It’s summer! Temperatures are in the 80s and we’re heading for the 90s as I write. The boaters and swimmers are thrilled, but the farmers are praying for rain. My morning routine these days includes watering outdoor pots and plants before I do anything else. As for the grass, it will have to fend for itself. I’ve spent good money on hanging baskets and perennials to replace those lost over the winter, but their roots are shallow and the soil they’re planted in drains quickly so I have to take care of them or they will die. The grass, on the other hand, has deep roots. It might be brown today but after a good rain it will be green again tomorrow.
The good gardener cares for her garden, but sometimes that’s not enough. The images in Matthew’s Gospel are not unlike my own experience. The moss roses I planted along my flagstone path died because I’m not always good at staying on the path. The tulips I had hoped to plant along my driveway had to be replaced with mums because, other than a few inches of black dirt on top, the place where I had hoped to plant them was all rock. And if that’s not enough, almost everything I plant is subject to being seen as “dinner” by the deer and rabbits that visit my garden when I’m not around. In other words, I care for my garden, but sometimes that’s not enough.
Jesus compares God to a sower sowing seed. The sower wants the seed to produce good fruit, but he realizes that it may not. Still, he continues to plant because he cares for his garden, even as God cares for us. But sometimes our soil is too shallow or too rocky, our hearts too dry. Sometimes there are weeds growing up that must be pulled out. Sometimes the care of the sower is not enough.
When the master gardener comes to us in the morning will she find good fruit or will other things have gotten in the way? What kind of soil will the Sower find in the garden of our hearts?
Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.