Where did you spend the lockdown? What environment were you in? What environment are you in now as the lockdown eases? What have we been surrounding ourselves with? What do we surround ourselves with?
If you think about a seed – a seed can be so small and apparently insignificant but it has such potential. It can grow into a massive and powerful tree. It can grow into food that sustains us. It can grow into a flower that reveals the beauty of God’s creation. For the potential of the seed to be actualised the environment in which it is placed is of vital importance. This is what Jesus tells us in the Parable of the Sower (Mt 13:1-23) and he tells it so simply and vividly. Everything hinges on the environment that the seed is in.
When the lockdown began the seed which is our lives, in a sense, was let fall to the ground. Before that we were flying about. It was all movement and motion. Then it all stopped. Our lives hit the ground. We were plunged into a new reality – a new environment. What was that environment? As we reflect now, what environment did we live in?
Did we hit the path of distraction, where we were eaten up by the internet and the television lifting us out of reality into a rootless fantasy, that at best could only have wasted the time? Perhaps we were among the rocks of novelties doing new things or intending to do new things, all in an endeavour to kill the time. But, after an initial burst of enthusiasm, not really finishing them? Or did we get caught in the briars of alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography or abuse, rejecting the time and destroying it? Or did we land in the environment of faith and family and friendship, using the gift of time to examine our priorities in life and rooting ourselves in what matters most and what lasts for ever?
If truth be told, if we are honest, a bit of us probably landed in a number of places. Even if we were blessed for the most part to land in the rich soil of faith, family and friendship, it still wasn’t easy. What happens to a seed when it goes down into the soil? It goes from a place of light to a place of darkness, where it has to wait, not seeing the way out. It has to wait for growth to be given to it. That waiting and that pushing through the soil is not easy. It is not where we like to be. We like to be out in the open, running free, not locked in the soil hoping to see the light.
During the lockdown we were all locked in the soil, but the question now is how will we grow and how will we emerge out of the soil into the light? The truth is that we can’t go back to the way we were before we were planted. We now have the potential to grow into something and that can be something beautiful for God. If we allow God to give the growth we will produce the crop. We will be the crop.
If you can imagine at the beginning of the lockdown, the ground was ploughed and harrowed and we were planted. Now, as the lockdown ends, we are bursting through the ground. What are we? Are we the crop or are we the weed? Are we the rich crop of God or are we the weeds of the devil?
It is not too late. We can choose to be the crop of God. We have the freedom to make that choice. We make that choice by living in reality and realising that everything passes away. It is only God who remains. We have seen this so clearly over the last four months. We can make the choice to be the crop of God now in this new world by rooting ourselves in the reality of faith, family and friendship. When we make God our priority we will no longer yearn to drift back to being seeds floating in the air. When we make God our priority we will be rooted in rich soil and we will bear much fruit. The fruit that we will bear will not pass away but it will last for eternity. Who would be foolish enough to work for any other kind of food?
Fr Paul Farren is the Administrator of Saint Eugene’s Cathedral, Derry and Director of the Derry Diocesan Catechetical Centre