Sower, seeds, soil and saints

Last week, we looked at how Jesus’ call for us to be “salt for the earth” could be seen as an exhortation for us to nourish the soil from which his kingdom will emerge.

Jul 22, 2017

By Anil Netto
Last week, we looked at how Jesus’ call for us to be “salt for the earth” could be seen as an exhortation for us to nourish the soil from which his kingdom will emerge.

Last Sunday too, the Bishop of Rome, talked about the Parable of the Sower and the seed.

He said Jesus is the sower, the Word of God is the seed. The soil, our hearts, should be open enough to welcome this seed.

But the condition of the soil can choke the life out of the potential in the seeds. The numerous large rocks in the soil represent our laziness over the land, our failure to nourish the seed and allow it to grow within us.

The brambles and stones represent our vices and our tendency to idolise worldly wealth or power or to live only for ourselves. Indeed, the thorns represent our worldly concerns and the “seduction of weath” that takes us away from tending the garden.

“You need to tear them (the stones and the thorns) away, otherwise the Word will not bear fruit,” Francis said.

So, we are called to do all we can to let the Word, the seeds of faith planted in our hearts, bear fruit. Jesus himself can help us to remove the stones and thorns that choke the soil.

It is in this context that Jesus calls us to be the salt for the earth or — in the lingo of Palestine in Jesus’ time — the fertiliser that nourishes the soil. In other words, we need to nourish the desire to build the kingdom of God and to promote the vibrant growth of shoots so that the seed eventually will bear much fruit and the harvest be plentiful.

Another interesting thing emerged in the Vatican recently.

The Bishop of Rome has added a fourth path to sainthood: sacrificing one’s lives for others. This adds to the three existing paths: martyrdom, a life of heroic Christian values and, saintly, devout reputation.

This seems to be in line with Jesus’ description of the highest form of love. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).

This is timely. Already, there are many modern day ‘saints’ giving up their lives for fellow human beings — and, increasingly, for the sake of care for Creation.

Hours before writing this, I received an email from a friend highlighting a news report earlier this year: indigenous Mexican activist Isidro Baldenegro López winner of the prestigious Goldman environmental prize for his campaign to protect rainforests from illegal logging, was shot dead.

Another previous prize winner, Honduran indigenous leader Berta Caceres was killed after her campaign against a hydroelectric dam.

The report pointed out “2015 was the deadliest year on record for environmental activists globally with at least 185 killed” (Guardian, 18 January 2017). Many of them were killed in Latin America while trying to protect the habitat from large environmentally damaging projects such as dams, mines, resort and logging.

This makes them ‘saints’ in the eyes of many people — for giving up their lives not only for the sake of their fellow human beings, but also out of care for Creation and concern for future generations. How much more heroic and courageous and self-sacrificing can you get?

In 2005, Sr Dorothy Stang, 74, of the Notre Dame de Namur order was shot dead after she tried to protect conservation areas in Brazil from soybean farmers and loggers. She was an activist with the Catholic Church’s Pastoral Land Commission, CPT, which had campaigned to stop violence against peasants and activists. Stang was one of dozens murdered during that period.

On the morning before she was killed by two armed men, Stang was on her way to a community meeting to speak about the rights for the Amazon. When the two men stopped and asked her if she had any weapons, she said the only weapon she had was a Bible. She then read out the Beatitudes, “Blessed are the poor in spirit...” before she was shot dead.

A saint? Already known as Angel of the Amazon, she was indeed, salt (fertiliser) for the earth and would no doubt be a fitting candidate for consideration under the Vatican’s new path to sainthood.

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