Thursday, June 18, 2015

We are all curious about the Kingdom of God. That’s why we come to church ... right?

In today’s gospel, Jesus deliberately equates the kingdom of God with small and unimpressive things. Today Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a small seed planted in the ground. Once planted you don’t see it, it grows slowly, invisibly; but despite its small beginning, it can become something very big.

Why do you suppose he uses these small things as metaphors for the mighty Kingdom of God?  What do you think he is trying to tell us?  He seems to be saying that God is building His Kingdom in ways nearly imperceptible to the world.                                                                    
St. Paul says it a bit differently.  He says those of us who are a part of God’s kingdom “walk by faith, not by sight.”  The work of God is invisible to a world that walks by sight and not by faith. Jesus’ parables tell us there is a mystery to life that is beyond our viewing.   And thus, to a world that celebrates showy success, and believes bigger-is-better; to a world that likes to think it can figure everything out, Jesus is saying:

God doesn’t work that way!
He is telling us that God works in small things, and patience in the unseen workings of God is essential. In God's kingdom things that appear to be small and unimpressive are treasured by the One who matters most ... our God.

The whole Christian story supports this idea, this teaching.  Like the tiny mustard seed the Kingdom of God entered the world in a nearly imperceptible, humble form; that at the time was virtually unnoticed.  A baby in a manger – an animal feeding trough of all things – is the way God chose to come into the world.  Jesus’ ministry lasted only three short years. He taught in a small, rural, out of the way community.  The men he chose as apostles came from the ranks of the common, ordinary people

One day he demonstrated graphically this message of how God works in small things. He took a few small barley loaves, the bread of common people, along with a couple of fish and fed thousands. Showing us what God can do with our tiny gifts. When teaching at the Temple one day he praised a humble poor widow, who gave a single coin as an offering, over the grand, attention getting, presentations of the rich.

So often we think the little bit that we have to offer will make little or no impact. But Jesus says - that’s not true! In the kingdom of God little things matter, the unimpressive are central, and the history of our Church tells us how true that is. Just look at the people in our church’s history who have made a big impact beginning with one small act.

When Francis of Assisi, as a young man, began to repair a small, old church by himself; he had no clue it would lead to the founding of a large religious order of men and women who would impact the world enormously.

Vincent de Paul, one day was preparing for Sunday Mass, and one of his parishioners told him that someone in the parish was ill and their family was destitute. He preached on their need at that Mass and that afternoon, and the people responded overwhelmingly. He never imagined that simple sermon would lead to one day his name being associated with the charitable works of virtually every parish in the world.

When Mother Therese hopped off a bus to help one dying man in the streets of Calcutta, she never imagined her Missionaries of Charity would one day number 5,000 sisters and be active in 133 countries. All of us are called to play our small part in building the Kingdom of God.

But this message isn’t just about the history of the Church. It’s also about each of our own experiences of God. Perhaps today your own faith feels small. Jesus says – that’s OK. That tiny seed of faith in our hearts, if we nourish it, can eventually grow into something beautiful.

I don’t know each of your stories but mine certainly reflects this teaching. When my wife Linda and I married, I’m a bit embarrassed to tell you, we were not married in the Church; and at the time our faith seemed small. But we came to Church on Sundays because something in our hearts simply told us to.  The seed of faith was in us, planted by our parents.  The story of that journey is too long for this homily but clearly from that small beginning God eventually brought me to this pulpit, and gave me the great gift of being part of this amazing parish community. The seed of faith that started so small grew in us over the years.

Jesus is also telling each one of us, we too can plant seeds and be surprised by how God uses our little seed. We must never underestimate God’s ability to take our small acts of loving service to others, our simple words of faith, and greatly impact the lives of others. The everyday kingdom of God is built on small moments of servant-hood, thoughtfulness and kindness.

God can take any small offering, any little seed we plant: a kind word, a brief visit to a sick friend, a quick apology, a short thank you note – and in the 21st century we have to say – a Facebook posting, text message, Instagram, email ... or ... even just a smile, and turn it into something big.  A simple conversation with someone at work might plant the seed of the Kingdom in them that one day blossoms forth.

Jesus says that’s how the Kingdom of God grows.

There may be people who come to St. Brigid parish on a Sunday, like Linda and I did in those early years of our marriage, not certain what drew them here. And your smile, a kind hello, can make them feel welcome.  That’s how we can help God’s Kingdom grow. Your small act of kindness, your welcoming smile, might change someone’s life forever.  Jesus asks us today to trust that God is at work even in the smallest of moments, occurrences and encounters.
This week let’s all commit to doing some ... small thing. 
You never know how God might use it to do ... something big.