Once upon a time, a farmer gets to know about the Chinese bamboo tree that grows up to 70-80 feet, and he decides to buy some of the seeds and plant in his farm in their small village. He had thought that when the seeds grow into the bamboo trees, he will make a lot of money from them as people from his town and beyond would come to buy from him; he sure had a huge dream!
After purchasing the seeds with almost all the money from his savings, the farmer plants the seeds and following the instructions; he would water the ground every day. After six months, he could not see any sign of germination. After one year, nothing; he didn’t see any indication in the second nor in the third year. People started making fun of him for wasting his money, time, and energy. Whenever he decides to give up, he would remember the instruction to water the ground always. One day, during the middle of the fifth year, he was at the farm to water the field when he sees the seeds sprouting!
The farmer could not contain the excitement as he runs into the village to report the current state of his five-year-old bamboo seeds. Six weeks after, one could see bamboo trees towering high in the field. The farmer’s dream of having a farm full of bamboo trees becomes a reality. With the bamboo trees, he turns out to be a wealthy and famous man. Let us remember that his story started with some tiny seeds that took five years to sprout. Great things have humble beginnings.
We could call today “seed and tree Sunday” because of the prevalence of the phenomena in the First Reading (Ezekiel 17:22-24) and the Gospel (Mark 4:26-34). One common denominator in the two narratives is that God is solely the one in charge of the growth and development of the seeds into trees. In the First Reading, the oracle the Prophet Ezekiel tells us that God will take a tender shoot and plant it on a high and lofty mountain where it will grow, bear fruits, and provide shelter for winged creatures.
In the Gospel Reading, our Lord Jesus Christ uses the image of a mustard seed to describe the kingdom of God. Now the mustard seed is typically small, but the tree that comes out of it is so huge that one could doubt the possibility of a tiny seed transiting to a gigantic tree. Here, we come to the heart of our reflection which explores the potentials of mustard and the need for us to adopt a mustard seed mentality.
The root of the mustard seed mentality is the awareness that great things have humble beginnings. Let us start by examining the physical development of the human person. All the great men and women on earth developed from a male seed that fertilizes a female ovum. Notably, these are tiny components of the reproductive system, but they determine human procreation and development. It is very accurate that little drops of water make an ocean and little by little the ant makes its colony.
In life, most people desire and dream about big things, but they, unfortunately, forget the root principle that “great things start small,” and that explains why most people die with their lofty dreams and aspirations. The fear of starting small is the easiest way to failure. You cannot lose your weight by merely registering in a gym; one needs to do the exercises regularly and little by little and get to the goal. You cannot become a great sportsperson or academic by just wishing; you need to start with the little details until you achieve greatness. You cannot become a millionaire by just saying it; you need to walk it as you talk it, slowly but surely.
In the Gospel passage today, our Lord Jesus Christ re-emphasizes the power of greatness in the spiritual life through humble beginnings using the growth process of the mustard seed. For every goal, there is a process. The kingdom of God is the goal of our spiritual life and to reach the goal we need to pass through a process which involves doing little things that would serve as steps to the target. The following constitute the mustard seed mentality which we urgently need in our journey to the kingdom of God.
Humility is vital in our spiritual journey. Our Lord Jesus Christ is a perfect example of humility as the word of God tells that though he was in the form of God Jesus did not regard equality with God. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death even death on a cross (Phil 2:6-8). The sowing of the mustard seed into the soil depicts humility which goes before it’s exaltation to a huge tree. In the Luke (14:11), our Lord says that those exalt themselves will be humbled, but those who humble themselves will be exalted. In James (4:6) we read that God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
There is a natural delay between planting and harvesting. Our opening story demonstrates this delay very well. The mustard seed does not become a huge tree overnight. The seed takes time to germinate, develop and grow gradually into a tree. Patience involves waiting; “be patient and wait for the Lord to act” (Psalm 37:7). God is the one that gives increase (Psalm 115:14; 1Cor. 3:6-7) and He does so at His due time, especially when we humble ourselves and wait (1 Pet. 5:6).
Obedience involves openness, submission, and willingness to follow instructions. The mustard seed cannot grow into the massive tree if it fails to respond to the growth process. Obedience is the first rule in heaven and to make heaven we need to be obedient in all things. The fall of Adam was because of disobedience, but our redemption came through the obedience of Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:19).
St. Paul insists that love conquers all things (1 Cor. 13:7). Love could be found in every good thing because God, who is the ultimate good, is love (1 John 4:8). Love involves seeking out what would be beneficial to others. Hence it is selfless. Turning to the tree which the mustard seed had become, we learn that the birds of the air come to make their homes on them. At this point, the tree serves the need of others. The mustard seed grows out of the love of the one who plants and the one who gives increase and that love continues and reaches the birds of the air.
As we continue with the liturgy of this Sunday, let us continue to model our lives after the mustard seed or more appropriately adopt the mustard seed mentality by our humility, patience, obedience, and love. May we remember and sustain the fact that great things start small.
Have a beautiful Sunday and a great week ahead.