Readings: Ezekiel 17: 22-24; Psalm 92; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34
By: Rev. Fr. Sylvanus AMEH
As we return back fully to the ordinary time of the Church’s calendar, the liturgy of the word leads us to holiness especially through the teachings of Jesus. In today’s gospel reading too, Jesus teaches us valuable lessons. Jesus’ very popular style of teaching was the use of parables. In today’s gospel reading, he uses two parables to teach us very important lessons of life: the parable of the growing seed and the parable of the mustard seed. And the things Jesus said in these two parables are familiar even to us. All three readings of today’s Mass talk about God’s work in our lives, but we shall focus on the gospel reading for our reflection, out of which we shall draw two lessons.
God’s power vs. Man’s helplessness
Jesus says in the first parable that the planted seed grows without man’s knowledge and understanding, yet it grows. Man absolutely has no power to decide the fate of the seed, whether it grows or dies, whether it bears fruit or not. All that man can do is to provide a safe and healthy environment for the seed to grow, after which he is powerless and the rest depend on God. But at the end, man reaps and enjoys the fruit.
One message this gives to us is that everything we succeed at is only because God allows it. We may work hard, trade wisely, study very well, drive carefully and many other such things, yet it is God who grants success. How God does it, we do not know; we just know that we are succeeding, and this is so because he is the God of mysteries. Little wonder God spoke through the prophet Zechariah that it is not by human might or power but by the Spirit of the Lord that victory comes (Zech 4:6). When we think of the fact that there are people who are far better off than we are, who work harder, are more careful and all that than we are, yet they do not enjoy the successes we enjoy, then we just realize how it is not by our making. This is why scripture says “It is not of him who wills nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy” (Rom 9:16).
God does these things for us because he loves us and cares most for us amongst all his creatures. The Psalmist even wondered why of all of God’s creation, he should care so much for man and keep him in mind (Ps 8:3). We must always therefore bear in mind that in relation to many things that happen to us and around us, we are completely helpless but for the power of God working in and for us. This should thus inspire in us, an attitude of gratitude to the God who is always there for us and helping us in our nothingness. If not for God, where would you and I have been? Think about this!
The power of small beginnings
In the first reading, God said he shall pluck a tiny twig, a small branch, and shall plant it on the lofty mountains, and it shall become a mighty cedar. In the gospel reading, Jesus said the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds, but it grows to be the biggest shrub of all. It is said that “Little drops of water fills the bucket” and “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a step.” This is the mystery of life, that many great things start small, and this reveals to us the power of small beginnings.
One of the reasons many people have problems in life is that they want things big all at once but unfortunately, it is not the case most times. Many are too impatient to wait for the process; they just want the result instantly. And this has led to so many societal evils. Even Jesus’ parable of the growing seed shows to us that growth comes through a process. He said the seed will first sprout, then produce the leave, then the stem, then the fruit. Notice that it did not jump from seed to fruits. Every little step of the way counts for something, but we often neglect the small things of life, yet, they hold the essence of life.
There is power in little efforts; though they may not seem to count for much instantly, but in the long run, they count for something big and we must learn to look beyond the now to see the possibilities they hold for the future. Only faith can give us this disposition, so our second reading today tells us to “walk by faith, not by sight.” If we put faith in our little beginnings, God will crown them with growth. The Church did not start big; it started primarily with 12 men but today, we have over 1.3 billion Catholics in the world, not counting Christians of other denominations. We should therefore learn to always do our little best and let God take care of the rest. Because our God is a God of mysteries, he knows how to turn small things into big things.