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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—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 understand something very important. The middle parable gets squashed between the other two parables where people often do not even notice it. Poor little parable. We can look closely at it today, and ask ourselves, what does Jesus want us to know?

Jesus says,

“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. How big is 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. We cannot imagine trying to pick up just one of these seeds. How difficult would it be to get just one?? And then, how would we sow it? Remember, sowing means flinging a seed onto soil so that it can grow. When it gets flung into the air, would the sower be able to find it again? Impossible! It is too tiny. 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 STRENGTH to make that tiny seed grow and change so much. All that strength has to be stored inside that tiny little seed. Whose strength is it? To whom does it belong?

Perhaps we can notice that strength in other places. 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. Jesus says,

the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

What does Jesus want us to know? Thinking about that impossibly tiny mustard seed, we can hardly 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 cannot do that all by itself. It needs that strength, given to it by...? Who gives it that strength?

Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is like this. What does Jesus want us to know? The Kingdom of God must be full of a strength that transforms something so tiny into something so great.

We have to wonder what God thinks about things that are so tiny...

God seems to have big plans for them.

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