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Fr. Michael's Thoughts on Biblical Imagery: He Knows Not How


(Fr Michael Boakye Yeboah: Vice Rector of St Gregory Seminary, Kumasi-Ghana)


            In most homes, one can find some marks on the door post or the kitchen wall. These marks are normally indicators of how children in the house track their growth pattern. I for one as a child, idolized the giant players of American basketball. I thought that I could grow tall like one of them so I had my own marker on one of the door posts in our home. Though I was eager to grow tall, I was perplexed with how I increased in height each day or month. For me “growing” is among my wonders of life. It is today’s Gospel reading that took my mind to my past.

            In the Gospel Jesus tells two parables about the growth of the Kingdom of God. Each has a different purpose. The first emphasizes the seed’s own growth. The farmer can neither give the seed-grain the power to grow nor influence its gradual growth: “The soil produces its fruit by itself.” It is not as if the man has nothing to do – he must prepare the field and sow the seed. Yet the main work is done by God, while the man “goes to bed and gets up again day-after-day”. The Kingdom of God has its own rules that are not forced on it by men; it is not a product of technology. The seed, the blade, the ear, the full grain, the ripeness – all belong to the Kingdom’s own structure and are not human achievements. The second parable indicates this as well: the fully-grown fruit, from a seed that initially seemed contemptuous to men, proves in the end to be larger than anything man could have accomplished by himself. And the harvest? It will be God’s harvest, but will be on behalf of the man who has prepared the soil and sowed the seed. God harvests, as the lazy servant in the parable of the talents put it, “where he has not sown.” Yet fundamentally the harvest is for both God and man: for God appoints the industrious servant to rule over a large realm.

            The man of the soil has an attitude of steady confidence that the law God established in nature will prove trustworthy. So too, in the second reading, Paul’s confidence is constant, regardless of the current spiritual weather pattern in his life or in that of his congregation. “We walk by faith.” Man wants to be able to control the weather, to be lord of the imponderable; Paul would rather live where he can gaze on the Lord than to “live away from home” in faith, but, as with the farmer, submission to God’s direction is more important to him than his preferences: “whether we are home [with him] or away from home.” The Apostle himself is merely a farmer: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gives the increase” (1 Cor 3:6).

            The second parable of the kingdom of God told in the Gospel is another example of the numerous statements Jesus made about the “least” in the Kingdom becoming the “greatest”, precisely because of having made himself small and occupying the “last place.” In his earthly life Jesus himself gave an example of this, an example he continues to give in his Eucharist. The imagery he employs reaches back to the passage in Ezekiel that forms the first reading, describing how, through the power of God, the delicate twig of his people grows into the mightiest of trees, so that the “birds of heaven” can make their nests in it. For the prophet this is completely attributable to God’s power – all other trees (nations) should recognize that “I am the Lord” who has the power to lay low the lofty and raise up the lowly, to parch what is green and make parched land lush with green growth. In the Old as well as the New Covenant, this parable has nothing to do with human morality. It refers to the sublime power of God, who deals with man according to his rules, if man will submit himself to him. Walk by faith and not by sight and you will bear testimony to the wonders of God in your life.


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