Faith as small as a mustard seed

It makes me so happy that y'all were glad to see the reprise of Lord, Hear Our Prayer. Truly, these posts are where my heart is and I  hope to be able to be faithful in getting them here every Saturday. Last weekend's post got gobbled into cyberspace (my fault, not Squarespace's). I just didn't have the time to re-contstruct. I do apologize. As a peace offering and consolation, though, might I direct you to last Monday's post? There, you will find words to ponder in your quiet and you'll also find a free printable that brings a gorgeous psalm to life for us. Please don't miss it!

Now, on to this Sunday's readings. 


First Reading

Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.
— Ezekial 17:22-24

Second Reading

Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
— 2 Corinthians 5:6-10


Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
— Mark 4:26-34

Have you ever wondered why Jesus spoke in parables so often when He was speaking to the crowds? Why not just cut to chase and tell them straight up everything they need to know? And why in the world did He save the explanations only for his own disciples, in private?

Maybe He knew that we can only truly hear and comprehend that for which we are ready. I have a child who struggles with faith. He reminds me of a young Augustine--mind whirring away in an uncontrollable frenzy asking more questions than it can possibly answer for itself. There are so many ifs, ands, and buts. 

It's not so complicated. Jesus says faith is as small and simple as a mustard seed. The only IF is this: if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can move mountains. If only.

Jesus implies that faith is power. That power is unleashed only when the faith is faith in Him. St. Augustine, I think, knew well the struggle to believe, to have firm faith. And he knew how that internal wrestling can be the thing that carries us away from faith. Augustine said that sin was a state of being caved in on oneself. Think on that a minute. Stuck inside your own head, rambling around with all your own doubts and objections. Dante imagines Satan immobilized by total self-absorption. Of course! It is our own self-absorption that immobilizes us. It leaves us with the story of the seed, but it keeps us from drawing close enough to Jesus so we can become the disciples to whom he explained everything. Christ can't come close and explain it all to us.

Guard your private time! As beautiful and wonderful and good-thing-full as the internet is, it is also a really great way for Satan to enter into the quiet of your brain and focus you on you. So often, our private times aren't very private any more. They are worldly. They are connected, instantly, with the touch of a button or the swipe of a finger. And suddenly, we are fully immersed in the world. We are worried about ourselves relative to the latest Pin or newest Instagram meme. We are caught up in a rallying cry for the latest cause to right a wrong (often, daresay, before all the facts have been made clear and we even have a clear vision of where the wrong lies). We are constantly judging ourselves against all those things that are scrolled on our news feeds. We think we're connecting but really, more often than not, we are caving in upon ourselves and jostling for position with the world we see through distorted lenses. We are paralyzed, bound in the fetters of a private time invaded and a mind run amuck.

Jesus assures us that faith is power. It is the only power that will meet the needs of our restless hearts. That faith will make us free; it will unleash in us God's holy might. Faith the size of a mustard seed? It will move mountains. Mountains.  (And all the little hills of daily life, too.) <-- that last link? Best Running Song Ever.

To do together:

Today is the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and a quick Google search will offer you lots of ways to decorate something edible as the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and even more crafts. But we do something a little different around here. 

I think it's pretty fun to show children just how small the mustard see really is. So, I'll shake a few into my hand and then let them roll them around. And then we'll talk.::

Talking points

  • Jesus taught about the kingdom of God in parables--stories that we can share even now. (Read the parable from a storybook Bible or this book, free on Kindle.)
  • Ponder what is at the center of the mustard seed. Hold it. touch it. Try to blow it away. So small...
  • How small is the mustard seed and yet how big grows the tree! What can make that happen? How did the seed get the power to grow so large?
  • Why did Jesus say the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed? 

Something Special to Eat

This time of year, artichokes are as inexpensive as they will ever be in Virginia. They're still not cheap, but they are available as a special feast day treat. And inside that artichoke is heart surrounded by prickly thorns. We shall try to pull all the components--the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart and today's gospel-- together into one healthy and special treat to eat.

First, you need some artichokes--even just one, if you want to share and just get a taste for everyone.

I steam them. Cooking instructions are here.

Then, make a special dip for them. Into a food processor, put

  • the flesh of 2 ripe avocados
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice 
  • Scant 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 tbsp melted butter,or olive oil
  • 1 tsp grainy mustard, like this "whole grain" one
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • 1 tbsp nutritional yeast (optional)

Whir it all together until perfectly smooth. Dip the artichoke leaves in the mustard seed dip. Delish!

Never tried artichokes? Here's a how-to for you. Don't assume your kids won't like them. For my children, this is a ridiculously happy treat. And if mustard dip isn't their thing, plain butter is the bomb. Don't like-can't get--don't want artichokes? Dip something else: pita, carrots, celery,  even tortilla chips.




The internet is a formidable force for bringing the comfort and consolation and hope of the Lord to all of us. It can be an incredibily powerful medium for community. There is an unfathomable resource for prayer here. We have on the 'net the privilege of praying for people and of being witness to the miracles brought forth when fervent, faith-filled people pray for one another.

Let's be that community of hope and faith for one another.

How about this idea? What if I pop in here every weekend, share Sunday's gospel and talk a wee bit about how we can live it and pray it in our homes? And then you tell me how we can pray for you that week? Deal?

{And please, do return and let us know how prayer is bearing fruit.}