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11 Sunday B: Kingdom of God


Michel DeVerteuil Textual Comments
We see Jesus in this passage searching for the right metaphors to illustrate the concept of the kingdom of God, and we are reminded that today we need to find new images to illustrate our own vision of God’s kingdom.
Verses 26b to 30. A farmer has sown a tiny seed; he now watches and waits for it to bear fruit. Jesus makes a comparison between the small and negligible start and the extraordinary results. The farmer is in no hurry, he simply waits and lets things happen. Whatever happens will take its own time and he must certainly not try to hurry it. He does not try to find out how this happens, but allows things to develop as they will. When the time is ripe the farmer knows that he must get to work. Stay with the slow movement, the first signs of the crop before it is harvest time. Experience the contrast in the last verse when the time comes and everything seems so easy and natural.

We think of parents who worked hard for their children and then one day they saw that it was time to move on and let them go. We remember leaders who gave their all to their jobs and then one day knew that the time had come to let others take over. We think of church pastors who gave themselves to their work and must now allow others to take their place.
Verses 30 to 32.
good deeds1
In this parable Jesus makes a distinction between the small beginning and the final flowering. “At the time of the sowing it is the smallest of all the shrubs of the earth.” We remember small acts that we know about and that have led to great results. Acts of love and kindness and loyalty that were done without thinking about what would happen in later years. Looking back, we now see that a great tree grew out of it with plenty of space for people from other classes and tribes to benefit from it. We think also of the many cultures that have found their home in the Bible.
mustard bush
In your meditation you can start from the time of sowing the little seed, a time of enormous potential; or you can start from the time of full growth and remember the small beginnings.
Verses 33 and 34.
You might ask yourself why a great teacher would decide not to speak except in parables.

Prayer Reflection

Lord we thank you for the times that a bible passage touched us deeply.
When we first read it we knew it was a beautiful word;
so we just received it like a seed sown on the land.
Then we carried on with our daily lives
knowing that somehow the words of the passage were there within us
be stillweaving in and out of our experience.
Gradually we began to catch glimpses of its meaning.
Then, quite unexpectedly, it all came together
and we knew that the passage was ours
and all we had to do was enjoy it and give you thanks.
Lord, in our modern world there are many things we can do
Just by pressing a button or turning a switch;
Eventually we come to think we can move people like that too.
Remind us that helping other to grow is something totally different.
It is rather like throwing a seed on the land;
Night and day we sleep, we are awake,
The seed is sprouting and growing, how we do not know.
We see some results and we think that the crop is ready
But we have to wait a little longer.
Only when the harvest has come can we start to reap.
Lord, we pray for those who work the land,
that they may reverence it and trust its rhythms
remembering that the land has many secrets they do not know,
that it must do things of its own accord,
and only when the crop is ready must they start to reap.
Walking with Jesus
Lord, it is not easy to keep the vision of Jesus alive in the world today.
The things we preach may sometimes seem irrelevant or trivial:
love your enemies, put the poor first in your calculations,
practice modesty. Jesus is always there with us
Yet we know that we must keep preaching these things
because if that tiny seed continues to be sown
one day it will become the biggest shrub in the whole world,
it will put out big branches and the birds of all the air
will shelter in its shade.
Lord, our leaders like to stand over us and hand down instructions.
But you are not like that.
You speak your word in parables, in bible passages,
In things that happen to us, in people.
We cannot get ot the bottom of them,
But you give us time
Because you only teach as far as we are capable of understanding.
You open the door of faith gently for us
secret
Then when the time comes we understand the parable so clearly,
With so much joy
It is as if you had taken us aside as your own special pupils
And explained everything to us.
Lord, help us to relate to other as you relate to us.
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Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration (An Alternative Approach)
Every Sunday we introduce the celebration by saying how people are welcome to the Lord’s banquet, made one in Christ, made brothers and sisters in baptism, and members of the church and of the family of God. This is all true as a set of abstract statements about what we believe about ourselves. However, that is not how it feels and in every celebration the first interaction is at the level of feeling: if we do not feel welcome, then no matter what happens, we feel rejected and that sense of rejection is a fact of human living. If we are to talk about banquets and welcome, then perhaps the first thing is for people to welcome one another, shake hands, and introduce themselves.
This notion of introducing oneself is so important psychologically that at meetings where everyone really already knows one another, it is often a good thing to go around and for each to give her/ his name, say a word of self-introduction, and tell others why they are there. The Eucharist is intended to be intimate in two ways: first, it is a meal of sisters and brothers with the Lord (and family meals are, by definition, intimate); and second, it is to be the centre of our religious lives for the week, and anything that is at the centre of our spirituality is also, by definition, intimate.
So rather than give an introduction, say something like this:
We are gathered here at the Lord’s banquet as his sisters and brothers, so it is appropriate that we should introduce ourselves to each other. Let’s do that now.
Homily Notes
helping others1
1. ‘Think global, act local’ is the wise motto of the ecological movement: have the big picture, but actually make a difference, no matter how small, in the right direction. However, the approach is one that is far older than the ecological movement: it is the basic notion we find in Jesus’s teaching about the kingdom. And we see it laid out in today’s gospel: the kingdom is not like the spread of a great empire, it is like tiny seeds scattered here and there. Where does one find it: in vast systems and worldwide schemes? No, rather it is discovered in little things. It is more like a tiny plant than some mighty building. But if it is given time, then the kingdom grows and spreads.
helping others3
2. But ‘thinking global, acting local’ is far harder to put into effect than we like to think. It always seems easier to lay the blame far away in some vast system and it seems very easy to decry our little efforts — in recycling for instance — as not really making a difference. In the same way, thinking in terms of God’s vast plan but then loving one’s neighbour is far harder than it appears. One can give up because the plan does appears to be off-track, or because the little acts of forgiveness and love seem to make no difference to the world. Indeed, there is always a body of people who see such little actions as really no more than a delusion to distract us from ‘real’ action.
3. In the face of these difficulties and objections, we have to remind ourselves of three aspects of the activity of building the kingdom.
First, the building of the kingdom is nothing less than bringing God’s love closer to creation. It is not the equivalent of recruiting converts or seeking out adherents to our way of doing things. The kingdom happens when it happens: whenever someone looks at the world afresh, has new joy, rejoices in beauty, or is encouraged to seek the good. This intimate scale of the kingdom is proportionate to the scale of the deeds we are called to perform every day. If we cannot communicate love in little things, then we will not succeed in bigger things.
Second, each of us is called to carry out the activities of building the kingdom as part of a community, this community, this church. We are not just a bundle of individuals who happen to share a view of the universe; we are one people bonded together as the body of Christ. We engage in all these little things knowing that all of those we can call brothers and sisters can work in the same way, we can encourage one another, support one another, and comfort one another along an often arduous path.
Third, we are people who are called to live by faith, act with love, and walk with hope. Hope is living with the ‘not yet,’ the apparent incompleteness of what we do, the energy to get up again after we have confronted frustration.
Helping others 4
4. ‘Think global, act local’ (or as we might rephrase it into more religious terms: ‘Think God, love neighbour’) also fits into the basic plan of salvation. We seek to build the kingdom of the Father — and we pray for its coming. We do this in union with the Son — we act as the body of Christ. We press on in hope which is an effect of the Holy Spirit living within us —and the Spirit enlightens and enlivens us.
5. ‘Think global, act local’ has become one of the valuable slogans for many groups. We Christians must also make this slogan our own: it can help us link the values of the kingdom to the practical actions our human situations demand, and it can give concrete expression to one of the pressing urgencies of discipleship.
***************************************************
Sean Goan
Gospel Notes
jesus preaches
While Mark places great emphasis on Jesus’ role as a teacher and frequently uses this word to describe him, we are not given much detail about the content of his teaching. One exception to that is in chapter 4 where we hear a series of Jesus’ parables of the kingdom. All the gospels agree that the parable was the primary means by which he taught the crowds and this was one of the main characteristics of his remarkable ministry. In this text there are two such parables about the kingdom, both centred on the theme of growth. In the first, the kingdom is likened to the situation that unfolds when someone sows seed in the ground. The seed grows independently of him, he knows not how, until the time of the harvest. Jesus wants his hearers to understand that as surely as the seed grows so too does the work of the kingdom happen. It is not up to us — it is a gift of God. The following parable says something similar, using language that echoes the words of Ezekiel from the first reading. The mustard seed is the tiniest of all but the shrub that issues from it is the greatest of all. So the kingdom, from insignificant beginnings, will grow to give shade to all who come to shelter in its branches.
Reflection
Cn Treasures
The unique message of Jesus is summed up by his use of the phrase ‘kingdom of God’ and his unique way of speaking about it was the parable. No doubt Jesus could have written a book or given a series of dogmas and rules, but he chose rather to tell short stories by way of illustration. The kingdom he speaks of is not the afterlife but an expression of how God wants the world to be. So the parables of the kingdom deal with God’s will for the world and how his grace is at work around us. As such, they offer both comfort and challenge. Today’s parables stress that we must not fret or worry but rather trust that the kingdom will come because God wants it to. They are an invitation to take time to consider how the plan of God unfolds around us in ways that are both surprising and sure.
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From the Connections:
THE WORD:
The mustard seed – that tiny speck containing the chemical energy to create the great tree – is a natural parable for the greatness that God raises up from small beginnings.
Farming is a matter of hard work and patient faith:  All the farmer can do is plant the seed and nurture it along with water and care; God's unseen hand in creation transforms the tiny seed into a great harvest.  Today’s Gospel parables of the sower and the mustard seed, then, are calls to patience, hope and readiness.
Jesus may have been directing his words to the Zealots, a Jewish sect that sought the political restoration of Israel.  Many Zealots were terrorists, employing murder and insurrection to destabilize the Roman government.  The Zealots dreamed of a Messiah who would restore the Jewish nation.  Jesus, however, calls them to see their identity as God's people not in terms of political might but of interior faith and spiritual openness to the love of God.

