I started gardening at the novitiate as a way to pass the time during the pandemic. I’m Old Mission Santa He used to live in Barbara, but in Southern California you can garden all year round. I started with beans, not really knowing what I was getting myself into. I had dry pods hanging from old vines all over the property, so I decided to break them up and plant the purple speckled seeds inside.
I didn’t know much about starting a vegetable garden, so I asked my green brother for advice. Brother Franklin, a retired botanist, told me: One of them. “
“What do you mean?” I replied with a bewildered smile. Franklin grinned, holding a large seed in his hand, and said, “To plant a seed is to ask you to give up your life as a seed.” That’s a big thing to ask.”
I never thought of gardening this way. Gardening always seemed calm and low risk. But as we soon learned, growing plants from seed doesn’t always go the way you want it to. Of the 6 seeds I originally planted, only 3 germinated and only 1 of those 3 plants flowered.
I was stressed by the responsibility to keep these plants alive, the responsibility to honor the sacrifice of the seeds, the drastic changes I forced them to undergo. A lot happens to seeds when they are first planted. It may be washed away by heavy rain. Animals may come and try to steal it for a simple treat. Some seeds do not grow into plants at all.
Gardening wasn’t the quiet pastime I thought it would be. I underestimated the care and patience required to grow a small garden.
And if seeds need to be nurtured in order to grow, what about humans? A reading from the fourth week of Advent reminds us that the road to Bethlehem wasn’t always smooth .
Unmarried Mary returned home after visiting her cousin and found herself pregnant. Not wanting to embarrass her, Joseph quietly divorces her. In the small town of Nazareth, people must have been whispering all sorts of gossip about unmarried mothers. Must she have to care for this new baby alone? This period of change in Mary’s life must have felt heavy and frightening.
Joseph must have been upset and frustrated at first by this turn of events. He probably didn’t expect his wife to become pregnant before his wedding.Despite the discomfort and anxiety, God used this moment to change Joseph’s mind. Through an angel, God assures Joseph of the presence of the Holy Spirit even in the midst of turmoil. Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s care is immediate.
In our time, we face a myriad of crises, including wildfires, hurricanes, natural and man-made disasters. It can be easy to become overwhelmed by the catastrophes and unexpected challenges that many of us face. Change can be like a small death, especially if it’s drastic and beyond our control.
But these moments can also be opportunities to change our minds. God may be calling us to a new, deeper relationship with His neighbor, the Earth, and God Himself that we do not yet understand. New things can be scary. In my own journey, I had a hard time trusting God when life was confusing, when the road seemed unfamiliar.
None of us live with a roadmap. We come alive like beans. Break out of your comfort zone, encounter unfamiliar terrain, and do your best to reach the light.
The good news is that God was here before, too. God comes to us as a little baby in this promised season. And our Gospel assures us that even in the midst of life’s changing tides and burdens, God is “Emmanuel” and He is with us.