The Kingdom of God is like...
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
The month of June is dedicated to increased devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Let us ask our good Lord for the grace to know and understand His personal love for each one of us!
This Sunday I share with you a meditation on Discipleship – following Jesus. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“The Mustard Seed - God makes use of little things to act in souls: Thus says the Lord God: ‘I Myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar, and will set it out; I will break off from the topmost of its young twigs a tender one, and I Myself will plant it upon a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain height of Israel will I plant it, that it may bring forth boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar; and under it shall dwell all kinds of beasts.’ (Ez. 17:22-24) These beautiful words of the prophet Ezechiel, taken from the First Reading of today’s Holy Mass, remind us how God uses what is little to work in the world and in souls. Jesus gives us the same teaching. The Kingdom of God is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds of the earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade. (Mark 4:31-32)
Our Lord chose a few men to begin the work of evangelization. For the most part they were humble fishermen, unlettered men, with evident defects and few material resources. He chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Cor. 1:27) Looking at things from a purely human point of view, it is impossible to ex-plain how these men could have spread the teaching of Christ to the whole known world is so short a time, with so many obstacles and so much opposition to overcome. In the parable of the grain of mustard seed, writes St. John Chrysostom, Jesus urges His disciples to have Faith and to be confident that the preaching of the Gospel will be carried out in spite of everything. (St. John Chrys-ostom, Homilies on St. Matthew’s Gospel, 46)
We too are like that grain of mustard seed in the task given to us by God in the middle of the world. We ought not to forget the dis-proportion between the means we have, our talents, and the magnitude of the apostolate we have to do. But neither should we forget that we can always count on God’s help. Difficulties will come and we will be more aware of our own nothingness. This should bring us to have more trust in the Master and in the supernatural character of the task we are trying to accomplish. In the moments of struggle and opposition, when perhaps ‘the good’ fill your way with obstacles, lift up your apostolic heart: listen to Jesus as He speaks of the grain of mustard seed and of the leaven. And say to Him: edissere nobis parabola: explain the parable to me’… And you will feel the joy of contemplating the victory to come: the birds of the air will lodge in the branches of your apostolate, now only in its beginnings, and the whole of the meal leavened. (J. Escriva, The Way, 695)
If we don’t lose sight of our littleness and the power of grace we will be always strong and faithful in what God asks of us. If we do not keep our eyes fixed on Jesus we will become discouraged and pessimistic and will soon abandon the task. With God we can do all things.
Difficulties ought not to discourage us: The Apostles and first Christians faced a society threatened in its very foundations; a society in which it was well nigh impossible to have ideals. St. Paul describes Roman society and the pagan world as places where the natural light of reason had been darkened in many ways, especially in regard to the dignity of the human person. He goes on to say: Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the Truth about God for a lie and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, Who is blessed forever! Amen.
For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. Their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural, and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in their own persons the due penalty for their error.
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a base mind and to improper conduct. They were filled with all manner of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity, they were gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Rom. 1:24-31) Working from within society, Christians changed it. There the seed fell, then spread to the whole world. Although it was a small seed it carried a Divine Power, because the seed was Christ’s. The first Christians who came to Rome were no different from ourselves, and with God’s help were able to do an effective apostolate, working shoulder to shoulder, in the same jobs as everyone else, facing the same problems, obeying the same laws, unless they were directly contrary to the Law of God. Truly the first Christians in Jerusalem, Antioch and Rome were tiny mustard seeds seemingly lost in a huge field.
Although our society seems at times to be like the one described by St. Paul, we ought not to lose heart at meeting obstacles. God counts on us to transform the place where we live and work. Although what we can do may seem small and insignificant, like the grain of mustard seed, let us not neglect to do what we can, because God counts on that contribution. With our prayer and sacrifice He will ensure that there is growth and fruit. That ‘little’ we can do may be advising a colleague or friend to read a particular
book; or being attentive to a client, fellow passenger or workmate; or giving a helping hand when needed; or praying for a sick friend or a neighbor’s child, and asking that they pray for us; or helping someone get to Confession. And always living a cheerful, honest life. Everybody should be discreetly, quietly and daringly apostolic.
