Maryknoll Father Tom Tiscornia in South Sudan reflects on the need to engage in new beginnings and challenges as one community and with trust in God's goodness.
Jesus proposes the question “to what shall we compare the kingdom of God?” He uses the word "we" to mean even us in this day and age. This is an interesting challenge – a kind of a wake-up call to make his message more meaningful and practical.
So let us try.
The readings for today speak about growth as a branch, as a seed and in courage. To grow is a part of life be it physical, emotional or spiritual. In most cases we are responsible for growing, we can nurture ourselves in many ways. Growth comes naturally if we allow it to happen. Like the man in the gospel who scatters the seed not knowing how it sprouts and grows, we too go through the same process and experience, mainly trusting in God to be sure that all goes well.
If we look at the reality of our new nation here in South Sudan we see that we are like the branch from the crest of the cedar tree that was broken off from Sudan in 2011 and became the world’s newest nation. There was great jubilation and hope that this new nation would bring new life and justice after so many years of suffering.
For sure it was the Lord who was with the people. Tremendous trust and hope was evident in all the people. The soil was ready for the new planting, the seed was in the people.
Just as the small mustard seed springs up and becomes the largest of plants so must the peoples of this new nation trust that the kingdom of God is possible in their midst. It is not beyond the realms of possibility and their hope.
Yet the reality of what has happened here in this new nation makes evident the fact that we cannot just stand aside and let it grow on its own. It is struggling and this is where we have to increase our trust and faith in the Lord and ourselves.
Just as Jesus spoke the word in parables so that the people were able to understand, we too have to listen and learn. What is it that Jesus is saying to us here in South Sudan or wherever we might find ourselves? Are we at new beginnings? Am I at a new stage in my life, maybe just finishing studies, entering into married life, a new parent?
We come from a past – the branch. It had its roots and now the new has to take root. It needs to be cared for and nurtured. Wouldn’t it be great if it could be like the scattered seed and go its own course as nature takes charge, eventually yielding fruit? That would be too easy and not allow us to use the intelligence and strength with which God has endowed each one of us. It would deny us the opportunity to work with others and to mutually learn from one another. This is the beauty of community, as St. Paul reminds us: We are all one body made up of many parts, each with its own function.
There is hope as Ezekiel prophecizes – to make the withered tree bloom. God provides and if the healthy branch that has been broken off is planted, then one can trust that it will flourish and become that majestic new nation that will yield the fruits of the people. Then with the Psalmist we too will give thanks to the Lord.
Photo: The village of Lakakudu in South Sudan, where some 11,000 people displaced by violent conflict in 2017 have been welcomed by host families. Photo by Trocaire.