The Inefficiency of the Kingdom

July 12, 2020


The sower sows the good seed and some of it grows and produces an incredible yield.  Some seed struggles with growth and other seed just become food for the birds.  It is a fascinating parable with so many layers of insight about God.  Yet sometimes we overlook the most obvious part of the parable, the sower.  We get caught up in results.  We are a result-focused society.  We are all about efficiency.  In the parable we begin with the beginning, there was a sower who went out to sow.  There is freedom of this action.  There is a throwing of seed that flies all over the place.  It is not planted in rows.  It is not just thrown in a single environment.  The seed is thrown all over the place and it lands where it will.  If we just take a moment to begin our reflection there, this tells us a lot about God.  He is not about efficiency.

On my first trip to Africa, I had to confront my own ignorance of the power and priority we place on efficiency.  When I was in Kenya, I went to a bank to exchange money.  At the bank I encountered an experience to which I was not accustomed.  I got there early in the morning.  I was the first in line before the doors opened.  I went to the foreign exchange line and waited.  It seemed like a long time before the teller asked what I needed.  I explained I wanted to cash some traveler’s checks into the local currency.  She asked for my passport and then had me sign a paper.  She then took the checks and went to talk to her supervisor.  Now in Kenya, like many African countries, conversation is a sign of respect.  Looking at the clock and getting the transaction completed is not as important.  So as the teller went to three desks and conversations ensued, I waited.  Then the teller ran into someone else she knew.  They talked.  All the while I was not only staring at my passport, but at the clock.  An hour later the transaction was complete and I went on my way.  One hour later.  I was impatient, confused as to what just happened and could not understand how anyone could run a bank like that.

When I arrived back at the rectory of the Maryknoll priests that I was staying within Nairobi, they explained how the conversations of the day are of importance.  The connectedness of listening to the conversation is more important than time.  I had so much to learn.  Efficiency and success—so often the Kingdom of God we long to see is all about that.  We sometimes look at the numbers, we do the October count in the diocese, we check to see how many hits the website gets or how many views the YouTube Mass has received.  All of this is about our sense of efficiency to see how the Kingdom is doing.

The Kingdom is truly about the sower sowing the seed.  Jesus was about love.  He would spend time at a well, He would move from place to place and He picked Peter, who denied Him, to be the rock on which the Church was to be built.  Mission trips remind me it is about the sower sowing the seed.  It really has very little to do about us.  If the Kingdom was about perfection, we would never have been invited.  We are imperfect; we are flawed from the start. Some of the most touching joy I have witnessed has been on mission trips.  On those trips I have visited places that appear to be broken and flawed, yet God reigns supreme.  This week may we take the time to think about the sower, His passion and desire to sow the seed without worrying about perfection and efficiency.  He is just about love.

The Kingdom is not about perfection——if it was, we would not be invited.  It is about the preferential option for the poor.

Father John Ouper