Mt 13:31-35 From Smallest To Largest

Monday of the Seventeenth Week in Ordinary Time
(Click here for readings)
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed
that a person took and sowed in a field.
It is the smallest of all the seeds,
yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants.
It becomes a large bush,
and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”
I recently went on a mission trip to Belize with 15 other girls from my high school. Looking back, my fondest memories are of eating meals with the community. Every afternoon after classes at the local Catholic school let out, we would go to a family’s home for lunch. On the first home visit we made, most of us were expecting nothing out of the ordinary. At the monastery we stayed at, we ate about just as much as we did at home and didn’t question it. Imagine our surprise then, when the mother of the house served us our first lunch—multiple plates filled at least six inches high with rice and beans and fruit! Believe me when I tell you that it was an inhumanly possible amount to eat. Some girls even hid the leftover food in their backpacks and water bottles out of fear of being rude.  After lunch, we all staggered out of the house in near agony from walking in the tropical heat with a stomach full of starch. “Get used to it, ladies,” our campus minister told us, “they think that American girls need three times as much food to be full as they do.”  To me, that was a stunning example of how the rest of the world views the excesses of American life.  In America, more is better. We all know at least one person who blindly chases after happiness in wealth or other excess to no avail.  No wonder they are dissatisfied—they chase after excess when, really, the language of the human heart and the Christian faith is simplicity.

“The Kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants…  Take a sharp pencil and make a dot on a piece of paper. That is how small a mustard seed actually is. Why on earth, then, would Jesus Christ tell us that the Kingdom of Heaven is to be compared to something so seemingly insignificant?
?Think back to the last time you went to Mass. You sat down, entered into prayer, and kept your entire being fixed on the miracle happening before you.  But from a strictly superficial level, what made that Mass any different from any other gathering of people… say, a business meeting? Was it the priest? Certainly not—behind the vestments and the fact that he could probably school you ten times over in philosophy and theology, he is just another person born of a woman like you. Was it the space? No—the church was built like any other building.  But despite this apparent simplicity, did you ever really think that the Mass was just a meeting of people, planned by human beings for human beings and under the control of human beings? Of course not!  Even Catholics who haven’t yet come to particularly enjoy the Mass wouldn’t think in such a way. It is hard-wired into our hearts that God is working through the regular guy who we call Father, and that the bread on the altar is not just bread.
Even more, think about the Sacrament of Confession. What makes the confessional any fundamentally different from your office space or classroom, and the priest any fundamentally differentfrom some man on the street? But yet, our hearts know that in the simple humanity of the Sacraments lies an encounter with the divine.  
Or Baptism! Why on earth can something as simple as pouring water over the head of an infant make us so stolen of breath?
Or consider the Rosary! It’s only a twenty minute prayer, give or take. Many people pray it silently. There is nothing flashy about it whatsoever. But then, wow!  You can look back after a year or so of devotion, only to discover how much conversion has taken place in your heart– just like Our Lady told us!
?Now, try imagining the Mass from an “American” perspective. Why not put strobe lights and smoke machines on the altar?  If a miracle is happening, why shouldn’t we treat it like the greatest drama known to man? Why not make every priest do a dance and sing a song in the confessional to illustrate the intensity of God’s forgiveness? Or why not shout the Rosary on the street corner, or make it into a hit song? Again, something in us knows the error of that thinking. Dramatic displays like that seem so manufactured, whereas the simplicity of the Sacraments and prayer seems so natural. Just as the mustard seed is simple, so is the Kingdom of God.
“… and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches’” Simplicity attracts. Humility attracts. Why do they attract? Because they are the language of the human heart the way God created it. Jesus uses this incredible image in His parable of birds coming to rest in a tree. Nobody has to convince the birds to sit in the tree. They do not sit and question whether the tree is a good quality tree or not. It is their simple instinct to take shelter in it. That is precisely the way the human heart is attracted to the simplicity of the Sacraments—we instinctually know that by walking into Mass or into the confessional that we will encounter our God. Even though as Americans we are tempted to think that drama and excess are the indications of greatness, it is not even a question to us that God dwells in simplicity. It is attractive because it is clearly divine.
It is very telling that the human heart can still unwaveringly know this truth, countercultural as it may be. Recently, I went to adoration with a friend who is about to leave for college. I spent at least 3o minutes marveling at the fact that although we both have our own cars and could have been anywhere teenage girls like to go, there was no place we would have rather been  than in the presence of Our Lord together. It is incredible how these seemingly simple words of Jesus Christ are packed with so much truth.


Fr. Alfonse (1044 Posts)

Be the first to comment

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


Hide me
Sign up below to have the hottest Catholic news delivered to your email daily!
Enter your email address:
Show me
Menu Title