Dear Believers in Christ,
There are many summer days I miss the dark, rich Midwestern soil upon which I grew up. I reflect back in my mind and view the rows of corn across acres and acres not far from the lake on which our family made our home. I see in my mind’s eye the mighty oak trees and the everblooming, lush plants, flowers, and bushes nestled against the homes and ivy growing on the old buildings.
It is easy for me to listen to this gospel text, Mark 4:26-34, and feel the summer rains and thick humidity on my skin. Planting and harvesting in the Corn Belt is a way of life. Even speaking about sweet corn was a family project while driving along the highway. As my grandparents used to say, the corn must be “knee high by the 4th of July.” The corn and other summer vegetables and fruit were also important for my family’s livelihood since my parents and brother owned a grocery store for 45 years. Summer crops were so important for our business and for our own table.
Conversations in our home often revolved around our waiting for the first crop of strawberries so my mother could bake homemade shortcake. Our favorite family pastime was anticipating fresh peaches from our local farmers. Homemade peach cobbler or rich, flakey peach pie was like Christmas in August. There were only certain times for certain foods, and the crops were not only anticipated but we watched over and over again for the correct amounts of rain and temperate days. Tornadoes in our area could destroy the long awaited crops of the bushel baskets of perfectly ripened peaches or large ears of sweet corn or boxes of strawberries or blueberries or raspberries that would be delivered to the back door of our grocery store.
The gospel invites us into patient waiting for God’s Kingdom. We wait for the ripened world where hope will live beyond a certain shelf life. We wait for the redemption of the world like waiting for the harvest of apples in the Midwest. I am not sure most people know what to wait for anymore.
We are now a very impatient people. Not only do we purchase our vegetables and fruit from other countries throughout the year, (which are tasteless by the way), but we also have little patience waiting for God. We have grown into a people who think life is all in our command. We have little dependency on God unlike the farmers living close to the earth. We think we know everything and everything is under our thumb. We have little to wait for.
I believe we need to read this gospel again. There are many things about which we need to wait. We should be humbled by the shootings of our teens as we wait for a harvest when mental illness and guns are somehow resolved. We need to take stock of not only the tornadoes that destroy the land, but also review the remedies for depression and loneliness that contributes to our ever-growing suicide rate in the US. When shall we see the true hungers of our people? Our children, believe it or not, are malnourished in many parts of the US, while others face growing isolation and despair from their technology. Many Catholics have narrowed the eternal harvest down to one or two areas in life. However, there are many weeds in the fields and many places in which we need to view the coming of God’s Kingdom on earth. I pray for the patience to examine all of life so that we can be together under the shade of God’s Kingdom right here today, in this summertime and in our world. Love after all, creates the deepest shadows on summer days.