Like many of you, I have been in self-isolation for several weeks. It is a bit like going on a 30-day retreat that doesn’t end after 30-days.
My prayers are with the innumerable people who are ill with COVID-19 and so many who are grieving loved ones who have died. My heart is heavy for the health of the care workers, first responders, and other essential workers who continue to put themselves at risk every day.
I am also concerned about the many people now facing financial challenges, or whose situation in life has only been made worse by the virus. When we pray for all these people, it helps us to have solidarity with those suffering and those who put their lives on the line.
This can also be a time of growth for us. We have more time to think, more time to pray, more time to evaluate our lives. Jesus often used seeds as a metaphor for the spiritual life. He said, “A sower went out to sow his seed … ” (Luke 8:5) and “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed … ” (Matt. 17:20) and “The kingdom of heaven may be compared with someone who sowed good seed in his field … ” (Matt. 13:24)
Let’s compare the seed to our spiritual life.
A seed that lacks appropriate soil may sprout, but will quickly wither and die. Even in the best soil, without water and nutrients, growth will be limited. Without sun and cultivation, plants will decay and rot. Our spiritual lives need a healthy environment. We can create for ourselves that healthy environment through daily prayer, sacred ritual, participation in community, and service to others.
Like the seed, we cannot rush our spiritual growth. Each seed has a unique germination period. All of our good intentions need time to spread roots within us before they begin to sprout and becomes visible in our lives. Because our culture rushes everything, we grow impatient and want to see immediate results. Patiently waiting is essential for our spiritual growth.
“Wait for the Lord. Be strong, and let your heart take courage. Foster, wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:14)
Like the seed, change happens in stages. As a plant grows from seed to maturity, it manifests various characteristics and aspects of beauty. These stages are signs of the health of the plant at each stage.
Our spiritual life also progresses through stages and cycles. Each day offers us a new opportunity for growth. Some days our faithfulness to the spiritual life is more intense and at other times dark clouds encircle us and we struggle to be faithful to the process.
Like the seed, our lives contain the past and the future. Each seed is the product of previous generations and contains within it a distinct genetic code. All of us build upon a past history as we nurture our own seeds.
As Christians, our genetic code is found in the sacred scriptures, in sacramental rituals, and in our prayer life. When we nurture this code of Word, Sacrament and Prayer, we foster the growth of our own seeds for the present moment and for future generations.
Like the seed, unless our seed produces new seeds, they die. Plants are important for the fruit and flower they bear. Our lives are important for the fruit and flower we bear. We either grow or die. We grow for something much greater than our personal needs. We are called to grow and blossom in our present environment so that new seeds will sprout all around us and be carried far beyond us.
The great spiritual writer, St. Teresa of Avila, one said, “Let nothing upset you. Everything changes. God alone is unchanging. With patience all things are possible. Whoever has God lacks nothing.”