It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown
it is the largest of plants (Matthew 13:32).
single seed lies in the heart of silent soil, a seed so tiny one would hardly
dare dream of its growing into a magnificent bush. Only a sturdy faith could
trust that something so quiet and seemingly dead would hold the promise of
immense greenness and growth.
there is tremendous potential for growth in a seed, of itself it does not do
the growing. It is the sun and rain, it is the nutrients of the soil that help
the energy held in the seed to awaken and stretch outward into life.
The kingdom of heaven is like a small seed, Jesus said. This parable
describes how the reign of God—s love grows. The foundation
of this reign is based on a trusting faith, not faith as an
assent to a set of doctrines or religious practices, but a faith
that believes we can grow as loving human beings. This faith
is the persistent ability to believe in a gracious divinity,
one who empowers us to be spiritually transformed.
This faith lies deep within our spiritual soil. Jesus knew
the little mustard seed and its astounding journey of growth.
He knew the challenge of believing in something one cannot perceive.
This is the faith Jesus urged, faith that helps us believe in
God's transforming love even when our spirits are worn thin
with our whispered prayers of need and longing.
is the process of growing in our ability to trust God with the seed of
ourselves. We would much rather be in charge of our life, take control and have
things happen in our own way and time. But a seed is dependent on the factors
of soil and climate just as the seeds of our faith are dependent on the grace
of God. Like the mustard seed, our seemingly small beginnings of spiritual
awakening are capable of immense growth.
seed-faith usually grows slowly. It requires an assent of our will to God—s
ability of helping us grow, even though we may not feel God doing so. Faith
assures us that the One who planted the seed of faith will be there to care
for, strengthen and mature it.
I recognized this kind of faith in a story a friend recently related. The
Catholic Worker House never actually runs out of food,
he said. The meals they prepare may be mismatched foods
like all vegetables or mostly bread, but there—s always food.
However, last Saturday night they were out of food completely.
Fran and Brad were there alone and they were talking about what
they—d do without food for the noon meal on Sunday. They sat
together and prayed that somehow food would be there by the
next day. At 9 p.m. Saturday an unexpected group came to the
back door with five large pans of lasagna, masses of rolls,
cookies and potato chips. The next day at noon over 100 guests
showed up. Every person who wanted to eat got a plate full,
plus sweets and bread. No appeal for food ever went out—except
Fran and Brad—s faith turn God—s hand? Did their prayer cause food to be given?
No, the food was already in someone—s oven when Brad and Fran entrusted their
anxiety to God. Rather, prayer nurtured their seed of faith, helped the
potential for trust to grow larger than their concern and fear. Prayer held
their hearts in hope, filling them with peace rather than anxiety, assuring
them that what they needed would come their way in one form or another.
Faith is one of the best remedies for disturbance and fear. It allows us to
put ourselves in the hands of the Holy One and be at peace knowing,
as Julian of Norwich discovered, All shall be well, and
all manner of things shall be well.
is in our moments of vulnerability, uncertainty and need that our seed-faith is
urged to stretch and grow. It is then that we discover the power of trustful
waiting and the beauty of undefeated hope. Even the tiniest of seeds knows this
Talk about someone you know who has witnessed his or her trust in God.
What keeps you from trusting in God's transforming love? What can you do to grow in this trust?
this month's Questions for Reflection
from God in Our Midst.
The Mustard Seed of Kindness
By Judith Dunlap
Like all of Jesus— parables, the story of the mustard seed has many lessons
to offer. When I think about that tiny seed and the Kingdom of God, I think
about the rippliing effect one small act of kindness can have. When a person
offers a smile, a helping hand or a simple courtesy it can sometimes change
the course of another—s day.
I am not a morning person, and with very little effort I have managed to raise
a whole family of morning grumps. I remember the days when
all seven of us were playing beat the clock at
6:30 a.m. At best, our good mornings were grumbled
as we tried to keep out of each other—s way. Some mornings
our house felt like the proverbial powder keg, just a missing
sock away from disaster. On those mornings one person—s outburst
over an empty milk carton could sour everyone—s day.
I developed my mustard seed theory by watching how that powder keg could be
defused. It didn—t take much to set things right—a shared cinnamon bun, some
help searching for missing keys or a ride offered to school. One person—s act
of kindness could affect everyone. Since I am not my best at daybreak, it took
a conscious effort for me to be that person. It was an effort that worked best
when rooted in prayer.
When I started the day with prayer I could find some quiet peace inside myself
that helped me respond rather than react. Morning prayer helped me be my best
even when grouchy. And when I let it, that mustard seed experience of peace
could grow to fill a household. I picture the Kingdom of God as an eternal experience
of that peace—an experience we can sometimes taste even on grumpy mornings.
Draw names this Valentine's Day and see how many good deeds you can do for your secret Valentine. Have a special dinner to celebrate.
this month's FAMILY CORNER.
