June 17, 2018
11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In 1950, the St. Charles parishioners who planted two cedar seedlings over on Killingworth to mark the driveway entrance into the parish and school never imagined that those trees would grow to such heights that 67 years later they were crowding power lines and buckling the sidewalk.
If I show you a picture of a young person being confirmed by the Archbishop right here at St. Charles, you might never imagine that she would grow . . . into an extraordinary woman of influence and perhaps direct our SVDP ministry to the poor. But why not? What will be her mustard seed?
If I show you a picture of a child receiving First Communion right here at St. Charles, you might never imagine that he would grow up to . . . have a passion for applied theology and one day teach the next generation of First Communion children. But why not? What will be his mustard seed?
If I show you a picture of a baby being baptized right here a St. Charles, you might never imagine that she may grow up to . . . have a genuine call to ministry and one day lead this very community. But why not? What will be her mustard seed?
We do the planting, God does the growing.
What seems improbable or even impossible is just what God does. That’s the lesson we learn from Ezekiel in our first reading. Giant cedars on mountaintops in Israel makes no sense. Cedar branches bearing fruit make no sense. Every type of bird resting in its branches makes no sense? What seems to make no sense is just what God does.
Like the seed planted in the ground, our yes to God’s call yields surprises that could not have been predicted. Forty-six years ago, I said yes to a girl named Robin who invited me to her youth group, having no idea it was the initial spark of my call to ministry. Many mustard seeds later, I have the honor to journey with you.
What are your mustard seed experiences? Can you identify at least one? That’s your homework this week. Take the risk to share about it.
Yes, we do the planting, and God does the growing. But unlike the seed in the ground, where the growth is a mystery shrouded in darkness, the growth of each of us as persons is clearly supported by key people in our lives. Usually parents, grandparents, and other important adults.
God does the growing, in great part, through these key people.
Today we celebrate Father’s Day. We acknowledge how we have been nurtured and fathered in our lives. In what ways did God do some of your growing through your Dad? Or through the father-like person in your life?
I recall a number of years ago when my son was a child, he said the thing that every Dad wants to hear, loves to hear, “Dad, when I grow up, I want to be like you. I want to do what you do.”
I said the same thing to my dad when I was a kid. And it was clear to me, even as a child, what my dad did. He built roads. As a road engineer, he built highways all over the state.
We lived in a beautiful little town at the foot of the Big Horn mountain range in Wyoming – Sheridan. In fact, you could step out the front door of our house, look to the west at the front range of the Big Horns, and with a knowing eye, you could pick out the grade of US Alternate Highway 14 carved in a zig-zag up the mountain range. And I could say, with enormous pride, that’s the road my dad built. As a child, I loved my Tonka Toy trucks and the sandbox in our backyard because I wanted to grow up and build roads like my dad.
So, amidst my euphoria of hearing the same proclamation from my son, “Dad, I want to grow up and do what you do”, I asked him, “What is it you think I do?” With an expression of obviousness, he said, “You go to meetings. I really like meetings. That’s what I want to do.” I worked for the Archdiocese at the time.
Well, because God does the growing, and we cannot predict what God has in store for us, I did not grow up to build roads, and my son did not choose a path that involves a lot of meetings.
But . . .
But, you know, whatever building skills I have – bridge building, relationship building, faith building—I owe in large part to my dad.
And, whatever meeting skills my son has—listening, empathy, compromise, reconciling, organizing—I like to think he learned a bit of that from his ol’ man.
So, from here on, whenever you hear the term ‘mustard seed,’ remember: We do the planting; God does the growing . . . and dads (along with grandads, uncles, father figures, moms, and grandmas) have some extraordinary influence along the way.
And, like a giant cedar on a mountaintop in Israel, it could be what seems impossible . . . is just what God is doing.