Your Personal Beanstalk

jack-and-beanstalkThe Bible today tells us about a cedar tree, I couldn’t point one out to you if it were standing in front of me. Sorry, prophet Ezekiel. And, my apologies to Jesus. I’ve never planted a seed in my life much less a mustard seed. But Jesus spoke to his audience uses images they’d recognize, so I’ll speak to you the same today. (But, Lord, they’re still good scripture readings!)

We would all agree that life is complicated; sometimes self-imposed, other times from other people or forces beyond ourselves. Much of life’s complication is our lack of preserving the three most important elements in our lives. We need to be reminded of them, to clutch onto and value them. Our scripture readings today all talk about transformation, growth, and deepening what’s important in your life.

Spirituality is completely and always about those things. So, am I talking about spiritual elements just because I’m a priest? These three are indeed spiritual. They are the beans, the golden egg, and the harp. That’s right. “Jack and the Beanstalk” is a biblical story not found in the Bible. This age-old fable becomes the fiber and muscle of our endeavors and of our lives.

It is believing in the power of transformation that takes on a new shape and a sturdy form in our lives. And then, by believing and accepting that, we find that these three wishes do come true.

The Magic Bean:  We can only trade in life what we have to trade; in other words, you need to have something before you can give or trade it away. If you have nothing to trade then you must rob or take from others. The magic beans are given to Jack to build his life. From those magic beans comes a beanstalk that is as high as the sky  (“The sky’s the limit!”).

It’s tempting to rely solely on the Catholic Church’s “beanstalk” to become own personal beanstalk. It doesn’t work that way. An institution cannot replace an individual’s personal homework.

It is only authentic if you find and claim it for yourself. You cannot climb someone else’s beanstalk. (Bishop/Church, Priest/Church, husband/wife, son-daughter/parent). You can only create and climb your own beanstalk. To rely on another’s beanstalk is to not take responsibility for our lives. We always have someone or something else to blame. It’s too easy, it doesn’t work, and it slowly erodes your own personhood. The personhood God created you to form and transform your entire lives.

The magic beans create a stalk for us. But beware. Bear in mind that throughout our lives there will always be those people who want to cut down our stalk, or reshape it into an image similar to their own, or just simply ignore it, as though our personal stalk doesn’t matter. But it is our stalk created from our magic beans that created it, and it is ours to value, cherish and possess for a lifetime. From this stalk and because of this stalk, we’re able to grasp and achieve the other two wishes.

The Harp: It represents the creative and energetic powers within us. If anyone dwindles them, then a slow death or depression occurs. We simply cannot live without that energy that propels us out of bed in the morning and throughout our day and into our relationships. It is the harp that is full of its music that harmonizes us to each other. It is our personal gifts that represent our uniqueness and personhood in this world.

The Golden Egg: It represents the context from which our life is lived; marriage, priesthood, city employee, teacher, whatever place we allow ourselves to be placed.
It’s interesting to note that the harp and egg are both stolen in our biblical fable. They are not freely distributed, they are not handed to you on a platter or inside a cereal box, (and no government can give you what you don’t already possess), they are not provided in life’s scheme, they are not a given.

By being stolen, we are choosing them for ourselves and then making them our own. We are claiming that they rightfully belong to us and we transform them to be an integral part of our lives. (Wasn’t “salvation” stolen for us by the sacrifice of Jesus?)

From these gifts, we carve out our position and hold that position in life, our whole lives.  Interestingly, do you remember how the magic beans are obtained?  From the cow that was sold. The cow that gives milk (mother! anyone?). We need to sell our mothers (in other words, become independent) in order to become persons with our own magic powers. We slowly become persons who can contribute and transform ourselves and this world with our magic beans, harps, and eggs.

To all those newly graduated from whatever level of education, please read this non-biblical Biblical story. It’ll see you through what happens in your life. It will see me through my unemployment until I steal life’s next golden egg.

Books by Fr. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.
All available in paperback or Kindle on

                                                     “Letters From My Cats,”
a collection of humorous and reflective letters written by my cats over twenty years
                                                           “Soulful Muse,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture
                                                  “Living Faith’s Mysteries,”
inspirational reflections on the Christian seasons of
Advent/Christmas & Lent/Easter – a great seasonal gift
                                        “Spiritual Wonderings and Wanderings,”
inspirational reflections on the Catholic Church and U.S. culture

                         “Bowling Through Life’s Stages with a Christian perspective,”
Bowling as a metaphor for religion and growing up

About Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS.

A Roman Catholic priest since 1980 and a member of the Society of the Divine Savior (Salvatorians). Six books on the Catholic church and U.S. culture are available on
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