Transcript “The Smallest of Seeds” – 11th Sunday OT 2015:
In our second reading, Saint Paul speaking to the Greeks in Corinth in his second letter to them, says a phrase that’s become very popular in Christian language and in music and so forth, where Saint Paul says, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” What that means is that though we are of course citizens within the world, or journeyed in the world, we don’t belong solely to the world. We see all the things that everyone else sees, we see the events, we see the sufferings, illnesses, death. We see persecution and many Christians are even put to death, are martyrs of the faith. We see these things, we observe all the things of nature using the gift of human reason, but we see not simply by these. We also walk and live our lives according to something that transcends that: that is, faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. To have a vision of our life that is not simply just through human sight and reason, but also to realize that there is a greater calling, a greater goal or mission that we have, and it’s ultimately to be in communion with God here on Earth and one day in heaven.
Today, in the gospel, Jesus tells two parables that I want to touch on. And we return now this week, this Sunday, to ordinary time. That’s why I’m wearing the green again, okay? Not just because of the Riders’ pre-season first game. It always lands perfectly with the Riders. So I don’t know how many young people are confused, they might just think that’s why the priest wears green. But we’re in ordinary time and every year we go through one of the Synoptic Gospels, right? So you have Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. This year, year B, we’re going through Saint Mark, which is the shortest of all the Gospels, okay? And Saint Mark has the account of Jesus telling these parables that I wanna touch on with you today, because they speak about the kingdom of God, how it’s built up in the world and also in our lives. And there are important lessons we need to know if we are gonna be faithful Christians, walking not just by sight, but by faith. We need to realize this is the way that God builds up his kingdom. This is how God works in our lives and in the world.
First, a little story, okay? I’m making this up, obviously, but let’s say some years ago, somebody walked across to the general store, the Dufaux General Saint Front store, and Jesus was working the counter that day. Okay. I don’t know where the rest of the family was, but Jesus was there, and the person comes in and says, “Okay, okay, I’m from Saint Front, and so I need to have a perfect family with no problems and all that. So, could I buy a perfect family? Do you have some fertilizer that will help that happen?” So Jesus, being respectful, said, “Let me just check.” So he looked at all the shelves, he went to the back room, couldn’t find that. But he came out with some seeds, right? He said, “I don’t have that, but I’ve got some seeds. Okay, be patient, and eventually, it will come. Trust me.” And the person said, “Well, no, that’s not gonna do.”
So, next, he’s like, “Well, what about a… what do you have a good, perfect career? Maybe a successful life for me? Maybe lots of wealth and huge tracts of land?” As they say in Monty Python, “Huge tracts of land!” Jesus looked around on the shelves. “No, I don’t have that, but I’ve got some seeds for that, too, if you’d like. Just trust me, they’ll eventually…it’ll happen.” So he said, “Well, no, I kind of need it to happen right now,” right? So, third, he’s like, “Well, I guess now that I dealt with myself, and that’s not possible, how about world peace? We need justice. North and South Saint Front have been battling for years. Can we have communion? Can we have unity in our community?” Jesus looked, and he did go down to the basement there. He went to the back shelves. Still, nothing. He came back with some seeds. He said, “Take these, plant them, and it’ll happen eventually.” And the person left kind of discouraged. Why?
Jesus, in the parables, is telling us a lesson: that the gift of faith is given to us. We must freely apply it. We must plant it. We must cultivate the earth, yes, and put the seed of faith in good soil. But ultimately, he provides the rain. He provides the growth. The first parable, he says, “It’s like a farmer who plants the seed.” Yes, you did all that work. Good job. Seeding’s done. Now, you go to sleep. If a farmer went out to the field and mentally was looking at the crop and saying, “Grow! Grow!” Right? It doesn’t necessarily work that way, okay? You go lie down, you go to sleep, and you wake up the next day and you see the progress happening. God gives the seed, you plant the seed. But God provides the rain, God provides the growth.
This is a lesson for the spiritual life. This is a lesson for the kingdom of God. To teach us humility, to teach us patience. Yes, rarely, but possibly sometimes, we get big miracles that happen. And the miracle says, some theologians kinda frame it, it’s like the whole process of healing, the whole process of growing. We get a glimpse, if you will, it’s almost like time has sped up for a moment. Jesus heals a man who is sick and radically, immediately you see the eternal plan we have in a glimpse. And yes, at time God works miracles. But so often, it’s ironic, it’s paradoxical, when people witness miracles, they actually don’t grow in faith. And maybe it’s about our own pride. Jesus, again and again, works miracles, but what do the people say? They say, “We’ll believe you, if only you will work another miracle.” Right? He becomes a magician, a conjurer, rather than the son of God. The greatest message he has is that he is the word made flesh. To come to Him. But they don’t want that. They want their bread, they want their games. Like the Romans used to say it, “Give the masses bread and games in the Colosseum, and we can do whatever we want.”
