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God knows the goodness of my heart—even when I don’t

A Reflection for Wednesday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,

before you were born I dedicated you,

a prophet to the nations I appointed you.

“Ah, Lord GOD!” I said,

“I know not how to speak; I am too young.” (Jer 1:1, 4-10)

The sower sowing in vain, throwing seed onto ashen or rocky earth. Something there that will never come to fruition, to life even, reminding me of another parable, that of the servant burying his talents, afraid to risk himself, to risk anything. Maybe Jesus didn’t mean these parables this way, but they sure speak to my insecurities and anxieties, obstacles to a bountiful faith, a full life.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks from a boat to a large gathering of people eager to hear him along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. In the parable of seed and the sower, he offers a warning and a promise, describing the Word as seed tossed by a farmer eager for something to take root and eventually create a bountiful harvest. But some of the seed lands on ground that is unsuitable, where it is unable to germinate. Other seeds fall under the blazing sun and quickly wither.

How often do I wonder how well I am “bearing fruit” in my life from the faith that has been bequeathed to me at birth. The earth was prepared and ready, but did I do the work of nurturing a crop to produce a worthy harvest? I have been afforded many gifts and advantages through no merit of my own. Have I made the most of them?

Have my talent, vitality and strength been devoted to the common good or to my own vanity or desire for creature comforts? Have I contributed even a small part in building the kingdom? Do I serve as an exemplar to others of all that it means to be a Christian, or have I been petty, sullen, unoriginal, resentful?

Am I being too hard on myself?

I think the all-merciful one would probably say yes, I am.

In today’s first reading, the Lord speaks to an anxious Jeremiah: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you.”

I have been afforded many gifts and advantages through no merit of my own. Have I made the most of them?

We are not always our best selves. Maybe the seed has not taken root as deeply as it should have, but the merciful Father sees all and knows all, and His love comes with no demands.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…”

It is the same love I feel for my children. There is nothing they could do—or not do—that would drive it from my heart; that love comes with no checklist of expectations or prerequisites of achievement.

Maybe I am contributing to the harvest in ways I will never see or comprehend. But the Lord who has loved me before time knows my heart and pities my hopes and anxieties. God sees the goodness that I may, awash in my daily worries and trials, remain blind to.

Just as the season’s turn year after year, the sower returns to his work undaunted by past failures. After a poor harvest, he will scan his field with an eye to better prepare it, removing obstacles to growth, planting windbreaks and shade trees that offer his scattered seeds a better chance to take root and to grow.

Maybe this faith that can feel at times a tiny desiccated kernel, incapable of taking root and creating life, will have just as many chances to produce something bountiful as I need it to.

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