gives up what it has produced, returning once more to a state of rest, knowing full well this is just the prelude to a new cycle. The comparison is clear, but there is a difference. We are not only the land but also the farmers who must do the arduous and tedious task of weeding out all those tendencies which prevent us from being fully Christian. Each year God invites us, throughout the personal seasons of our own lives, to gently break up those parts of ourselves which might have become hardened by negative thinking and behaviour, or encrusted with habits of anger and bitterness.
Gradually, summer comes to us as we notice small but vibrant shoots of change in us. We welcome this inner summer and allow the enriching rain and the warm sunshine of God’s Word to enter our lives. We experience a sense of aliveness and enthusiasm and also find ourselves bearing fruits of kindness and joy. At the same time, we come to the surprising realization that, ultimately, this experience and its results are not our work at all, for,
“. . .neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything,but only God who gives the growth” (1 Cor. 3:7).
—Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB
|Sister Mary E. Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.