11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Sunday, June 17, 2018
Fr. Jon
Homily transcription: 

11th Sunday / Ordinary / B

June 16-17, 2018
St. Thomas Aquinas, Ames, Iowa
Fr. Jon Seda
This weekend was supposed to be our mission cooperation, which each parish in our archdiocese does annually.  Someone from the Glenmary Missionaries was to speak, but Wednesday night she ended up in the hospital.  So you get me.  Sorry.  We hope to have someone from Glenmary come later this summer.
I was a bit disappointed about this because Glenmary has a special place in my heart.  In college, I did an immersion trip with them and it was very influential on me.  They are Catholic missionaries in Appalachia, working in counties that may be less than 1% Catholic, and often surrounded by anti-Catholic prejudice.  Their goal is form new parishes, and they do this really well.  They do it not by self-promotion but by serving the larger community.  Any Glenmary parish will have a strong outward focus, and that attracts people.
One day the week I spent with them, they sent three of us out to cut wood for someone we will call Mrs. Smith.  They told us they would be back in three hours to pick us up.  But it only took 45 minutes to cut the wood.  So I guess we were actually supposed to talk with Mrs. Smith!  Looking back, I see my youthful arrogance.  I wanted more to do for these people.  They were simply the objects of my charity, and I was in control.  Very subtly I looked down on them.  Glenmary taught me to look at people face to face, and to realize that often the greatest gift we can give others is not transmit our riches to them, but to discover theirs.  Our three hours with Mrs. Smith was not about wood.  It was about listening to her stories, and learning how to better be a disciple of Jesus Christ.
This is a good example of today's Gospel, where Jesus describes the Kingdom of God as beginning with mustard seeds.  These seeds were invasive, and farmers did not like them.  Jesus used this image because they are so small.  They can actually get caught between your teeth.  Yet these tiny seeds grow into a large bush.  So Jesus is saying that the Kingdom of God grows not as some big, powerful, dominating tree.  Instead it grows my small, insignificant, little seeds.
Each day, I check out two websites for the latest Catholic news.  It is interesting to see what the big movers and shakers and saying and doing.  But the danger with this is thinking that all this really matters.  This is not where the real action of the church takes place.  The real action of the church takes place here, in Ames, on ordinary weeks by ordinary people.
In my office is a small sign that has that wonderful quote by Mother Teresa:  "Do small things with great love."  We are asked by God to do big things, but all of us are asked to do small things, but with great love.  All of the small acts that faith motivates us to do may seem insignificant, like it does not matter, and won't be on any webpage.  And yet these mustard seeds count more than big trees.  Jesus says that the Kingdom of God grows from the smallest acts of love.
It grows when parents waste time with a child.  It grows when we take a few minutes to contact a legislator to protect the vulnerable.  It grows when we pray for someone in our family or parish who is struggling.  It grows when we make time to call or visit someone who feels isolated. And it grows when we listen to stories of Mrs. Smith instead of just cutting wood for her.  In God's Kingdom, small things matter.
This is why daily prayer is so important.  We need to be constantly reminded of this.  Otherwise we tend to focus on the big movers and shakers in our church, our country and our world, and think that is how the Kingdom of God grows.  Listening to the voice of the Lord, we hear a different message.  Mustard seeds matter.  Small things matter.
We may think our lives and our small acts of love are insignificant. But God doesn't.