Plow that Field
Randall Smith: God has asked us to plant this field, the field we have before us now in the United States of America. And we do. . .what? We grumble.
I’ve been watching The Chosen with friends, a show about Jesus and his disciples. I’m not going to comment on it, but you can read Brad Miner’s review here. This column isn’t really about The Chosen as a show. There is a scene in Season 2, however, where Simon and Andrew are plowing and planting a field because Jesus has asked them to. They don’t know whose field it is or why they have been told to plow it, and since they are fishermen, not farmers, they find the work extremely toilsome and unpleasant. But they do it.
Because it’s Jesus.
This scene got me thinking about our relationship with the Incarnate Lord. I mean, if we really understood in our minds and hearts that the man talking to us was the Lord of all Creation, the One who was the ultimate Source of every planet, galaxy, cosmic black hole, and time and space itself, how would we react to His requests?
You sometimes see science fiction shows in which mankind encounters an alien race of incredible intelligence, and the lesson of such shows is usually that we should approach such beings with deep respect. Only the idiots try to kill these super-intelligent beings. But we have something greater than a “superior intelligence” with the Incarnate Lord. We have the Source of All Being and Truth. Not just an intelligent being, but the Intelligence that created whatever exists. Standing before Him would be like standing before Zeus, if you multiplied the power and wisdom of Zeus to an infinite degree.
More daunting yet, you would be standing before the One who knows all those evil thoughts and designs you so diligently hide from everyone else. How utterly humbling would that be? The point is, I can’t imagine doing anything other than kneeling in abject unworthiness. I sometimes think about this when I’m going up for Communion. It’s not that I think everyone should kneel, although personally, I prefer taking Communion at a Communion rail. But even then, I think, “Who am I that my Lord should come to me?” Kneeling just doesn’t cut it. There’s a big part of me that just wants to slink away into the floor. But I take it that Jesus wouldn’t like that. So I stay there.
Now, I take it that if Jesus found me kneeling there, pitifully, He would likely say something like: “Get up. Look at me. Your sins are forgiven. Now go out and plow this field.” And it’s hard to imagine that, if the God of the Entire Universe said, “I know your sins, but I forgive you, so now go plow this field,” you wouldn’t jump up and say to yourself: “Wow, I thought that was going to be a lot worse.” And then say to the Lord: “This field, Jesus? No problem. I am on it.”
I mean, it’s God. You have a chance to do something He thinks is important. What are you going to say? “Yeah, well, thanks God, but I’ve got some . . . you know . . . important paperwork to fill out.” If the CEO of your company came to you and said, “I have something I’d really like for you to do,” would you say, “Um, yeah, well, pretty busy here. Why don’t you check with Bill next door?” No. I think you’d probably say to your spouse or all your friends:
“The boss came and asked me – me personally – to do something for him today.”
“You mean he actually noticed that you exist?”
“Yeah, and he addressed me by name and asked me to do something special.”
Would it be less compelling somehow if you believed that the God of the Entire Universe said, “Hey, would you do something for me?” It seems to me it could only be less compelling if you didn’t really believe it was God. And quite frankly, even on the off chance that it was, it seems to me you’d hop to it.
Of course, what’s odd, is that we don’t jump up and go plow the field. In my case, there I am, kneeling at that altar rail, feeling totally unworthy (and I am), saying to myself, “Why would He have anything to do with me?” but then He actually embraces me (yay!) and asks one small thing — “Go plow this field for me” — and I start looking around as though I’ve got something better to do. I should be skipping like a young child just released from the hospital over to that field, but instead I’m hanging my head wondering “Why me?”
So God – not just any god, but the God, the God of All Creation – has asked us to plant this field, the field we have before us in the first half of the twenty-first century in the United States of America. And we do. . .what? We grumble. About everything under the sun. (And God just loves grumbling. On this, see the Book of Exodus.)
We say: “I want to plow a perfect field, the field over there with better soil, where the weather is nicer, not thisfield.” But God says, “No, this field.” And you say: “But there’s a pandemic. And corrupt politicians. And horrible people. And stupid bishops. And the pope says things I don’t like.” And God says: “Yup, that field.”
So you say to God: “Nope, not doing it. Not this field. Too rocky. No obvious pay-off. It’s owned by a jerk I don’t like.” We grumble. And moan. And complain.
But it’s God. Not your mother; not your boss; not a politician of the other political party. It’s the God of All Creation – the One who loved you so much He suffered horribly and died so that you could live. That God. The God. If that God asked you to plow a field, how stupid would you have to be to say no and then grumble about the working conditions?
You may also enjoy:
Father Bevil Bramwell’s Obedience
Dr. Elizabeth A. Mitchell’s To Lower Our Nets
Randall B. Smith is a Professor of Theology at the University of St. Thomas. He is the author of Reading the Sermons of Thomas Aquinas: A Guidebook for Beginners and Aquinas, Bonaventure, and the Scholastic Culture of Medieval Paris: Preaching, Prologues, and Biblical Commentary (2021). His website is: randallbsmith.com.
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