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Reflection – Stories and Gardens

Do you have a favourite book you read on a regular or semi-regular basis? I do this with Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt. I will not tell you how many times I have read it, but it is many, and I have learned that with each reading, different aspects of the book stand out for me depending on what is occurring in my own little world. “How could I not have noticed that before, it’s right there!?”

Maybe there is a much-loved movie or television series you own on DVD or binge-watch regularly on Netflix.  Some people do not like to admit this. In 2017, without identifying the customer, Netflix announced one person had watched Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted 352 times in a year. Less enthusiastically, there are a few different series I often re-watch in their entirety, like HBO’s The Sopranos

I enjoy revisiting Angela’s Ashes and The Sopranos as often as I do because I see or experience something new with each new reading/viewing.  As a teenager involved in my parish youth group, I attended a
day-long workshop at the Catholic Information Center on Elmwood Drive where I was introduced to the practice of Lectio Divina by Sr. Pat Callaghan.  There I learned my understanding of scripture would change and evolve over time as I developed in my faith, suggesting to me that my faith was organic and not static. The way in which the gospel spoke to me might be different depending on what was happening in my life.

I suspect a great many of you have gardens this year because of how early and often I have encountered garden centers sold out of potting soil, annuals, and tomato plants. If you have been spending more time this year working the soil than normal (like Katy Mahoney wrote about in her recent reflection), do you hear differently the gardening analogies in Jesus’ parables?  Do they resonate with you in a different way?
I did not plant mustard seeds, but I planted many other kinds of plants and seeds, many of which had to be replanted because there was a frost AFTER the full moon in June which veteran gardeners told me was not supposed to happen, and yet there we were with frost in June.

What to do? Start a tirade, weeping and gnashing my teeth?  I guess not, so I bought more seeds, replanted them, and then watched them obsessively until they sprouted. For me, tending plants is a reminder of the connections between growing in faith and growing seeds; of nurturing and taking care of things to not merely grow them but to help them flourish. I cannot provide all my vegetables, flowers, and plants with the same environment or feeding regimen because they would not all flourish in the same way…that is not how God made them. This same premise applies to the way in which I attend to the development of my own faith, and through my pastoral work the faith of others. Assuming the Holy Spirit at work in my life looks the same as the Holy Spirit at work in your life would be an error in judgment on my part.

However, just like plants need an appropriate amount of light to grow, I need to feel and experience God’s love for my faith to grow, and as Pope Francis reminds us:

(God’s) love will make every seed of goodness present on the ground sprout and grow. This opens us up to trust and hope, despite the tragedies, the injustices, the sufferings that we encounter. The seed of goodness and peace sprouts and develops, because the merciful love of God makes it ripen. (Angelus, June 14, 2015)

Trevor Droesbeck
Archdiocese of Moncton, Office of Youth Faith Development

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