Well, that’s part of the challenge, is that God typically, there’s exceptions, yes. Miracles. But typically, the way God works about bringing about change in our lives, to bring about what we ask for even in prayer, is sometimes over the course of…Think of it like a harvest. The seeding and the growth towards the harvest. It’s not immediate. We prayed last week for rain, we got rain. I was hoping, so you would come and make me king, that as soon as we walked out the church, storm clouds would come, the rain would fall, and then everything would grow perfectly. And you’d say, “Look at how powerful he is.” No. God gives, but also, sometimes he’s patient. Sometimes, as Saint Augustus, as some church father says…He always answers genuine prayers we ask, but sometimes he allows us to…Our souls to kind of expand, to grow, to receive all that he has planned for us. To give us the capacity to receive what he is to give. It’s sort of like, we ask for a drink, but maybe at that time, our…we’re like little cups. Like those little Dixie cups. Maybe God’s waiting for us to be a big cup, to receive all the grace, all the blessings He wants to give. And often, God knows even better than ourselves what we need to receive. So, sometimes we need to be patient. We need to be humble.
Another lesson of that parable is this and I’ll speak as a priest, but you can see it in your lives, too. Sometimes, we want to see immediate results. So, a priest, especially nowadays, we don’t get lucky enough that we get to stay for 10 or 20 or 30 years, where we see a generation or two of change and growth. But rather, we baptize children, we do weddings, we do masses, and before long, the time is to go. And as a priest it can be discouraging, I’ll say. I’ve talked even with other brother priests. It’s that you don’t often see that in the fruits of your labor. Imagine if, in farming, all you ever got to do is plant the seed, work the field, and never got to reap the harvest. It’s the life of apostles, of bishops, of priests. Typically, we plant the seed, we might water it a bit, but we don’t actually ever see the harvest. We see the harvest of other guys work, but we don’t always see the fruits of our own labors. This is a sacrifice, this is a challenge, but ultimately it should keep priests- and it should keep Christians, too- humble. That we don’t always see the immediate fruition of our work, because ultimately it’s not about our work. It’s God who provides the growth, provides the rain water that flows down.
This is a challenge in our lives, too. You see that in families. In strong, Catholic families. Families like we have from here in Saint Front. Sometimes, you know what? All those lessons, all those teachings, all those times of prayer, all the prayer for your children and grandchildren. Sometimes you can get discouraged, as I can to, with peers or family members, too. You say, “Was it worth it? Did I fail? Did I plant the right seed? Did I work hard enough in passing on that faith, that relationship with Christ?” But it’s not always immediate results. Sometimes the church, sometimes the faith, the seed of faith planted will be nurtured, will be growing. And sometimes, even long after you’re gone, you’ll see a flourishing of faith. So it’s important not to be discouraged, for the kingdom of God is growing. But often, we’re just sacred vessels in that. We don’t have complete control over it.
Finally, the last lesson is that message of growth. The seed, too, is not the most elaborate, the greatest of all seeds. Jesus says it’s like the mustard seed, which is the tiniest seed. I’ve never seen a mustard seed, but I think it’s pretty small or at least it was the smallest seed that Jesus knew about at that time. And the seed, though, is the smallest, but it becomes the greatest. This is an analogy, this is a metaphor for what will happen with the kingdom of God He establishes. Jesus comes into the world, into the lowliest, the most useless of all the nations of the world. Historically speaking, the Israelite people were kind of a silly little people in the middle of a bunch of empires. They’re insignificant on the crossroads, they’re country bumpkins, okay? He’s not even just born in the capital of that land of Judah, He’s born in a backwater, washed-up old town of Bethlehem. And that’s not even good enough, there. He wasn’t even able to be born in a nice home, He had to be born in a cave, and he was place where animals eat, in a trough. You see, the littlest often becomes the greatest. And the seed too, Jesus tells in another parable…Unless it’s a grain of wheat? Falls into the earth and dies. Breaks apart. If it’s not broken and dies, it can’t bear fruit. We see that if Christ was establishing a church, or anyone was establishing a religion, the most ridiculous symbol and message would be crucifixion. But from this has come the most recognizable symbol of God in the world. From this has come the flourishing of the church. Because Christ has died, like that little seed, and has borne great fruit in the church. All nations, all peoples, like the birds of the air, come and make their homes in that church. Not some building, but rather the very mystical body of blood of Christ Jesus.
As we continue this mass, we place some of our concerns, some of our fears. Each one of us, we wonder, “Have we done enough to build up Christ’s kingdom?” Well ultimately, we plant the seeds, we do the work, yes, but God will give the rains. God will give the growth. And we can trust that he is at work now, and he will be at work until the end of time.