The imagery of the first part of today’s gospel (Mark 4:26-34) about the growth that takes place quickly but unseen is a wonderful description. If you are already eligible for Medicare, then I know you can appreciate how fast life goes! I remember a couple whose marriage I witnessed some time ago played a wedding song which said something like this: “Life comes and goes and there’s no time to sit and watch the grass grow...so make some memories now.” So when Jesus talks about seed sprouting and growing day after day, a growth that you can’t really see take place except over time, it seems to me that his message has two aspects.
Firstly, the kingdom of God will indeed grow into huge proportions. Jesus promises that. If it is the plan of God, then it will take place. But usually we are unable to see the growth, even though it is taking place right in front of us. The “harvest” can only be seen over a long period of time. Consider how the Church grew from such a small handful of early Christians to the point where, according to a 2011 study, there are 2.18 billion Christians around the world.
Secondly, we tend to overlook the role of the farmer or sower. Each of us has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit to build up the Body of Christ. And yet, some of us are not using our gifts fully or wisely; therefore the growth of the kingdom is not taking place at the pace that is optimally available to Christianity. “Words” are not enough; “deeds” are absolutely necessary to spread the kingdom of God. We will be judged at the end of our life by our deeds.
Jesus’ invitation to enter his kingdom (i.e., to become a true disciple of Christ) comes in the form of parables, a characteristic feature of his teaching. Through his parables he invites people to the feast of the kingdom, but he also asks for a radical choice: to gain the kingdom, one must give everything. Words are not enough; deeds are required. We can’t just sit and “watch the grass grow.” We must get busy working for the kingdom!