Meditating God’s Kingdom on the Coloane Trail

Fr Paolo Consonni, MCCJ

O’Clarim Ordinary Time 11 Sunday Year B

“This is how it is with the Kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how.  […] The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” (Mark 4:26-34)

At the beginning of the month, I spent some days in Coloane for my annual retreat. Despite the frequent downpours, I found time to walk around the hills. At this time of the year, the vegetation is truly luxuriant. It is incredible to observe how, given the right conditions (light, nutrients, humidity, etc.), small seeds grow into a variety of trees and plants, each with its characteristics.

Human intervention is also visible in the forest. The Municipal Affairs Bureau catalogues existing trees, monitors them, and plants new ones suited for this typhoon-prone area. On a day-to-day basis, however, plants grow at their own rhythm. Birds of different species surely find these trees very welcoming too, judging by the amount of chirping they do every morning, loud enough to wake me up.

The two parables narrated in this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 4:26-34): the parable of the growing seed and the parable of the mustard seed, are indeed inspired by nature. Through them, Jesus invites us to believe in the power of the Kingdom of God. Like a small seed its growth remains hidden for a long time before spouting, yielding fruit, and becoming a shelter for those in need. Oftentimes it grows even without our awareness.

If conditions are favorable, a seed sprouts in a relatively short time. Sometimes, because of difficulties, it must wait. I read of some seeds found in ancient tombs which germinated after thousands of years. So it is with God’s Kingdom. When nothing seems to happen, we must be patient and keep trusting in its inner power and timing. Chinese lore has a proverb to describe the futility of the attempts by impatient people to have immediate results: 拔苗助长(try to help the shoots grow by pulling them upward). It is a good sarcastic reminder that, both in education and in spirituality, some processes cannot be forced upon others, not even upon ourselves!

Only at the right time can the ripened fruits be harvested. I don’t know if you have ever read the novel “The Five People You Meet In Heaven” by Mitch Albom. The protagonist, an old mechanic named Eddie, felt he had been wasting his life doing maintenance work at an amusement park called “Ruby Pier” since he was a young boy. He died with a profound sense of failure. But after his death, Eddie encountered five people connected to his past who disclosed to him the meaning of some crucial painful events of his life. Only after these encounters did he realize that his seemingly useless life, his boring job, and his diligence at work, had been life-saving for countless people, most of whom he had never known. The final scene shows Eddie entering a heavenly “Ruby Pier” surrounded by countless people, whom he unknowingly had helped during his lifetime through his dedication at work, all of them with a grateful smile on their faces. He finally felt loved, recognized for his value at his seemingly boring job. The real “heaven”, the harvest of God’s Kingdom, starts when we realize that our efforts and pain were not in vain and that there is a meaning in everything.

God’s Kingdom cannot be easily defined if not with images. We know that Jesus’ words and actions manifested the coming of this Kingdom. Jesus identified himself with a grain of wheat which must die in the soil to bring the fruit of his Resurrection: it may even be that the Kingdom of God means Christ himself. (CCC 2816). We could also affirm that the Church is the seed and beginning of the Kingdom on earth. (CCC 541) When we welcome the Holy Spirit into our hearts, each one of us becomes both the bearer and sower of God’s Kingdom through the choices of faith and love we make at the personal and social level, even when we do not see immediate results.

Walking on the peaceful trails of Coloane, surrounded by beautiful trees and the chirping of birds, it is easier to be patient and trustful. In a toxic work environment, in a family or community where relationships are tense, on a hospital bed, or in war-torn countries, more faith is required. That is why, together with the whole Church and on behalf of suffering humanity, we keep praying with hope: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven!”