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.
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.
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.
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."
From Fr. Tony Kadavil:
1) 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. But 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. Abraham Lincoln entered the Black Hawk War as a captain and came out a private. George Washington Carver, a little-known Afro-American agricultural scientist, revolutionized the agriculture of the Southern Unites 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
2) Do you know what happened to 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 in poverty. 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 for women. 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. But she prayed about it and decided to go ahead with the project, believing that everything would fall into place. With only two hundred dollars and a handful of other Sisters, she became the only woman in religious broadcasting to own a network. She went on to found a new house for the order in 1962 in Irondale, Alabama, where the Eternal Word Television Network (EWTN), is headquartered. In 1996 she initiated the building of the Shrine of the Most Blessed Sacrament and Our Lady of the Angels monastery in Hanceville, Alabama. This Sister, Mother Mary Angelica of the Annunciation, although she died, semi-paralyzed and unable to communicate, is seen by millions of people on her prerecorded twice-weekly program, Mother Angelica Live. Her network, EWTN, is available 24 hours a day everywhere in the world. Visitors to the EWTN complex in Irondale, Alabama or the Shrine in Hanceville, cannot help but be impressed with what God has accomplished using this little nun – a monastery, network facilities complete with satellite dish, a print shop and a Chapel. — Whoever would have thought that Rita Rizzo, coming from an impoverished background, and starting on her own with only a few hundred dollars, could reach out and help millions of people to learn and appreciate their Faith? Whoever would have thought that such a tiny seed would become such a large shrub? That is the way the kingdom of God works. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
3) 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 onlywatching something as horrifying and terrifying as a battle in progress, 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/)
4. Tiny killer of a giant bulldog: 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 man said, “Yes.” Well, the lady said, “I have to tell you, it’s dead.” The man demanded, “What do you mean it’s dead? What happened?” And the lady said, “My tiny dog Pekinese killed it.” And the man said, “Your Pekinese killed it? How?” She said, “It got stuck in his throat.”
5. Small plot and big plot of land: A Texan was visiting a friend who was a small Iowa farmer. “Is this all the 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.” “Is that right?” said the Iowa farmer. “I used to have a car like that too.”
6. 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 have working here?” With a twinkle in his eye, the pope replied, “About half of them.”
7. 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.
8. 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.”
9. A small farming village was threatened with drought because the rains had failed to arrive. On a hot and dry Sunday, the pastor told his congregation, “There isn’t anything that will save us except to pray for rain. Go home, pray, believe, and come back next Sunday ready to thank God for sending rain.” The people returned to church the following Sunday. As they sat down the Pastor gently rebuked them. “We can’t worship today because you do not yet believe,” he said. “But we prayed” they protested, “and we do believe.” “Believe?” he responded. “Then where are your umbrellas?”
24 Additional anecdotes:
1) ”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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) “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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) The seeds of love that they planted, and their prayers 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
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.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
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.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
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.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) People grow and mature at different rates. Thomas Edison’s teacher said he could never amount to anything and advised his mother to take him out of school. 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. Albert Einstein seemed so slow and dull that his parents feared that he was mentally deficient. 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) “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, it was 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) 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 people. Jesus knows what we too often forget: the size of the bush and the healthy spread of the branches depend 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, hands holding the future – and the seed, and you. That’s how much God 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, leaving 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) 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, and 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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) “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. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) 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 brothers and sisters 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.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) 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). Does our faith have deep roots? How can we know? What is our root system that nourishes us every day? [Francis Gonsalves in Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds; also Gerard Fuller in Stories for All Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) “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). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) Masterpieces come from the smallest beginnings: 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 Western literature is born from the twenty-six letters of the alphabet. From them came the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
18) “Is your name Jesus?” A number 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.] Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
19) Berry College, GA from Martha Berry 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 boys’ 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). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
20) The ‘Taos Hum, Sailing stones and germinating seed are all 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 are 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. Then there are the unusual insects, beetles of the family Lampyridae, which have long fascinated scientists. — In today’s Gospel Mark narrates another of such mysteries of nature in the parable of the seed that grows by itself. (Fr. Bobby Jose). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
21) 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 attempting to make any real or lasting change in the situation or in the attitudes which had created and then maintained segregation was pure futility. History shows us, however, that this small beginning was, in fact, the catalyst for the larger major civil rights movement that led to the 1964 and 1965 Civil and Voting Rights Acts respectively. These humble beginnings became 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 the result was the dismantling of blatant racism and legislated systemic discrimination,. This success of non-violent protest encourages us to continue to hope, to pray for, and to work toward completing the change, so that, eventually, people will never be treated and judged by the color of their skin but rather by 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). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
22) 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. 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; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
23) Yes, God adapts us for his purposes and no one should say, I cannot be used. An old song says, “If you can use anything Lord, you can use me.” And old litany says, The next time you think God can’t use you, remember:
Noah was a drunk
Abraham was too old
Isaac was a daydreamer
Jacob was a liar
Leah was ugly
Joseph was abused
Moses was murderer and had a stuttering problem
Gideon was afraid
Samson had long hair and was a womanizer
Rahab was a prostitute
Jeremiah and Timothy were too young
David had an affair and was a murderer
Elijah was suicidal
Isaiah preached naked
Jonah ran from God
Naomi was a widow
Job went bankrupt and was depressed
Peter denied Christ
The Disciples fell asleep while praying
Martha worried about everything
The Samaritan woman was divorced, more than once
Zacchaeus was too small
Paul was too religious
Timothy had an ulcer.
Lazarus was dead!
No excuses then — God chooses the weak and makes them strong!
In fact, it is often our very weakness that is the open door for God. In our strength, we are usually too proud to be of any use to God. Moses was too strong, at age forty, when he pridefully murdered a man and thought he was doing both the Jews and God a favor. But only at age 80, forty years later, was Moses finallly weak and humble enough to depend on God. Only then could God use him. Yes, God often uses the humble things, and the humble people of this earth to do his greatest work. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
24) Resolutions from the movie, “Courageous:” Watch: (https://youtu.be/jTkOdqKQHBE)
I DO solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, my wife, and my children.
I WILL love them, protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the spiritual leader of my home.
I WILL be faithful to my wife, to love and honor her, and be willing to lay down my life for her as Jesus Christ did for me.
I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength.
I WILL train them to honor authority and live responsibly.
I WILL confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy.
I WILL pray for others and treat them with kindness, respect, and compassion.
I WILL work diligently to provide for the needs of my family.
I WILL forgive those who have wronged me and reconcile with those I have wronged.
I WILL learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a man answerable to God.
I WILL seek to honor God, be faithful to His Church, obey His Word, and do His will.
I WILL courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfill this resolution for the rest of my life and for His glory.
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord. —Joshua 24:15 Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
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.
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...
"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?"
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
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 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."
Edward F. Markquart, The 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
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
Humor: Size Is Less Important Than Spirit
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
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...