“The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”
Many things begin small and expand gradually over time. The universe is said to have started off small and compact (relatively speaking of course), and with a “big bang” it expanded, and is understood to still be expanding at every moment. When I was born, I weighed eight pounds and was a little over twenty inches tall. Today I am a bit over six feet tall and weigh in at roughly two-hundred and forty pounds. And with the availability of fast food, just like the universe, I am still expanding to this day.
Just as a mustard seed starts out as the smallest of all seeds, yet when full-grown is the largest of plants, so too God’s kingdom began small and has grown to be the largest of kingdoms. And not only that, but it is always growing, fishing men and women out of the waters of the world and into the salvific ark of Christ’s Church. The kingdom of heaven began in the region of Israel with one man and his chosen group of twelve apostles. Two-thousand years later there are estimated to be over two billion Christians residing in every continent in the world. This reality of small beginnings followed by marvelous expansion isn’t just true of the faith as a whole, it is also true of the faith in each of us individually.
Our faith begins small.
I can recall the first prayer I had ever learned as a child, a prayer that I said every night before bed with my parents and siblings:
Angel of God, my guardian dear, to whom God’s love commits me here, ever this night be at my side, to light and guard, to rule and guide.
Now I am a priest who has given his life to Christ and his One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. It’s amazing what a small seed of faith, what a single prayer, eventually grew to become over time.
While the first half of the parable of the mustard seed focuses on the small beginnings and gradual growth of the kingdom of heaven, the second half of the parable speaks of the blessing that the kingdom of heaven is meant to be for others. The smallest of seeds eventually matures to become a large bush “and the birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”
The kingdom of God is not meant to be self-serving, but to be a blessing to others. Salvation came through the Jews but was meant for all humanity. Just as a tree provides food and shelter to all kinds of animals, so too the kingdom of God is meant to be a kingdom that provides incredible blessings to others.
Our faith is not meant to benefit us alone. Our own growth in holiness is meant to help others to grow in holiness.
St. Anthony and the Desert Fathers pursued a life of prayer and penance, paving the way for all monastics that would come after them.
St. Patrick was purified by what he suffered, and growing in love, he consequently converted an entire Island of peoples.
St. Teresa of Calcutta reinvigorated a sense of charity throughout the world in more recent times.
These holy men and women, who over the course of many years grew in the faith, were not a blessing unto themselves, rather they became a blessing to countless others.
How each of us is called to be a blessing to others is according to our vocation!A priest is meant to be a blessing to the flock he cares for. A parent is meant to be a blessing to their spouse and their children.
We are called to grow in our faith, so that reaching maturity, we can be like a tree which is a blessing to others. And this growth of the kingdom of God, in our hearts and in the world, is something that occurs gradually, almost imperceptibly over time.