Gospel—Mark 4: 26 – 34
I have always been fascinated by time-lapsed photography. A camera would be positioned filming a flower for hours or even days, and then the video is played back and in thirty seconds and you see the beauty of the flower opening. If you stood there watching that bud for hours or a day you would probably not see the flower opening. It happens so slowly the human eye would notice what was taking place. Jesus uses this image of the slow and unnoticeable growth of a seed into a plant to teach us about the kingdom of God. Sometimes we expect God to work in spectacular and attention getting ways. Wouldn’t we love to hear a booming voice speaking from the heavens giving us instructions, or to see a tree grow from seed to full maturity right before our eyes, or a mountain to move from one place to another. These are the kind of signs that the people of Jesus’ day wanted to see, and they are the signs that Jesus told them they would not see. The lesson of Jesus today reflects the experience of Elijiah the prophet who looked for God in the lighting and the earthquake but did not see him there, he saw him in the gentle breeze.
Throughout the Old Testament and in the teachings of Jesus we are called to discover that God is almighty and all powerful, and God chooses to reveal himself in gentle and subtle ways. The Messiah did not come as the mighty earthly king or warrior; he came as the humble carpenter who died the death of a criminal. Who would have thought that this man, Jesus, was the Messiah? And not only the Messiah but God and man, fully human and fully divine. Who would have thought the he would rise from the dead? Yet, he did.
Jesus gives us a lesson on how faith grows when he speaks of the seed, the blade, the ear and the full grain, and we he speaks of the small mustard seed growing into a large plant. This is an important lesson or us because we can easily become discouraged when we don’t hear the booming voice or see dramatic acts. We might find ourselves asking, “Where is God?”, or even, “Is there a God?” Jesus tells us clearly by his presence and with teachings like this that, yes, there is a God, and He is in our midst. He usually moves so gently, quietly and subtly that we don’t notice his presence, but he is with us. It was not long ago, on the Second Sunday of Easter, that we heard Jesus say to Thomas “You believe because you have seen, blessed are those who have not seen, and believe.” We are those who are blessed because we do not see, but we believe. While we might not see the concrete presence of God, we are blessed with the faith to believe in his presence.
Another aspect of this is our growing in faith. It grows from the faith of a child, to that of an adolescent, then to adult. It grows from times of peace in our lives through times of stress, trial and tragedy. We come through these times stronger in faith than when we began, and we probably don’t realize how we have grown in faith. Our faith grows from the seed, into the blade, into the ear and finally the grain. It grows from the tiniest of seeds into the mighty Mustard Tree. May we be fertile ground for the seeds of faith to grow and bear fruit in our lives.
Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.