This can be so if we remain united to God, if we reject a comfort- loving existence, if we overcome lukewarmness and discouragement. The time in which we are called to live demands especially that we feel deeply obliged to be always zealous and enthusiastic. We will be so only if we struggle. Only the person who makes a strenuous effort is suitable for bringing the world peace, the peace of Christ. (A. del Portillo, Letter, 8 December 1976, 4) The need to overcome false human respect: The spr eading of the Gospel, often by friends, colleagues at work or neighbors, brought about in whole families a radical change of life and set them on the road to salvation. For others it was a scandal and for still others foolishness. (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23) St. Paul tells the Christians at Rome that he is not ashamed of the Gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has Faith. (cf. Rom.1:16) St. John Chrysostom comments: If someone approaches you and asks: ‘do you adore Somebody who has been crucified?’ Do not hang your head in shame or blush. Use that reproach as a chance for glory and let your eyes and the look on your face show that you are not ashamed. If they whisper again in your ear:
‘What! Do you adore Somebody who has been crucified?’ reply: ‘Yes, I adore Him!’… I adore and glory in a crucified God Who with His Cross reduced the devils to silence and took away all superstition.
For me the Cross is the trophy of God’s Love and kindness. (St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Epistle to the Romans, 2) That is a fine reply. We can use it ourselves.
From the first Christians we must learn not to be inhibited by human respect, not to be afraid of what others will say. Rather must we be concerned to make Christ known no matter where we find ourselves, very much aware of the Treasure we have found (cf. Matt. 13:44), of the precious pearl we have located after much searching. (cf. Matt. 13:45-46) The struggle against human respect never ceases, because not infrequently we come across an adverse environment when we are serious about trying to follow Christ closely and trying to live in accordance with our beliefs. Many who call themselves Christians show little courage when they should be witnessing to their Faith. They seem to be more concerned about the opinion of others than about the judgment of Christ. They often allow themselves to be carried along by the current, afraid of saying anything. This attitude betrays superficiality, lack of deep convictions and little love of God. Naturally enough, at times it will be hard to behave in accordance with what we are, Christians who wish to live their Faith at every moment and in every circumstance of life. But these times will also be excellent moments to show Christ our love, forgetting about what others think, and not being swayed by public opinion. God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self-control. Do not be ashamed then of testifying to our Lord (2 Tim. 2:7-8), St. Paul says to Timothy.
This was always the attitude of those who preceded us in the task of evangelization. And even before that, we have the example of Judas Maccabaeus. At a time when many even from Israel… sacrificed to idols and profaned the Sabbath (1 Mac. 1:41) he and his brothers, following the example of their father Mattathias, rebelled against that iniquity and for the honor of God fought gladly for Israel. (1 Mac. 3:2) As Judas himself said: It is not on the size of the army that victory in battle depends, but on the strength that comes from Heaven. (1 Mac. 3:18-19) This is the way it has always been in the things of
God, from the beginning of the Church to our own day. God uses what is weak to do His work. We will not lack His help. He will turn the little we can do into a great power for good. From the Cross of Christ come the power and courage we need. Let us look to Mary. She did not draw back when the crowd cried out, nor did she leave Our Redeemer alone when each person, anonymous in that crowd, was in his cowardice emboldened to illtreat Christ. Call upon her with all your strength: ‘Virgo fidelis!, Virgin most faithful!’, and ask her that those of us who call ourselves God’s friends may be truly so at all times. (J. Escriva, Furrow, 51) (From: In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez) Through the intercession of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, St. Joseph, St. Michael and St. Paul, may God grant us the grace of a true devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Pure Heart of St. Joseph!
In Christ through Mary,