Ordinary Time in the Garden

I am so happy that Fathers Leonard and Kilgallen have blogged recently on Ordinary time and especially its connection in the Northern hemisphere to the coming of Spring and Summer and the blossoming of plant life of all sorts. I have been looking for a scriptural and liturgical entrée into the world of vegetation for a while. Rising food costs and high gasoline prices, which are also linked to the rise in the cost of food due to the fact that so many foods are shipped from a long distance away, ought to encourage us to go green this summer. For many years I have grown vegetables in a small backyard plot or in a community garden. Aside from the great joy that new growth brings, watching seeds sprout and mature, there is the benefit of eating vegetables freshly picked and grown without preservatives. There is also a taste benefit, and not only with the obvious suspects, like tomatoes, but with homegrown carrots, beans and peppers. There is a cost benefit as well, as it is amazing how much a small plot of land can produce. Even from a small garden such as ours, we eat beans we have frozen, raspberries we have made into jam, herbs we have dried, and tomatoes which we have canned all through the winter. The benefit, however, extends not just to individuals or a family, but to the earth. Every vegetable we grow and eat in our backyard or neighborhood is one that does not have to be shipped from far away. It does not take a lot of space to do it, and even apartment dwellers can grow in containers, and the skill is something that can be learned from talking to experts or by trial and error. Gardening is truly Ordinary time, certainly for much of the world which still depends upon what they themselves can grow, as it was in Jesus’ time when the vast majority of people were engaged in agriculture. And this is the final benefit, I think, of digging in the ground and watching the plants grow and sometimes wither: Jesus’ numerous parables with agricultural themes. Parables such as the Sower and the Seeds (Mark 4:3-8), the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30-32), and all Jesus’ teachings dealing with harvest time take on new resonance after time in the garden. This is the liturgical gift of the garden: lectionary readings will spring to life all throughout the year. John W. Martens

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