The television series American Dreams (NBC, Sunday nights) takes a
look at the 1960s in 2003 style—rapid cutting, overlapping dialogue, multiple
plotlines. The characters have an edge, and the acting is excellent. But its
appeal is in the way it recalls the simplicity of its time period, on the cusp
of a major shift of cultural tectonic plates.
The early 1960s are remembered in American Dreams as a time when everything
was in order. The father is the unquestioned head of the household, the children
and their mother know their roles and —Father— exercises unchallenged moral
authority over his parishioners.
American Dreams is told through one prototypical Catholic family, the
Pryors, in Philadelphia. The choice of a Catholic family affords the television
producers maximum contrast in depicting a world of changing values. The Catholic
Church at the beginning of the —60s arguably taught the clearest rules of right
and wrong and respect for authority.
The title, American Dreams, turns out to be ambiguous. The Pryor family
would seem to represent the American dream already fulfilled. Jack Pryor (Tom
Verica) has everything he ever wanted—a loving wife, four beautiful children,
a house with a yard, his own business (a television appliance store). But the
trouble is that the American dream of everyone else seems to be unfulfilled.
His teenage son, JJ (Will Estes), fights expectations that he must win a football
scholarship to Notre Dame—to the consternation of his father and his coach,
Father Ryan, who are not used to challenges to their authority. His teenage
daughter Meg (Brittany Snow), pursues a dream of dancing on American Bandstand—against
her parents— wishes. And his loving wife, Helen (Gail O—Grady), wants something
beyond her life as a supportive housewife. Even Henry (Jonathan Adams), his
African-American employee, is slowly recognizing the inequality of his position.
The changing values of the —60s and the moral choices that accompany them—birth
control and the pill, feminism, racism, psychiatry—are woven into stories which
in other hands could have been little more than nostalgia. We become aware of
the innocence we—ve lost. Families ate together every night, children were home
doing schoolwork. As the stories unfold, we realize that the issues that came
to the forefront in the 1960s brought changes that formed the world we live
Even as we may bemoan excesses of personal freedoms today, we look back through
American Dreams to see a culture where African-Americans were denied
opportunities, where psychiatry was feared and mocked, where few women had career
opportunities beyond child-rearing and housework and where unquestioned authority
was oppressive. And we recognize the bittersweet fruit of change.
AND HEROES AMONG US
By Judy Ball
St. Margaret of Cortona (1247-1297)
If Margaret of Cortona lived today, her story would be ideal
for a Monday-night TV movie: Margaret, a beautiful, spirited
young girl, loses her mother at an early age. When her father
remarries, his new wife wants nothing to do with the child.
Margaret grows into a rebellious teen, runs off with a handsome
young nobleman and bears him a son. After nine years as his
mistress, Margaret discovers the body of her lover, who has
been murdered by his enemies.
second half of the movie begins with rejection. Humbled and penitent, Margaret,
with her young son in hand, returns home and asks forgiveness of her father.
Convinced by his wife that Margaret is a woman of ill-repute who does not deserve
his love, he sends his daughter and the young boy away.
the plot takes an unexpected turn—and Margaret begins the second half of her
life. Weeping, she walks from her former home to Cortona, Italy, where the Franciscan
friars graciously receive her and the young boy. Under their guidance, Margaret
undertakes a life of public penance and service.
TV producer today might end the movie right there, but the second phase of Margaret—s
life is no less sensational than the first. She spent the remainder of her life
doing good—serving the sick and poor while living among them, devoting herself
to prayer, calling others to the same path of conversion she took. She joined
the Third Order of St. Francis and founded a community of Franciscan Sisters.
Margaret died the citizens of Cortona moved immediately to build a church in
her honor. She is the patron saint of the homeless, of single mothers and of
midwives. Her feast day is February 22.
As a young girl, Ona Harris—s dream was to serve in the foreign missions.
In a way, her childhood goal has been realized. As executive director of Simon
House in Detroit, she shares her faith and her love of God with poor women and
children who have HIV/AIDS and who live in a world set apart from most of us.
—Making a difference in someone—s life even though she has the worst disease
imaginable means everything to me,— Ona, 59, told Every Day Catholic.
—I know God has sent me here.—
Named after the friend of Jesus who helped him carry his cross, Simon House
offers a range of services from shelter and permanent housing to transportation,
food and clothing as well as HIV education, classes in parenting skills and
referrals to other agencies. Up to 200 women and the same number of children
are served at any one time (off-site and on) by the Simon House staff of 22.
After she married at 20, gave birth to a son and was divorced by 25, Ona learned
firsthand the importance of goal-setting. She held down two jobs, made certain
her son had a Catholic education and herself earned a degree in health care
administration from Mercy College Detroit. To get through the difficult days
she continually relied on God and —saturated— herself with prayer. She still
A member of the Third Order of St. Francis for the past dozen years, Ona Harris
has promised God that she will always somehow work with the poor. Whatever the
future holds, she puts everything in God—s hands. As she says to the women and
children she serves, —God will take care of us. We can—t make it without him.—