With the Fall season beginning, people have been bringing in the produce of farms and gardens. And I would like to thank those who have given me and the parish some of the food that they have grown on their land. It is a good occasion to reflect upon a common analogy in the Christian life, that between the development of a farm or garden and the growth of the human soul towards perfection.
It is an analogy that Jesus Himself used on such occasions as the parable sower and the comparison of the kingdom of God to a wheat field, a vineyard, or even a mustard seed. See Matthew 13:3-43; Mark 4:1-20, 26-32; Luke 8:4-15, 13:6-9, 18-19. Likewise, St. John the Baptist called for the faithful to bring forth fruits of repentance. See Matthew 3:8; Luke 3:8.
And the Scriptures commonly describe the Messianic kingdom by analogies to glorious fields or gardens. See,e.g., Is. 51:3, 61:11, 65:21, Amos 9:14. In fact the term paradise comes from the Persian word for a majestic garden. From agricultural analogies, we can draw several lessons. First, as Jesus points out in the parable of the sower, as land must be cleared of weeds, thorns and rocks in order for food to grow well, so too our lives must be cleansed of sins, excessive attachments, and the stubborn insistence on our own will in order for the grace of God to bring forth friendship with Him.
Furthermore, as a field must be plowed in order for seeds to be planted, so too we must engage in sacrifice and struggle, often letting our own plans be torn up, in order for God to be at
work in our lives. And, in order for crops to grow, the light of the sun and the water of rain must fall upon earth. So too, we must ever be open to the light of truth and the cleansing and life-giving water of grace in order for our lives to be fruitful. In addition, there are many objective lessons that one must learn in order to have a prosperous farm or garden.
But those common principles do not make farms or gardens exactly the same, but rather bring out the unique goodness and fruitfulness of each of them. It is when lands are allowed to run amuck and become overgrown that they look basically the same. Likewise, we learn from revelation and the wisdom of the ages how to develop our souls. But this overall guidance does not make us all the same; rather, we each bear fruit in our own way for the glory of God and good of our neighbors.