16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Ages 3-6): What Does Jesus Want Us to Know?
(Adults, the Gospel this week is quite long and considers three of Jesus' parables. This reflection focuses on the parable that is sandwiched in the middle: the Parable of the Mustard Seed. This is an essential parable regarding the mystery of life.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, Jesus tells three parables. We know that parables make us think. They are stories that Jesus tells to help us to understand something that is very important. The middle parable gets squashed between the other two parables where people often don't even notice it. Poor little parable. Let's take a look at it today, and ask ourselves, what does Jesus want us to know?
“The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”
What does Jesus want us to know? First he talks about a mustard seed. In this photo we can see some of the mustard seeds that can be found in Israel, the country where Jesus is when he tells this parable:
What do you notice about these seeds? What do they look like? Perhaps you have seen other seeds. Are these mustard seeds the same? How are they different?
Jesus says that a mustard seed is
the smallest of all the seeds
No kidding! These mustard seeds are tiny! In the parable someone takes one mustard seed and sows it in his field. Can you imagine trying to pick up just one of the seeds? How difficult would it be to get just one?? And then, how would you sow it? Remember, sowing means flinging a seed onto soil so that it can grow. When it gets flung into the air onto the soil, would the sower be able to find it again? Impossible! It is so impossibly tiny! This seems so crazy!
But what does Jesus want us to know? What does Jesus say about this impossibly tiny seed?
when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree
Whoa, whoa, whoa! What happened to the mustard seed? Where did it go? It has changed completely. Now it is a tree!
How can this be so? How is it possible for such a tiny thing to grow and change into something so big?
There is no way that teeny-tiny seed could do that on its own. It must take an incredible amount of POWER to make that tiny seed grow and change so much. All that power has to be stored inside that tiny little seed. Whose power is it? Who does it belong to?
I wonder if we can notice that power anywhere else. If we look around us, can we find other things that begin so very, very tiny, but grow and change and eventually become something so great?
There is even more to the parable.
the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.
What does Jesus want us to know? Looking at that impossibly tiny mustard seed, it is hard to imagine that one day it will be a home to birds. It seems ridiculous! But one day, when all is ready, when all is just right, that mustard seed will become a home. It can't do that all by itself. It needs that power, given to it by...?
What does Jesus want us to know? Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like this. The Kingdom of God must be full of a power that transforms something so tiny into something so great.
I wonder what God thinks about things that are so tiny...
God seems to have big plans for them.