HOMILY POINTS:                     
We are called to seek the wisdom of God with the patience and dedication of the sower; we are entrusted with the work of making the reign of God a reality in our own lives with the gentle but determined faith of the mustard seed.
Christ asks us to embrace the faith of the sower: to “plant” seeds of peace, reconciliation and justice wherever and whenever we can in the certain knowledge that, in God's good time, our plantings will result in the harvest of the kingdom of God.
With the patience and hope of mustard seed faith, our smallest acts of compassion and generosity, in our unnoticed and unheralded offerings of affirmation and support, we can transform the most barren of places into great gardens of hope.

Ring of gold
True story:
A church had collected clothing for the poor and homeless.   The parish youth group volunteered to sort, fold and pack the clothes.  The kids made a game of it, trying on items that caught their imaginations, creating weird costumes, merrily clowning as they worked.
Then one of the kids felt a lump in the pocket of a worn cardigan sweater.  He reached in the pocket and found a little bundle.  He opened it to find a gold wedding ring.  On the paper wrapped around the ring was written in a shaky hand:  “I have no need of this now.  I hope it will help you.”
The hilarity in the room was hushed.  The ring glowed as it was passed silently and reverently from one young hand to another.  No one joked, no one presumed to try on that sacrificial gift for a needy stranger.
Tenderly, the ring was refolded inside the note.  It was secured inside the pocket of the sweater with strong safety pin; the sweater was then packed off with the other clothes.
But for the students, the radiance of the ring remained.
[Phoebe Ann Lewis, Catholic Digest, August 1990.]

Sometimes we never know how much a kind word we utter will mean to someone else or how even the smallest act of charity we extend will transform another person's life.  Christ asks us to embrace the faith of the sower: to be willing to plant seeds of kindness and joy wherever and whenever we can in the certain knowledge that it will, in some way, result in a harvest of God's life and love.  
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From Father James Gilhooley

A man walked into a store. He found Christ behind the counter. He asked, "What do you sell here?" Christ replied, "You name it." "I want food for all, good health for kids, adequate housing for everyone, and abortion to cease."  Gently Jesus answered, "Friend, I do not sell finished products here, only seeds. You must plant them and water them. I will do the rest."

 When Jesus told this parable of the smallest seed in the world, His disciples were in a downer. They had worked so hard and so little had happened. The famous mountain had been in labor and only a mouse had been born. Their work, begun with a bang, was about to close down without a notice.

Given their depression, the Christ told them this three verse parable of the minuscule mustard seed. Though its beginnings are modest, its final height is awesome.

He wanted them to realize that despite their few numbers and the opposition against them a great Church would arise from their labors. The history books show how correct He was.

Someone has noted that masterpieces come from the smallest beginnings. From eight notes come every hymn, song, and symphony ever composed. Arguably the greatest piece of music ever written is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - all of it from eight notes. All literature is born from the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. From them came the Declaration of Independence, the United  States Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address.

 But one does not have to produce masterpieces to have an effect. Small acts make a difference. Graduating college seniors hear much nonsense from commencement speakers. However, Sydney Schanberg, the Pulitzer Prize journalist, whose reports formed the 1984 film "The Killing Fields," was a blessed exception.

He told the graduates before him, "You are often told you can change the world. But that is rubbish. What you can do is make the world modestly better." He went on to speak of their own classmates who assisted the homeless and fed the hungry over their college careers. These people made a difference. They themselves grew and developed. They were helping people one by one. Bigger is not necessarily better. His message was it is a great thing to do a little thing well.               
Find a cause. Go for it. Take Gandhi's advice: "First they ignore you. Then they laugh. Then they attack. Then you win." We wish to see objects grow in a flash. Yet, Christ is telling us that though you cannot see it, the mustard seed is maturing. It will become among the largest of all plants. It will climb to eleven feet. No wonder birds flock to its branches for R & R and travelers crawl into its shade for lunch and a nap.

 A story is told of an experiment performed by a physicist. She wanted to show her students the effect a small object can have on block of iron. The block was hanging from the ceiling. The physicist began throwing paper balls at the metal. At first nothing happened. Then after a time the iron began to vibrate, then sway, and at last move freely.

The poet Lucretius wrote, "Dripping water hollows a stone."

 Everything must begin somewhere. No one emerged fully grown from his mother's wombs. If Christians could learn to bring together their modest contributions to the commonweal, can you imagine what a force for good we would be for those about us?

 The Nazarene is saying to us, "Develop where you are planted." He warns us to that often we quit growing because, as James Tahaney said, we prefer groaning.    

Some years ago I heard of an Oscar winning actor. He owed his career to an elderly woman. As a young man, he received bad notices. Finally he resolved to give up his dreams of becoming an actor. Then a note arrived in his mail box from an anonymous fan. She had heard of his despondency. She wrote but four words. "Keep acting. You're good." That small note gave him the courage to continue. From her four words grew an Oscar winner.

 I have worked for years with teens. They often have sorrowfully spoken to me of how little or no encouragement they receive from their own families, friends, and even teachers. Cannot you and I substitute for those silent people?  Cannot we do for them what the fan did for the actor? Our compliment need be no more than four words.

 Begin today. Encourage others. And remember the advice of Winston Churchill, "The difficulty is not to be expected in the beginning but rather when one attempts to stay the course."
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From Fr. Tony Kadavil:

1) D yo kno what  happened t the tiny seed Rita  Rizzo planted?
You probably don't recognize the name, Rita Antoinette Rizzo. Rita was born on April 20, 1923 She had a rough childhood  which  she spent mostly  ipoverty. When she was a young woman Rita decided to become a nun. At 21 she entered the Poor Clares of Perpetual Adoration, a Franciscan religious order fowomen. She believed that God was calling her into television ministry. At the time she didn't know anything about television except how to turn one on. Bushe prayed about it and decided  to go ahead with the project, believin that everything would fall into place. With only two hundred dollars and handfuof other sisters, she became the only woman in religious broadcasting to own a network She went on to found a new housfor the order in 1962 in Irondale, Alabama,  wher the  Eternal  Wor Television  Network   (EWTN) iheadquartered. I 1996 she initiated  the building o the Shrine  o the MosBlessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels monastery iHanceville, Alabama. Today this sister, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, is seen by millions of people on her prerecorded twice weekly program, "MotheAngelica Live." Her network, EWTN, is available 24 hours a day everywhere ithe world. Visitors to the EWTN complex in Birmingham, Alabama cannot helbu be impressed  with what  God has accomplished  usin this  little  nu - monastery, networ facilities  complete  with satellite  dish,  a print shop and chapel. Whoever would havthought that Rita Rizzo, coming from an impoverished  background, and startin on her own with only a few hundredollars, could reach out and help millions of people to learn and appreciate theifaith? Whoever would have thought that from such a tiny seed would becomsuch a large shrub? That is the way the kingdom of God works.

2) "Don't ever stop. It means a loto those around you."
In a restaurant, a familof five bowed their heads in prayer before beginning to eat. One of the childrena girl of about ten, expressed thanks for the entire family in a hushed voice, hehead bobbing expressively. A few moments later a couple, on their way to pay their check, paused at the family's table. "It's been long time since we've seen anyone do that," said  the man, extendin his  hand to the father. The fathesmiled and replied, "It was strange at first, but we always express thanks at hombefore we eat. The children continued it when we went to restaurants, so we juswent along witit, and now it's our way." The woman who had come up to the table patted the little giron the shoulder and, obviously touched, looked at the mother and said, "Don't ever stop. It means lot to those around you." It seemlike such a little thing, but it was witness. The seeds of the kingdom are littleand we are called to scatter them.

 3) Tiny killer of a giant bull dog:
President Reagan loves to tell the story of a lady who knocked on a man's door and said, "Do you own a black Pit Bull dog?" The masaid, "Yes." Well, the ladsaid, "I have to tell you, it's dead." The man demanded, "What do you mean it's dead?" "What happened?" And the lady said, "Mtiny dog Pekinese killed it." And the man said, "Your Pekinese killed it? How?She said, "It got stuck in hithroat."

4) Small plot and big plot of land:
A Texan was visiting a friend who was a smalIowa farmer. "Is this althe land you have?" he asked. "Where I come from, I can get in my car at 6:00 a.m. and drive all day and never see the end of my land." "Ithat right?" said the Iowa farmer. "I used to have a car like that too."

5) A visitor to the Vatican
was quite impressed with the beauty and power of the place. He asked Pope John XXIII this question: "How many people do you havworking here?" With a twinkle in his eye, the pope replied, "About half of them."

6) The word "impossible" is not in God's dictionary:  
You remember David, a pre-teen shepherd boy, taking down the mighty soldier Goliath? You remember Moses, the stuttering herdsman who, in a personal interview with God, was directed to liberate his nation from a two-thousand-year-old nation? As a boy, Thomas Edison was informed by a teacher that he was too stupid to learn anything. His teacher advised his mother to take him out of school. Albert Einstein seemed so slow and dull that his parents feared that he was mentally deficient. Winston Churchill was admitted to school in the lowest level classes and never moved out of the lowest group in all the years he attended Harrow. One observer has said, "Great minds and high talent, in most cases, cannot be hurried and, like healthy plants, grow slowly." It is so with God's Kingdom. We scatter the seed, but we are not ultimately responsible for its growth. We cannot make things happen. The process by which the kingdom of this world becomes the Kingdom of God proceeds very slowly, and that exasperates us. But, at the same time, if we have faithfully scattered the seed, we are not to blame for its failure to appear in its fullness. We are being cautioned, in these words of Jesus, to be patient. The word "impossible" is not in God's dictionary. Eighty percent of success is perseverance. How do you think Michelangelo got the angel out of the rock? The most successful salespersons are those who try and try again. Walt Disney was fired from his first job because he didn't have any good ideas. George Washington Carver, a little-known Afro-American agricultural scientist, revolutionized the agriculture of the Southern United States with the peanut and the sweet potato. Today’s Gospel teaches us how God causes His Kingdom to grow in human hearts and communities in a slow but steady way.

7)  He was given the very first Nobel peace prize: 
One June morning in 1859, 156 years ago, Jean Henri Dunant woke up and opened his door in Switzerland. He heard that a war had started in Italy. So, he hastily packed a few things and set out. He wanted to see for himself just what was going on. Henri arrived in Italy where he saw soldiers fighting on the side of a hill near the town of Castiglione. It seemed that everyone was shooting at everyone else. He watched as men were hit by bullets, gave horrible cries, and fell to the ground. Henri had never seen anything like this before. He felt that he should do something to help the wounded men. So, when the fighting stopped at dusk he went to the nearby town to ask people to go to the battlefield with him. Ordinary citizens: farmers, bakers and tailors responded at once. They spent the night there giving as much aid as they could to the wounded men. It was hard for Henri to forget what he had seen once he returned home, so he decided to write down his experiences. He described the horrible sight of battle and men being shot. He also suggested that every country should have a relief society, a kind of emergency aid service to help wounded soldiers. It was five years later before the first rescue society was organized in Geneva, Switzerland in 1864. It was called the Red Cross. And soon other countries joined the society. Everyone forgot all about Henri until an article appeared in a newspaper in 1895. In 1901 he was given the very first Nobel peace prize. [Peter J. Dyck, A Leap of Faith (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1990), pp. 74-78.] Whoever would have thought that something as seemingly insignificant as watching a battle would bring about so much good? But Henri planted a seed that would germinate and help millions of people all over the world. That's the way the kingdom works – “great harvests from tiny seeds.” That's the lesson from this parable. 


23 Additional anecdotes: From Fr. Tony Kadavil

1) "Don't ever stop. It means a lot to those around you." In a restaurant, a family of five bowed their heads in prayer before beginning to eat. One of the children, a girl of about ten, expressed thanks for the entire family in a hushed voice, her head bobbing expressively. A few moments later a couple, on their way to pay their check, paused at the family's table. "It's been a long time since we've seen anyone do that," said the man, extending his hand to the father. The father smiled and replied, "It was strange at first, but we always express thanks at home before we eat. The children continued it when we went to restaurants, so we just went along with it, and now it's our way." The woman who had come up to the table patted the little girl on the shoulder and, obviously touched, looked at the mother and said, "Don't ever stop. It means a lot to those around you." It seems like such a little thing, but it was a witness. The seeds of the Kingdom are little, and we are called to scatter them.

2)  "I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!" Helen Mrosla remembers teaching a ninth-grade class "new math" a number of years ago. Her students were working hard, but she could tell that they just didn't understand the new concepts. And they were growing more frustrated and edgy with each passing class. Then one Friday afternoon Helen decided to depart from her lesson plan. She instructed each student to list each person's name in the class on a sheet of paper and then write something nice about each one. The unusual assignment took the entire class period for them to complete. The next day, Saturday, Helen took those papers and compiled a list for each student of what others in the class liked about them. On Monday she gave each student a paper with what other classmates had written about them. The atmosphere in the class changed instantly; her students were smiling again. Helen overheard one student whisper, "I never knew that I meant anything to anyone!" The students were happy with themselves and one another again. It was time to continue with their math lessons, and no one ever said anything about those papers again. Years passed. Students came and went. Then the class was suddenly brought together again as young adults, and Helen's former students gathered around her. One of them had something to show her. Opening his wallet, he carefully removed two worn pieces of notebook paper that had obviously been taped and refolded many times. Helen knew without looking that the papers were the ones on which she had listed all the good things of each classmate. She was amazed as another former student told her that she still kept her list in the top drawer of her desk at home. Another had placed his list in his wedding album. Still another classmate took out her wallet, showed her worn and frazzled list to the group, and said she carried it with her everywhere she went. Helen was simply overwhelmed. [Jack Canfield & Mark Victor Hanen, Chicken Soup for the Soul (Deerfield Beach, Florida: Health Communications, Inc., 1993), pp. 126-128.] Whoever would have thought that what a teacher did out of desperation on a Friday afternoon would have such a lasting effect on her students? You never know. You never know how something you or I do will affect someone else. The funny thing is that we might not even think that what we did was all that important, but to another person it could have made a world of difference. Jesus taught us that the Kingdom of God is like that: seeds are scattered on the ground and the very tiniest of seeds produces an enormous harvest.


3) "He performed an action so sweet and simple:” The seeds may be little acts of kindness which take root and bear fruit. Oscar Wilde tells of an incident that had profound meaning for his life. He was being brought down from his prison to the Court of Bankruptcy, between two policemen, when he saw an old acquaintance waiting in the crowd. "He performed an action so sweet and simple that it has remained with me ever since," wrote Wilde. "He simply raised his hat to me and gave me the kindest smile that I have ever received as I passed by, handcuffed and with bowed head. Men have gone to Heaven for smaller things than that. It was in this spirit, and with this mode of love, that the saints knelt down to wash the feet of the poor, or stooped to kiss the leper on the cheek. I have never said one single word to him about what he did ... I store it in the treasure-house of my heart ... That small bit of kindness brought me out of the bitterness of lonely exile into harmony with the wounded, broken, and great heart of the world." We plant the littlest of seeds and it helps the Kingdom to grow.
4) “It must have been the seeds of love that they planted and their prayers that made the difference.” Clarence and his wife adopted a daughter who, they were told, had emotional problems. The administrator at the orphanage told Clarence frankly that the child would be better off staying there. But Clarence and his wife said Faith and love would conquer any problems, and they adopted the child. It didn't take too long, however, before they realized they had made a mistake. As year after impossible year passed, they consulted with principals, counselors, and teachers. Terms such as "character disorder," "sociopath," and "psychopathic personality" were used to describe their daughter's behavior. The experts all agreed that there was no hope for improvement. Over the years Clarence and his wife prayed, prayed long and hard, with no observable results. Eventually the girl ran away. A short time later she was caught and placed in a detention center, and later into half-way houses and foster homes. Clarence and his wife lost track of her, and they lost all hope of ever seeing her again. However, years later they did manage to reestablish contact with their daughter. They discovered, much to their amazement, that she had finished high school, attended college, married, and was raising two well-adjusted children. "We lost Faith," Clarence says, "but God was faithful. God never stopped answering our prayers." ["Faithful When We Are Faithless." Clarence E. Drumheller. Upper Room (January/February 1994), p. 22.] Whoever would have thought their daughter could have changed so much? It must have been the seeds of love that they planted and their prayers that made the difference. God works in ways we do not understand. God's ways are not our ways, and He works slowly but surely to achieve His will in this world.

5) "Of course, there is a way.” James A. Garfield, prior to serving as President of the United States, was president of Hiram College in Ohio. One day a father asked Garfield if there were a short-cut whereby his son could get through college in less than the usual four years. He wanted his son to get on with making money. The college president gave this reply, "Of course there is a way; it all depends on what you want your boy to do. When God wants to grow an oak tree, he takes 100 years. When he wants to make a squash, he only takes two months." [Emphasis (Lima, Ohio:  The C.S.S. Publishing company, Inc., June 1982), page 27.]

6) Diary of Private Martin Treptow:  At Ronald Reagan's inauguration, the President read for us an entry from the diary of Private Martin Treptow. We were ready to hear such energetic words. Private Treptow was an obscure World War I hero. The new President read this entry from his journal: "America must win this war. Therefore, I will work, I will save, I will sacrifice, I will endure. I will fight cheerfully and do my utmost, as if the issue of the whole struggle depended upon me."

7) "Oh, I don't think so." In the movie, Oh, God! God, in the person of George Burns, has prevailed on Jerry, (John Denver), the assistant manager of a supermarket, to carry God's message to the world. Toward the end of the film, Jerry is lamenting to God that nobody seems to be listening to the message. He tells God that he thinks that they have failed. But God doesn't see it that way. "Oh, I don't think so," God says. "You never know; a seed here, a seed there, something will catch hold and grow."

8) "Nothing much. Oh, there's a new baby over at Tom Lincoln's.” On the one hundredth anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's birth, John McCutcheon drew a famous cartoon. He showed two Kentucky backwoodsmen standing at the edge of a wood in the winter. One asks the other, "Anything new?" The other man replies, "Nothing much. Oh, there's a new baby over at Tom Lincoln's. But you know, nothing significant ever happens around here." Centuries before that someone might have asked in Bethlehem, "Anything new?" And the answer might have been, "No, nothing new. Oh, they say a woman named Mary had a baby in a stable last night. But nothing significant ever happens around here." And when that child grew up and taught, he taught about little things: salt, a cup of cold water, a fallen sparrow, a widow's offering, a lost coin, kindness done for "one of the least of these." So many of the greatest happenings begin in just such a fashion. They are no more than the planting of a mustard seed. Yet, in God's good time, the seed becomes a plant and puts forth its branches for the benefit of all.


9) Golden Bantam: In the Midwest, they plant more corn than mustard seed. One variety of corn is called Golden Bantam. Apparently, all the Golden Bantam corn in this country came from one stalk discovered on a Vermont hillside. How it got there is anybody's guess. But appreciating its special qualities, the person who discovered it carefully preserved its seed and planted it year after year. Now it is available to the whole world. That's how the Kingdom of God works. There are some things that are certain. Jesus says the Kingdom of God is one of them. Our job is to plant the seeds of the Kingdom and then trust God to bring in the harvest. Trust is a helpful ingredient. If we have it, we can go to bed and sleep well. Columbus had it. When he set sail, there was a group of people gathered to watch him leave the harbor. They were probably saying it was anybody's guess whether he would find anything out there besides scary storms and fish and boring food. Columbus had just enough evidence to trust that India was out there, waiting, and to risk everything to find it.

10) Mega-malls, mega-churches and mega-storms in contrast to tiny mustard seeds: Part of the reason we get discouraged is that we are victims of bigness. Cities vie with each other to claim the greatest growth and the fanciest entertainments. Corporations are proud when their company occupies the tallest building in the city. Every day we read in our newspapers about famous people doing famous things. We have mega-malls, mega-churches, and mega-storms. In contrast, Jesus spoke of the importance of small things: a mustard seed, a cup of cold water, a widow's mite, a kindness done to the least of these. Jesus knows what we too often forget: the size of the bush, the healthy spread of the branches depends on the vitality of the seed. When it comes to the seed of the Kingdom of God, Jesus speaks of it with an unshakable confidence, as though he held the future - and the seed, and you - in the palm of his hand. That's how much he trusts you to go on planting the seeds: a mother's prayer, a father's encouragement, a little girl's joy, a young boy's imagination, a Vacation Bible School teacher. That's how much Jesus trusts God to bring in the harvest. Just keep planting the seeds of the kingdom. Leave the outcome in God's hands. Pope John XXIII was one of the great leaders of the last century. Someone said that he ended his prayers each night by saying to himself, "But who governs the Church, Angelo? You or the Holy Spirit? Very well then, sleep well, Angelo." Let's plant the seeds of the Kingdom and sleep well. God will bring in a harvest way, way beyond anybody's guess.

11) Trainer of professional athletes: Mackie Shilstone is 5'8" and weighs only 137 pounds, but he trains some of the largest professional athletes in the country for example, pro basketball player Ralph Sampson, St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith, Will Clark of the Giants, Billy Hobbley of the Harlem Globetrotters. Mackie is not content just to train athletes physically. He wants to help change their lifestyles and ways of thinking as well. "I tell my athletes that they do have control over what their attitude will be about life. Their positive attitude and Faith in God make a difference." This morning we are celebrating mustard seed faith. Jesus compared the kingdom of God to a mustard seed.

12) "But trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle." Michelangelo, one of the world's great artists, was also a great sculptor. One day a visitor was looking at a statue that Michelangelo was making. The visitor said, "I can't see that you have made any progress since I was here last time." Michelangelo answered, "Oh, yes, I have made much progress. Look carefully and you will see that I have retouched this part, and that I have polished that part. See, I have worked on this part of the statue, and have softened the lines here." "Yes," said the visitor, "but those are all trifles." "That may be," replied Michelangelo, "but trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle." Successful people are aware of the trifles. As an Ethiopian proverb puts it, "When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion." The great writer Bruce Barton once said, "I am tempted to think there are no little things." That is why Jesus compares the growth of the Kingdom of God to the growth of a tiny mustard seed.

13) Seeds of liberation: In December of 1955 an Afro- American seamstress by the name of Rosa Parks stepped into a crowded, segregated bus in Montgomery, Alabama and sat in an empty seat reserved for whites. When the bus driver ordered Rosa Parks to move, she said, “No.” She was then arrested, handcuffed and jailed. This incident triggered the Civil Rights Movement. Under the leadership of Ralph Abernathy and Martin Luther King Jr., a bus boycott and other non-violent demonstrations were organized that eventually led to the abolition of racial segregation laws in transportation, housing, schools, restaurants and other areas. When Rosa Parks said a simple “No” to a startled bus driver, she started something far more significant than anyone could possibly have imagined in 1955. At a freedom Festival in 1965 she was introduced as the First Lady of the Civil Rights Movement. -This story about Rosa Parks and the plight of her Afro-American people is very similar to the situation of God’s people in today’s readings. Both the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel and the New Testament evangelist Mark are writing for a persecuted community, a people who are outnumbered and oppressed by their pagan neighbors. [Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]

14)  Tiny Seeds, Tall Bamboos! Chinese bamboo seeds are amazing. The seeds lie buried in the soil for five years before any shoots appear above the ground. However, after continuously watering the ground and putting manure on it, hey presto, in just six weeks the bamboo plant grows to a height of around ninety feet. How come? Botanists say that, unseen and unknown, the seeds germinate and develop strong roots that eventually break out and produce tall bamboos. So, it is with the Kingdom of God – and with any Kingdom, for that matter. - Too often has the Church identified itself with the Kingdom of God. It is rather the servant of the Kingdom. Like a large oak or Banyan tree that invites all birds to rest and nest in its branches and savour its fruit, so must the Church be open and inviting to all. Remember, no matter what we sow – for ourselves or in our family, Church or world- God, ultimately, is the Supreme Sower and it is God’s Spirit, who will fructify our little seeds and feed us at the “Tree of Life” (Rev 2:7). [Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]

15) “I do not sell finished products here, only seeds!”: A man walked into a store. To his great surprise he found Christ behind the counter. He asked, "What do you sell here?" Christ replied, "You name it." "I want food for all, good health for kids, adequate housing for everyone, and abortion to cease." Gently Jesus answered, "Friend, I do not sell finished products here, only seeds. You must plant them and water them. I will do the rest." (Fr. James Gilhooley).


16) Masterpieces come from the smallest beginnings: Someone has noted that masterpieces come from the smallest beginnings. From twelve notes come every hymn, song, and symphony ever composed. Arguably the greatest piece of music ever written is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony - all of it from twelve notes. All Western literature is born from the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. From them came the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.
17) “Is your name Jesus?” A group of men were returning from a conference and were rushing by taxi to catch a train. As they arrived at the railway station, the train was ready to move off. They rushed across the platform and began to board the train. In their hurry, however, one of the men accidentally brushed against a table on the platform and scattered some of the apples that the seller had packed neatly in a pyramid. As it happened, this man was a Christian. Without any further thought he shouted to the others to go on ahead, and he would catch the next train. He returned to the table and the apples to find that the person in charge was a twelve-year-old boy, and he was blind. The man gathered the scattered apples, put aside some that were slightly damaged, and stacked the others neatly, just as they had been before being scattered. When the job was finished the man took some money from his pocket, put it in the boy’s hand, and said, “That will cover for the apples that are damaged. I’m sorry for what happened, and I hope I haven’t spoiled your day.” He squeezed the boy’s hand in a reassuring way and turned to walk away. As he did so, the boy turned in his direction, and asked simply, “Excuse me, sir, but…. eh…. Are you Jesus?” -That man was a living sign of the kingdom Jesus is speaking about. [Jack McArdle in And That the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho.]


 18) Berry College, GA,  from Martha Berry’s playhouse: Martha Berry was born just outside the town of Rome, GA in 1866.  She was born into a wealthy family that owned a vast estate in that area. She asked for a playhouse and her father had a cabin built for her.    One Sunday as she was studying her Bible in the cabin, Martha Berry heard the voices of children outside. She went out and saw some of the poor children from nearby Possum Trot playing. Miss Berry was a teenager by this time and she called the children to her and began to tell them stories from the Bible. Her Bible classes met each week in her playhouse. She taught children that would never have had the opportunity to go to school. She taught them how to read and write. She taught them arithmetic and other lessons. Then, in 1902, she had the idea to start a boy’s school on nearby Lavender Mountain. She deeded land, raised funds and opened the doors to students, and The Berry Industrial School for Boys was formed. The school continued to grow, adding a program for girls.          If you visit Rome, GA today, you can still visit the house Martha Berry lived in until she died. You can also see the cabin playhouse where she taught poor children about the love of God. If you visit Rome, GA you can also see what her little mustard seed school has become. Today, Berry College sits on 28,000 beautiful acres of Georgia real estate. There are 38 major buildings and well over 2,000 students. Berry College is widely recognized as one of the outstanding comprehensive colleges in the southern United States. A school that had very humble beginnings has been a blessing to tens of thousands of Americans. (Rev. Alan Car). 

19) The 'Taos Hum,’ Sailing stones, and germinating seed: All these are mysteries, and man stands helpless before them. The 'Taos Hum' is a low-pitched sound heard in numerous places worldwide, especially in the USA, UK, and Northern Europe. It is usually heard only in quiet environments and is often described as sounding like a distant diesel engine. Since it has proven undetectable by microphones or VLF antennae, its source and nature is still a mystery. In 1997 Congress directed scientists and observers from some of the most prestigious research institutes in the nation to look into a strange low frequency noise heard by residents in and around the small town of Taos, New Mexico. For years those who had heard the noise, often described by them as a "hum", had been looking for answers. To this day no one knows the cause of the hum.

The sailing stones are a geological phenomenon found in the Racetrack Playa (a seasonally dry lake located in the northern part of the Panamint Mountains in Death Valley National Park, California, U.S.A.). The stones slowly move across the surface of the playa, leaving a track as they go, without human or animal intervention. They have never been seen or filmed in motion and are not unique to The Racetrack. Similar rock travel patterns have been recorded in several other playas in the region but the number and length of travel grooves on The Racetrack are notable. Racetrack stones only move once every two or three years and most tracks last for just three or four years. Stones with rough bottoms leave straight striated tracks while those with smooth bottoms wander. Stones sometimes turn over, exposing another edge to the ground and leaving a different-sized track in the stone's wake. The unusual insects, beetles of the family Lampyridae, have long fascinated scientists. In today's Gospel Mark narrates one of such mysteries of nature in the parable of the seed that grows by itself. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

20) The humble beginning of Civil Right Movement: In the spring of 1961, a small group of civil rights activists began the difficult, dangerous and sometimes deadly journey toward breaking down the racial segregation laws in the United States. At the beginning of these peaceful protests the size, intensity and ferocity of opposition against them suggested that the attempt to make any real or lasting change in racial segregation was pure futility. But History shows us that this small beginning was in fact the catalyst for the larger major civil rights movement that lead to the 1964 and 1965 Civil and Voting Rights Act respectively. These humble beginnings become the foundations of inspiration for additional legislation, used by Dr. Martin Luther King and others to help turned the country toward a more positive path. In the end it caused the dismantling of blatant racism and systemic discrimination. It lead to the mechanism of hope and change that eventually gave way to people largely not being treated and judged by the color of their skin but rather the content of their character. The parable of the mustard seed reminds us that the nature's growth is constant and inevitable. Night and day, while man sleeps, growth goes on. The kingdom of God also grows in human heart in a similar way. (Fr. Bobby Jose).

21) God is at work all the time: Don't think that you are either too young or too old to do great things. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin was 26 when he wrote Poor Richard's Almanac. Charles Dickens was 25 when he wrote Oliver Twist. Newton was 23 when he enunciated the Law of gravity. And there is the opposite side of the story: Emmanuel Kant was 74 when he wrote his deepest philosophical works. Goethe was 80 when he completed Faust. Alfred Tennyson was 80 when he wrote Crossing the Bar. Michelangelo completed his greatest work at 87. Titian at 98 painted the historic Battle of Lepanto. Chief Justice Holmes at 90 still wrote brilliant judgements. God works all the time and at any time!
(Plavendran & Victor Raj in Inspiring Insights; quoted by Fr. Botelho).

22) Giant trees: Great trees, massive living giants, deeply rooted in the earth, their boughs stretched wide across the horizon offering leafy shelter to myriads of birds, have been a favorite subject of poets and artists for centuries. Dendrochronologists (scientists who can discern the age of trees and the climate they have endured by reading growth rings) continually fascinate the public with their discoveries. For example, the oldest living tree, a bristlecone pine called Methuselah, has been estimated to have lived for 4,600 years in the California White Mountains. A redwood tree, 364 feet tall with a girth of 47 feet is reputed to be 3000 years old. A recently felled Sequoia was calculated to have been a seedling 271 year before Christ. Damaged by a forest fire 516 years later, the tree was fully healed and healthy again within a century. Because of its strength and endurance, the great tree, with birds in its branches, became an apt symbol for the great empires which held sway over the world (Daniel 4:10-12; Ezekiel p: 17:1, 31). The toppling of a tree or the lopping off of its branches was a way of describing the demise of an empire; the rooting of a tree or a branch signified the ascendancy of another power. As king of Judah, he was symbolized by the topmost twig of the tree, snapped off and carried away by a great eagle, Nebuchadnezzer, king of Babylon (Ezekiel 17:3-4). Within approximately thirty years, Babylon’s power began to wane. Ezekiel saw this as a sign of hope and added a coda (vv. 22-23) to his previous poem (vv.1-21). No longer a decapitated tree, grown rotten by abuse, Judah was envisioned by the prophet as being given another chance to flourish. Ezekiel promised that God would take a shoot from the old rotten cedar and plant it on Mount Zion. There, under the watchful care of God, the shoot would grow into a mighty tree and extend its branches in welcome to “every winged thing.” As a prelude to today’s gospel, Ezekiel’s words plant the seeds of hope and prepare his readers for welcoming and understanding Jesus’ parables about the reign of God in the gospel. Regardless of all obstacles, the reign of God will flourish and grow, “without our knowing exactly how it happens,” because God is a faithful and fastidious caretaker.  (Patricia Sanchez).


23) Too much body consciousness: Statistics taken recently purport that 80% of American women and 60% of American men are dissatisfied with their bodies. People regard themselves as too fat or too thin, too wrinkled, too grey, too pale, too dark, too short or too tall, out of shape, etc. etc. etc. On the market, there is a plethora of corresponding remedies for each and all of these real and/or imagined conditions. The Corinthians, and others of the ancient world, influenced by Greco-Roman philosophy and anthropology, were also dissatisfied with their bodies, but for an entirely different reason. . . and for them, there was no remedy except death. Recall the Greco-Roman notion that the body was a valueless piece of corporeality, weighing down the soul. According to one ancient thinker, “The body is a tomb.” Plotinus, the father of Neoplatonism, professed to be ashamed that he had a body. Epictetus, the Greek Stoic philosopher said of himself, “Thou art a poor soul, burdened with a corpse.” Seneca, a Spanish born Roman stateman and tutor of Nero wrote, “I am a higher being and born for higher things than to be the slave of my body which I look upon as only a shackle upon my freedom. . . In so detestable a habitation dwells the free soul.” Amid all this gloom and doom, Christianity injected a positive message. Again and again, Paul would refute those who would negate the value of the body by reminding them that Christ became incarnate, taking on flesh and blood to redeem humanity, soul and body. Christ gave his body as a loving sacrifice for sin and has risen in the body to everlasting glory. Therefore, those who are baptized into Christ’s dying and rising have become not corpses, slaves or detestable habitations but temples of the very Spirit of God - holy people, holy places, holy bodies. (Patricia Sanchez).

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From Fr. Jude Botelho:

In today's first reading Ezekiel points to the cedar tree which is symbolic of David's kingdom, which God promises to restore after the exile. God will make things happen. "I myself will take the shoot from the top and I will plant it upon a high and lofty mountain." This prophecy indicates that David's kingdom will not only be restored to its former glory but will be fulfilled in the kingdom of Christ. We cannot do anything to bring about the kingdom but God can and will in His time and by His power.

God is at work all the time
Don't think that you are either too young or too old to do great things. Thomas Jefferson was 33 when he drafted the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin was 26 when he wrote Poor Richard's Almanac. Charles Dickens was 25 when he wrote Oliver Twist. Newton was 23 when he invented the Law of gravity. But there is the opposite side of the story: Emmanuel Kant was 74 when he wrote his deepest philosophical works. Goethe was 80 when he completed Faust. Alfred Tennyson was 80 when he wrote Crossing the Bar. Michelangelo completed his greatest work at 87. Titan at 98 painted the historic Battle of Lepanto. Chief Justice Holmes at 90 still wrote brilliant judgements. God works all the time and at any time!
Plavendran & Victor Raj in 'Inspiring Insights'

In today's gospel Jesus explains how the Kingdom of God works through two parables. He says, the Kingdom of God is like a man who plants the seed into the ground and goes to sleep. The farmer's job is to sow the seed. He can do nothing to make the plant grow. His staying awake, his worrying about whether the seed will sprout will not help the process. He has to be patient and to wait in hope. He does not know how the seed grows and becomes a plant. Even though nothing much is happening on the outside, the miracle of growth is taking place within. Similarly, when we pray nothing may seem to be happening on the outside but harvest time comes in His time. We need to wait patiently for the Lord to do His work in His way. In the second parable Jesus compares the Kingdom to the little mustard seed that grows into the largest shrub so that the birds of the air can shelter and nest in it. It is in humble beginnings that great things are achieved. The kingdom of God is within us and grows silently. Its growth is invisible but certain because God is in charge. We find it hard to believe because we want tangible proof and speedy action. God works differently. His ways are not our ways! We are called to be patient and to sow good seeds and leave the rest to God. In this second parable which also speaks of growth, it contrasts the smallness of the seed with the enormity of the tree. The seed also symbolizes the insignificant beginnings of Jesus' ministry with the ongoing widespread growth of God's kingdom till the final consummation.

Bamboo Tree
One of the strangest seeds in the world is the seed of the Chinese bamboo tree. It lies buried in the earth for five years before any seedling or sprout appears above ground. Think of it! Five years! All during these five years the seed must be cultivated, that is, watered and fertilized regularly. Now comes the big surprise. When the bamboo seedling appears above the ground, it grows to a height of nine feet in just six weeks. Why does the seedling take so long to emerge? Why does it grow so fast once it emerges? Plant experts say that during its first five years in the soil the bamboo seed is busy building an elaborate root system. It's this root system that enables it to grow nine feet in six weeks. -Does our faith have deep roots? How can we know? What is our root system that nourishes us every day?
Gerard Fuller in 'Stories for All Seasons'

Let Him take care

One evening when Luther saw a little bird perched on a tree, to roost for the night, he said, "This little bird has had its supper, and now, it is getting ready to sleep here, quite secure and content, never troubling itself about what its food will be, or where it's lodging on the morrow. Like David, it "abides under the shadow of the Almighty". It sits on its little twig content, and lets God take care.
Anonymous

The Brick
About ten years ago, a young and very successful executive named Josh was travelling down a Chicago neighbourhood street. He was going a bit too fast in his sleek, black, 12 cylinder Jaguar XKE, which was only two months old. He was watching for kids darting out from between parked cars and slowed down when he thought he saw something. As his car passed, no child darted out, but a brick sailed out and - WHUMP! - it smashed into the jag's shiny black side door! SCREECH...!!! Brakes slammed! Josh jumped out of the car, grabbed the kid and pushed him up against a parked car. He shouted at the kid, "What was that all about and who are you? Just what the heck are you doing?!" Building up a head of steam, he went on. "That's my new Jag, that brick you threw is gonna cost you a lot of money. Why did you throw it?" "Please, mister, please. . . I'm sorry! I didn't know what else to do!" pleaded the youngster. "I threw the brick because no one else would stop!" Tears were dripping down the boy's chin as he pointed around the parked car. "It's my brother, mister," he said. "He rolled off the curb and fell out of his wheelchair and I can't lift him up." Sobbing, the boy asked the executive, "Would you please help me get him back into his wheelchair? He's hurt and he's too heavy for me." Moved beyond words, the young executive tried desperately to swallow the rapidly swelling lump in his throat. Straining, he lifted the young man back into the wheelchair and took out his handkerchief and wiped the scrapes and cuts, checking to see that everything was going to be OK. He then watched the younger brother push him down the sidewalk toward their home. It was a long walk back to the sleek, black, shining, 12 cylinder Jaguar XKE -a long and slow walk. Josh never did fix the side door of his Jaguar. He kept the dent to remind him not to go through life so fast that someone has to throw a brick at him to get his attention. Some bricks are softer than others. Feel for the bricks of life coming at you. For all the negative things we have to say to ourselves, God has positive answers.
Anonymous

God of small things!
"I cannot see any progress since the last time I was here," a visitor to the studio of Michelangelo said. "I have retouched this part," the master said, "polished that, softened this feature, brought out that muscle, given more expression to the lip and more energy to the limb." "But those things are all trifle," exclaimed the visitor. "That may be," said Michelangelo, "but trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle." -For God everything counts. A legend says many were standing at St. Peter's gate while St. Peter was reading the judgements. To one he read, "I was thirsty and you gave me to drink, come in." To another, "I was hungry and you gave me to eat, come in." And so on. In line there was also a clown who had worked only in a circus to make people laugh. He was afraid of St. Peter's judgement. He came to Peter with his head down, while Peter was reading, "I was sad and depressed and you made me laugh, come in."
J. Maurus in "A Source-book of Inspiration"

His ways are not our ways!

"Lord, in our modern world there are many things we can do just by pressing a button or turning a switch; eventually we come to think we can move people just like that too. Remind us that helping others to grow is something totally different. It is rather like throwing a seed on the land; night and day we sleep, we are awake, the seed is sprouting and growing, how we do not know. We see some results and we think the crop is ready but we have to wait a little longer. Only when the harvest has come can we start to reap. Lord, our leaders like to stand over us and hand down instructions. But you are not like that. You speak your word in parables, in Bible passages, in things that happen to us, in people. We cannot get to the bottom of them, but you give us time because you only teach as far as we are capable of understanding. Then when the time comes we understand the parable so clearly, with so much joy; it is as if you had taken us aside as your own special pupils and explained everything to us. Lord, help us to relate to others as you relate to us."

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From Sermons.com:

Most of us have planted a garden or lived on or near a farm. In my case, I grew up in Chicago where they have to put cows in zoos because so many city people are shielded from agricultural life and would never otherwise get to see one. But for eleven years I served as the pastor of a church in the agriculturally-oriented community of Davenport, Iowa. Davenport is located in Scott County which is Mississippi River land. It is reported to be some of the richest soil in the world. I learned a lot about farming while living there. I learned about soil and seeds. I learned about the need for cooperation and balance between the various parts of nature - the sun, the soil, and the rain. Having returned recently from a trip to Iowa, I was very mindful of the soil. As we drove along the highway we saw some fields which were completely washed away, others that were too dry. For all farmers, life is intricately linked to the soil. Having some agricultural background is helpful when it comes to looking at the three parables of the soils and the kingdom in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark.

The first such parable is called the Parable of the Sower (4:4-20). There are four different kinds of soil, Jesus said,
  • hard soil (a path);
  • rocky ground;
  • thorny ground; and
  • good soil.
People, Jesus said, are like those four kinds of soil. The Word of God is the seed which falls into four different kinds of soil.

The second parable in the fourth chapter of Mark is the parable of the harvest (4:26-29). The seed grows as the farmer goes about his work day by day. The day comes when the grain is ripe. Then comes the harvest. We must live with a knowledge that for each of us there will be a harvest day, a time of death, and a time of astounding change. Who would guess the wonders of heaven having seen the original seed of life?

The third parable about soil is the parable of the mustard seed (4:30-32). The Kingdom of God, like the mustard seed, starts small, but grows into a large shrub with many branches.

These parables of the soil are designed to take the familiar and use it to show something new. New perspectives are thus encouraged. New Kingdom participation is encouraged...
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 Steve Morrison tells a story about a friend of his who likes to read fairy tales to his two young sons at night. This friend has great sense of humor and often times ad-libs parts of the stories just for fun. One day his youngest son was sitting in his first grade class as the teacher was reading the story of the Three Little Pigs. She came to the part of the story where the first pig was trying to gather building materials for his home.

She said "...And so the pig went up to the man with a wheel barrow full of straw and said 'Pardon me sir, but might I have some of that straw to build my house with?'"

Then the teacher asked the class "And what do you think that man said?"

This friend's little boy raised his hand and said "I know! I know! he said, 'Holy smokes! A talking pig!'" The teacher was unable to teach for the next ten minutes.  

We may not be able to predict what our kids are going to say, but there's one thing for certain, it'll usually be something unexpected. Hopefully they won't repeat something we've said, that maybe we shouldn't and embarrass us. And the other thing we know for sure is our children are like sponges, they soak up everything we say and everything we do. 

What we say to them and about them makes a huge difference in who they become.

Listen for the Word of God and listen to what God is saying to you today as we read from Mark's gospel 4:26-34. 

What we say and what we do are like seeds planted in the hearts and minds and spirits of our children. Jesus makes it very clear that often times it's the smallest things which make the biggest difference in our faith. The same can be said about parenting. Watch this. 

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Our children will not only imitate us, but in many ways, they will grow up to be like us simply because we're their parents. Surveys show that parents still have more influence than peer pressure, even though the kids might rebel. 

So, you might say that parenting is kind of like farming or gardening. You see, I learned something about vegetable gardening from Grandpa Bauer, We Harvest What We Plant. If we plant squash, we can't expect to get corn. If we plant potatoes you can't expect to get tomatoes. We Harvest What We Plant. The same is true in parenting. And in my opinion, the best way to make sure we reap the best harvest is to plant the best seed possible. 

And that means we have to go back to elementary school for a little bit. Elementary school is where we learned all the basic for everything else we would learn. And one of the most important lessons for parenting in elementary comes from Show and Tell time. As parents we're called to Show our children how to live as a Christian in the world today. We're called to Show them how much we love them. And we're called to tell them how much we love them... 
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A Riddle

About ten years ago, the youth director on our staff told me a riddle, and then he left town on a week-long camping trip without telling me the answer. He told me the riddle, and then he said "Oh yeah, only 17% of Stanford graduates figured out this riddle, but 80% of kindergarteners knew the answer." And then he left! I could have strangled him! But here' the riddle:

"What is stronger than God,
more evil than the devil,
poor people have it,
rich people don't need it,
and if you eat it, you'll die?"
(Repeat)

The answer is: "Nothing." I knew I should have gone to Stanford!

Literally, the word parable means "a riddle." They are stories that leave the listener with the responsibility of figuring out just what they mean. Jesus told more than 40 parables during his ministry, and he only explained one of them to his disciples, so that left the disciples with a lot of figuring out to do. And then Jesus took the answers with him when he ascended into heaven. So here we are, some 2000 years later, still pondering what Jesus must have meant when he told the story of The Wedding Feast, or The Dishonest Steward, or The Good Samaritan.

Steven Molin, Yup, Them Are Mustard Seeds
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Mortals Only See the Beginning

All their lives the two young brothers had lived in the city behind great stone walls and never saw field nor meadow. But one day they decided to pay a visit to the country.

As they went walking along the road they saw a farmer at his plowing. They watched him and were puzzled.

"What on earth is he doing that for!" they wondered. "He turns up the earth and leaves deep furrows in it. Why should someone take a smooth piece of land covered with nice green grass and dig it up?"

Later they watched the farmer sowing grains of wheat along the furrows.

"That man must be crazy!" they exclaimed. "He takes good wheat and throws it into the dirt."

"I don't like the country!" said one in disgust. "Only crazy people live here."

So he returned to the city.

His brother who remained in the country saw a change take place only several weeks later. The plowed field began to sprout tender green shoots, even more beautiful and fresher than before. This discovery excited him very much. So he wrote to his brother in the city to come at once and see for himself the wonderful change.

His brother came and was delighted with what he saw. As time passed they watched the sproutings grow into golden heads of wheat. Now they both understood the purpose of the farmer's work.

When the wheat became ripe the farmer brought his scythe and began to cut it down. At this the impatient one of the two brothers exclaimed: "The farmer is crazy! He's insane! How hard he worked all these months to produce this lovely wheat, and now with his own hands he is cutting it down! I'm disgusted with such an idiot and I'm going back to the city!"

His brother, the patient one, held his peace and remained in the country. He watched the farmer gather the wheat into his granary. He saw him skillfully separate the grain from the chaff. He was filled with wonder when he found that the farmer had harvested a hundred-fold of the seed that he had sowed. Then he understood that there was logic in everything that the farmer had done.

The moral of the story: Mortals see only the beginning of any of God's works. Therefore they cannot understand the nature and the end of creation.

Brian Stoffregen, Exegetical Notes, quoting from A Treasury of Jewish Folklore: Stories, Traditions, Legends, Humor, Wisdom and Folk Songs of the Jewish People, Edited by Nathan Ausubel Copyright, 1948, Crown Publishers, Inc., New York
__________________________ Trifles Make Perfection 

Michelangelo, one of the world's great artists, was also a great sculptor. One day a visitor was looking  at a statue that Michelangelo was making. The visitor said, "I can't see that you have made any progress since I was here last time."

Michelangelo answered, "Oh, yes, I have made much progress. Look carefully and you will see that I have retouched this part, and that I have polished that part. See, I have worked on this part of the statue, and have softened the lines here."

"Yes," said the visitor, "but those are all trifles."

"That may be," replied Michelangelo, "but trifles make perfection and perfection is no trifle."

Successful people are aware of the trifles. As a Ethiopian proverb puts it: "When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion." The great writer Bruce Barton once said, "I am tempted to think there are no little things."  

King Duncan, Collected Sermons, www.Sermons.com
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The Mystery of Growth

If the growing seed parable seems to be about the mystery of kingdom growth, the mustard seed image is about the apparent weakness of the kingdom. The day will come when the results of the kingdom's silent, steady growth will be impressive. Meanwhile don't be surprised if the seeds you plant look ineffective. Don't be surprised if the witness you have to offer gets laughed at on account of looking so puny. It's the old "Jack and the Beanstalk" fable: Jack's mother scorns the tiny beans he brings home from the market. They can never live off those! So in anger she hurls them out the window. Those beans were a non-starter, a mistake, a dead-end nutritionally and in every other sense. Except that, of course, they ended up sprouting into a beanstalk that went, in a way, clear up to heaven.  

Scott Hoezee, Mystery Seeds
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Let the Gospel Run Its Course

For me, one of the classic interpretations of this Biblical passage about the seed growing automatically (Mark 4:26) was written by Martin Luther when he said about this text: "After I preach my sermon on Sunday, when I return home, I drink my little glass of Wittenberg beer and I just let the gospel run its course." I like that. Luther said that after he pounded on the pulpit and expounded the gospel, he would go home and pull out the Sunday newspaper, and pull out his glass of warm Wittenberg beer and start to drink it and enjoy the afternoon. Luther knew that the power of his sermon was not based on the power of his theological acuity. He knew that the power of his sermon was not based on his eloquence or his abilities. He knew that the power of the sermon would have no effect whatsoever unless the very Word of God got into a person's heart. Luther knew that he couldn't do that. It was the Holy Spirit who did that. Luther keenly understood the power of the Word.

Edward F. Markquart, The Mustard Seed
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Small Ways Every Day

I hate to bring up The Ten Commandments when I'm preaching on the Gospel of Mark, but...remember that they are very rarely Cecil B. de Mille, big-screen, neon-sign events. They really aren't. They are small choices made on small days, over and over and over again. Such as choosing to remember that God made us for freedom and gave us as a gift, not a punishment, rules to live by. Small things such as remembering God made us, so we don't make God. Such as remembering that we had better not put God's name on anything in a vain show of power. Such as remembering that if God made the universe from a little marble and rested, then we are just created and hard wired to let go of our tiny universes and rest too. Little things, like remembering not just to honor your parents when they are old and gray, but also to train your own children to honor you. And don't let them get away with small, crummy, petty things. And don't lie in small things. Then the great truths within you have a shot. And don't strike up teasing, betraying relationships. Almost every adulterous relationship that people bring to pastors like me is when their miserable family is imploding. Every one of them begins with small, careless choices. And don't murder, which may mean more than we want it to mean. And don't steal. I know that means more than any of us want stealing to mean. But if we don't steal in small ways, we won't get all messed up in big ways. And then this last one, which this year I think is the biggest one. Don't covet. Don't waste your life wanting another life. An old friend calls it a case of the "I wants." Whatever "I wants" you have right now-bigger, better, more, different-find little ways of not renting that room in your head. Little ways, like I will not think about this for five minutes kinds of ways. Things perhaps no bigger than a mustard seed.

I follow the God who showed up two thousand years ago in small ways on days of small things. A healing touch here. A compassionate word there. Small things like not giving up on flawed friends. Like praying everyday. Small things like enjoying life. Jesus really enjoyed life. Small things like speaking truth to power. Like giving his small, mustard-seed-sized life so that the great labor of the new universe of resurrected, reborn life could be created.

Martha Sterne, A Day of Small Things
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The Seed of Faith

Faith is a seed sown within the life of all human creatures. Faith is a seed full of potential for accomplishing great things for God. But unless that faith seed is nurtured and cultivated, unless that seed is given the opportunity to realize its potential, that potential goes untapped. Think about the keyboard of a piano; that keyboard contains in its 88 keys an "almost" infinite range of melodic potential and possibilities. Not only have untold thousands of compositions been written within its range of notes, but also many compositions can be played with various combinations and qualities of instruments and voices, and can be interpreted differently each time they are performed. Such is the vast potential of a piano keyboard.

What is true about music is symbolic of the human soul, too. A human life, beginning from an infinitesimally small cell, has potential for greatness and goodness. I believe this to be true of faith. Each of us has a kernel of faith, and within that kernel is a large potential to do God's will, to live a life full and productive for ushering in the Kingdom of God. Intellect, knowledge, practice will only release so much from that kernel of faith.

Merritt W. Ednie, God's Program In Process
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Humor: Size Is Less Important Than Spirit


A small fellow, not much over 5 feet tall, applied for a job as a lumberjack in Alaska. The foreman, thinking to discourage him, gave him a large ax, set him before a tree hundreds of feet tall, and yards in diameter, and told him to chop it down. Within minutes the tree had been felled. The amazed foreman asked him where he'd learned to chop trees so powerfully. The little fellow replied, "When I worked in the Sahara forest." "You mean, the Sahara desert." "That was after I got there," said the small lumberjack.

The point of the story is that size is less important than spirit, or intelligence, or courage -- a point made when King David was selected at a young age: "Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature ... for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart."

A faith that grows has heart, a heart that belongs to God. Faith grows from the inside out.

Merritt W. Ednie, God's Program In Process
___________________________________Growth Is in Our Reach

A third-grader taught the teacher an important truth: The teacher asked, "How many great people were born in our city?" "None," replied the pupil. "There were no great people born. They were born babies who became great people."

Greatness may not be within the reach of every one of us, but growth is. We are each capable of being a more mature person today than we were yesterday, and tomorrow can find us further along than we are today. And when we forget this vital truth, we lose sight of the essential meaning of life and the sources of its deepest fulfillment.

If a seed in its dark, restless journey underground is not content until it breaks through the mountain of soil and strains ever higher toward the sunlight, will we human beings be content to have our faith remain simply a seed full of potential?

Merritt W. Ednie, God's Program In Process
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The Details Raise Questions

Have you ever seen the Salvador Dali painting where clock is sliding off the table and another one is bent backwards on a tree branch? It is called "the persistence of memory." Now, you know that clocks do not bend and melt and do not assume the positions they do in this painting. But what might it be saying about time? What happens to time? Time flies, time melts away, time disintegrates, things fall apart ... You may not like Dali's painting, but you cannot help but think about it.

The details in the parable of the mustard seed are skewed. We might not notice, not being Palestinian farmers, but those who heard Jesus tell this parable sure did. Mustard seeds are not the smallest seeds. They are tiny, but they are not the smallest by a great deal...