A crop of young faces sprouted at one of the main intersections of our town this summer. The faces belong to Independence High School’s Graduating Class of 2020, but they represent a generation of young people hoping to make their way in a post-pandemic world. Theirs was a graduation with a lot less pomp, under these circumstances. The owners of this crop of faces graduated from a distance and received their scholarships online, via the High School website. Their pictures were accompanied by details about their accomplishments. But, although social distancing requirements depersonalized 2020 graduations, the same can’t be said of the graduates.
Like good farmers during droughts, many of these young people made productive use of their interrupted academics. They actually made a difference in the real world—whether by working with people of special needs, comforting the sorrowful or feeding the poor. Many in the Class of 2020 received scholarships recognizing the difference they made—and plan to make—in the recovering global environment they’re entering. And though Independence High is a public school, its graduates are answering God’s calling.
This Sunday’s readings present the word of God as nourishment for generations of the young seedlings planted on this earth to grow His presence. Whether their service lies in the fields of medicine, law, government, the military, the Arts, or even faith, God’s creatures grow in the light of His love. Sunday’s readings help us make sense of His agriculture, starting with the inspired words of Isaiah (Is 55:10-11):
Just as from the heavens the rain and snow come down and do not return there till they have watered the earth, making it fertile and fruitful, giving seed to the one who sows and bread to the one who eats, so shall my word be that goes forth from my mouth.
What we farmers return to the heavens are prayers for the wisdom, strength and courage to prosper his plan. One of those prayers is for the graduates of 2020, who will be coming out of a pandemic-sized drought and into a world starving for their wisdom. Our current population is as hungry as the Romans were for Paul’s inspiration thousands of years ago. In the following letter, he seems to be preparing the way for all new graduates (Rom 8:18-23):
For creation awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God; for creation was made subject to futility, not of its own accord but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.
The Class of 2020 has been loosed on a world filled with obstacles to that freedom. Overcoming those obstacles will require the will to find and nurture fertile ground. Whether they know it or not, they’re taking on the same challenge Jesus faced as he entered public life. Indeed, his is the spirit of every graduating class. In Sunday’s gospel reading, we listen to this story from his perpetual valedictory speech (Mt 13:1-9):
“A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, where it had little soil. It sprang up at once because the soil was not deep, and when the sun rose it was scorched, and it withered for lack of roots. Some seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it. But some seed fell on rich soil, and produced fruit, a hundred or sixty or thirtyfold. Whoever has ears ought to hear.”
The fruit of the Class of 2020 will feed a world hungry for hope. As they sow, so shall we reap.