There’s an old folk song that reflects the same truth that Our Lord tells his disciples in today’s down-to-earth Gospel. The song goes something like this: Oats, peas, beans and barley grow; oats, peas, beans and barley grow; nor you nor I nor anyone knows, how oats, peas, beans and barley grow.
Being clever, we think we know how the crops grow, but do we really? There is still something miraculous about the dry, seemingly lifeless seed planted in the earth that sprouts some weeks later with green shoots that, by their very nature, reach out for the heavens.
The more deeply we examine life, the more mysterious it truly is. Yet this is the world God wills us to live in. And rather than run from life’s mystery, we should accept the mysteries around us as places where we can most readily encounter the mysterious hand of the Creator.
The most obvious mystery perhaps is the people around us. We understand so little about anyone else, even the people closest to us. In fact, we may find the people closest to us the most perplexing. How many couples say, after decades of married life together, find that there are areas of the spouse’s experience that are yet to be revealed? Even in a religious community, do we ever really get to know the people with whom we share our lives day in and day out?
My old school motto was Know Thyself, two words written by the great German philosopher Goethe. And yet once again we are baffled. We may know a lot about ourselves, but do we really know everything? Do we really know what makes us tick deep down inside? We are a mystery even to ourselves.
Both of these mysteries point us to THE mystery, the One who describes himself as I Am who I Am. The purpose of our lives is to find union with our Creator. And yet God is infinitely more mysterious than any of us. Yet through it all, as Our Lord says in today’s Gospel, the seed sprouts and grows without our knowing how it happens. We just have to believe.