Watching nature programs on TV has been both entertaining and significant. Significant because it has been a learning experience for a city boy. What I found fascinating was the slow motion photography that showed a small seed develop into a blossoming plant. You could see the various stages of development occur right before your eyes.
In the Gospel for the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Mark 4:20-34), we note, much as in slow motion photography, the ongoing development of a seed into a flourishing plant. In order to speak of the “kingdom of God,” Jesus utilizes the image of the mustard seed because many of his listeners were farmers.
Two questions. What is the “kingdom of God”? and Why is the mustard seed used for the comparison? First, the “kingdom of God” is a phrase referring to the treatment of others in much the same way that Jesus did, namely, with justice, compassion, understanding, and forgiveness. Second, Jesus describes the gradual development of a seed from planting to harvest. The mention of the mustard seed indicates that though it is the smallest of the seeds it grows to become the largest of the plants. So it is with the “kingdom of God.” Development comes with growth.
So, what is it that is supposed to happen? As anyone who is seriously connected with the outdoors knows, there is the presumed growth and development of the seed into a flourishing plant. That potentiality is present. Thus the possible can become real.
Were we to translate that “possible-to-real” dynamic into our lives, we would be discussing our potential skills and talents. We all have them. God has cheated no one. All we have to do is to find out what they are. For example, how can I express my sense of justice, understanding, compassion, and forgiveness? Subsequent prayerful reflection can help us discover our gifts and talents. Then, we will be in a position to allow the “possible-to-real” dynamic to develop and emerge.
From a farmer’s point of view, the image of a small mustard seed blossoming into a huge flourishing plant would be a good model for the “kingdom of God” spreading throughout the world because of our small efforts. The fact is that one should not be depressed if small efforts do not immediately manifest huge outcomes. Remember, the seed needs time to grow and develop.
Taking our Baptism seriously would mean that we are allowing the Holy Spirit to gently nudge us in allowing an awareness of the growth and development taking place within us. The fact is that we generally tend to associate with like minded people. The more like minded people with whom we associate, the greater the potential for our small “mustard seed” (gifts and talents) to grow and develop into a huge plant (the “kingdom of God”).
Observing the diminutive mustard seed grow into a prodigious plant is more exciting than watching grass grow. Why? Because the “potential-to-reality” dynamic is much more pronounced and obvious. So should it be with us in terms of our Baptism.