There are two brief parables in Sunday’s Gospel reading: that of the seed which grows while the farmer sleeps, and that of the mustard seed. 

Through these images taken from the world of agriculture, the Lord presents the mystery of the Word and the Kingdom of God, and indicates the reasons for our hope and our commitment.

In the first parable, the focus is on the dynamism of the seed which, scattered on the ground, sprouts and grows by itself, whether the farmer sleeps or is awake. … What supports the farmer in his daily efforts is his trust in the power of the seed and in the goodness of the earth. This parable recalls the mystery … of God’s fruitful work in history.

He is Lord of the Kingdom, and man is His humble collaborator who contemplates and is gladdened by the divine creative act, and patiently awaits its fruits. … Now is the time to sow, and the growth of the seed is guaranteed by the Lord. All Christians, then, know that they must do everything they can, but that the final result depends upon God: this knowledge sustains them in their daily trials, especially in moments of difficulty”.

The second parable mentions a specific plant, the mustard seed, which is considered to be the smallest of all seeds. Nonetheless, despite its diminutive size it is full of life and, when it splits, a shoot is born which is capable of breaking the earth … and growing until it ‘becomes the greatest of all shrubs’.

Such is the Kingdom of God: small in human terms, … being made up of those who do not trust in their own strength but in that of God’s love, of those who are unimportant in the eyes of the world, yet through them the power of Christ breaks forth and transforms that which is apparently insignificant.

The image of the seed was particularly dear to Jesus because it well express the mystery of the Kingdom of God. In today’s two parables it represents ‘growth’ and ‘contrast’: the growth that comes about thanks to the dynamism intrinsic to the seed itself, and the contrast that exists between the smallness of the seed and the greatness it produces.

The message is clear: the Kingdom of God, though it requires our collaboration, is above all a gift of God, a grace which precedes man and his works. Our weak strength, apparently impotent before the problems of the world, if united to that of God fears no obstacles, because the victory of the Lord is certain.

(Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI)