Our society, someone has declared, is suffering from “jumboitis”. We need the biggest military, the biggest car, the biggest guns, the biggest house, the biggest business, and so forth. We’ve got bigger and bigger buildings, cities, and even churches. “The bigger, the better” and “the more, the merrier” seem to be the adages that govern us. But are they really true?
Many don’t think so. Including Jesus. In the Gospels we find Jesus giving high praise for just a cup of water, two copper coins, five measly old barley loves and two dried up fish, little children, crowds of only two or three being gathered together, and services rendered for even the least of our brothers and sisters.
Today’s Gospel account (Mk 4:26-34) has two brief parables, both about tiny things – little seeds. The first is apparently about wheat and the second about mustard seeds, the smallest of all seeds. The farmer¸ once he plants them, doesn’t understand how the growth happens, he just knows that it does. If he plants seeds, waters and nourishes them, he knows they will produce and produce abundantly, the tiny little mustard seed growing into an unusually large bush. He also knows he is not in control.
Well, what does all of this horticulture have to do with us?
First of all, we’re hearing a warning, a warning that tells us that we ought not to confuse size with importance. Bigger is sometimes not better, the national debt for instance. Events attracting large crowds aren’t necessarily good events. Crowds have often been quite wrong. For example, at one time slavery was practiced by a majority of people in our American democracy. They were dreadfully wrong. Public opinion polls are not necessarily gauges of what’s right or what’s wrong as the media seems to suggest .
Peer group pressure is something that we’re all familiar with, and we all know quite well that what everybody is doing isn’t necessarily healthy, or good for us, or morally right. Many of our friends may be experimenting with drugs, but should we? Premarital and promiscuous sex can damage our sense of belonging and our ability to make a commitment for life. Unwanted pregnancies and AIDS can are often the result of illicit sex. When the consequences come upon us it’s only then that many people wish they had stood alone and apart from the crowd, stood with a minority who were glad they didn’t do what lots of other people were doing. Don’t confuse large numbers with what’s right or what’s good for your soul. Consider your choices carefully. Don’t allow yourself to be stampeded by the crowd. Jesus is giving us fair warning.
We can be sure of one thing. In spite of appearances, in spite of what a secularized world wants us to believe, God has not abandoned His world. God is at work in ways we cannot directly see. The way things look is not necessarily the way things are. There’s a phrase used throughout the Middle East that we Westerners should pay some attention to: “Things are never as they appear.”
We need to share Jesus’ words of encouragement. Everything does not depend upon us. Isn’t it pride and arrogance to think so? Besides, as Christians we ought to know by now that alone we can do nothing, but with God there’s nothing we cannot do. So very often it is little things that into big things. A thought becomes a novel. A spark grows into a forest fire. An idea can change the whole world. In today’s Gospel account Jesus speaks of mustard seeds and grains of wheat. Even though we may think we have little faith God can take it and make something wonderful out of it. God is always taking small and seemingly insignificant things and turning them into infinite worth.
Sometimes we’re not really sure about that. But it should be helpful to realize that if we simply give up, then God doesn’t have any effort from us that He can work with. If we think we don’t have any talents and simply don’t bother to act, then what will happen? Nothing. Nothing, after all, turns into nothing. Multiply zero by zero and what have you got?
We cannot stop wars. But we can be kind, compassionate and forgiving toward those around us. We cannot abolish prejudice. But we can be courteous and kind and have genuine respect toward those around us who are “different” from us. We cannot end crime and political corruption. But we can be honest in all of our dealings. We cannot wipe out poverty, but we can help those in need.
All of these are mustard seeds, little things that God turns into very significant things, small things that in the divine economy become big things. We should stop selling ourselves short, selling ourselves cheaply, considering ourselves to be of little worth in the big scheme of things. We are all very important, so important in fact that God’s only begotten Son died for us. Take to heart Jesus’ word for you today. Live by it. God is always making big things (a whole universe in fact!) from small beginnings.
God guides by planting and offering thoughts and inspirations in our minds and hearts. He guides; He doesn’t take control of our free wills. God guides by planting seeds of thoughts; He guides subtly, indirectly, in clues, in our hidden aspirations.
Which leads me point out the necessity of reflecting. We simply must make time and quiet moments to look at and mull over God’s clues deep within us, quiet times in which we can get in touch with our inner lives, times in which to reflect, in which we can become aware of those things to which the our surrounding world diverts our attention and consideration. Quiet time is not a luxury, it is a necessity. It’s not something we give to ourselves after we have taken care of other things. It should something we should dobefore we do other things.
With God, small beginnings can have amazing outcomes. So it is that with God we walk by faith, not be sight because God is in control when we let go and let God, when we nurture and care for what He has mysteriously planted deep inside us. We will not see instant results, something for which our surrounding culture has little patience because the world only understands immediate productivity. What we will see is the tremendous things God can produce from what little we have. We must walk by faith in order to see what God will do.