Last fall when I found myself covered from veil to sneakers in dirt, I knew it wasn’t chance but divine inspiration that had led me to choose this Gospel parable: Luke 8:11-15. Hours of weeding and tilling and then preparing our garden with several buckets of compost made this parable come alive and gave me a new light to understand my mission.
As I joined our small community at Mater Redemptoris Convent and the House of Formation in August, I was elated to implement in a new way the life I’d been studying and learning about during novitiate. My apostolic work was full of variety. During the week, I assisted the Offices of Consecrated Life and Vocations in providing tools for vocational awareness and discernment and organizing vocations events. It was during these daily tasks, that I experienced the freedom and power of God made manifest through simple obedience.
Looking back on the “abundant harvest” of blessed conversations, youth events, vocation talks, retreats, and especially friendships and community life, I realize that God is the sower and will plant in us the seed that we need for each moment. We are simply the soil in which He chooses to toil. There were many times I felt my “littleness” this mission, but it was lost in the magnificence of God’s grace, which “is made perfect in weakness.” It is especially in challenging moments that He is enriching the soil of our hearts and souls so that they may “bear an abundant harvest through perseverance.” But it doesn’t happen at once in a single thrust of seed. God waits for permission from us to do great things with our very lives. Often, as with a garden, the fruit is grown in silence and small daily fidelity. We are soil, and soil receives. God is the gardener; He is the one who plants and never grows weary of working and dwelling in the soil of our heart. He gazes on us as we pray, as we work, or as we rest. His gaze, if we permit ourselves to encounter it and return it, becomes like the sun on a garden. Soon the plant sprouts and causes those who see it to rejoice in the gardener.
During mission, whether I was grocery shopping, cleaning, roasting the five turkeys to feed the youth with my beginners cooking skills, or talking to hundreds of youthful hearts eager for knowledge of Jesus, God Himself was carefully tending, weeding, and fertilizing my heart. My role was to say yes to His grace and be open to receive whatever He wanted to give me that day: His love, a task, a Word, a smile. What He gave me I simply received and gave back to Him. I can’t count the joys that filled those six months especially through the people that God brought into my life. But I will forever be a better religious because of the time I spent on the soil of Wisconsin and learned from the Divine Gardener how He is forming me to make His merciful love visible.
“But as for the seed that fell on rich soil, they are the ones who, when they have heard the word, embrace it with a generous and good heart, and bear fruit through perseverance.” Luke 8:15
- Sister M. Bernadette, FSGM