What can mustard seeds and leaven teach us about the kingdom of God?


The Gospel reading speaks of the explosive nature of the Kingdom of heaven. What is it like? It is like a very small seed that, if sowed in the field, becomes a large bush, large enough for the birds of the sky to come and dwell in its branches. It is like yeast. You only need a small amount mixed in with the wheat flour to leaven the whole batch.

A mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds, but it produces one of the largest “trees” capable of sheltering birds and providing food for many. We can be that mustard seed, if we allow Jesus to plant the Holy Spirit in our lives. If we are led by the Holy Spirit we can affect other lives and help to spread the love of Jesus to more and more. The same idea is true of the leaven in bread, or yeast. God’s kingdom works in a similar fashion. It starts from the smallest beginnings in the hearts of men and women who are receptive to God’s word.  And it works unseen and causes a transformation from within. Leaven is another powerful agent of change. A lump of dough left to itself remains just what it is, a lump of dough. But when the leaven is added to it a transformation takes place which produces rich and wholesome bread when heated – the staple of life for humans. The kingdom of God produces a transformation in those who receive the new life which Jesus Christ offers. When we yield our lives to Jesus Christ and allow His word to take root in our heart, we are transformed and made holy by the power of the Holy Spirit who dwells in us.

His kingdom on earth for instance, (which is our Church), started out like a tiny mustard seed (just a few apostles), but is now like a great tree, home for many birds in its branches — various Christian denominations, all children of the One True God. Our Church has also been like a yeast, mixed in with so much flour — the millions of unbelievers among us, who would never have risen above their apathy or faithless state, had they not been transformed by the Gospel values of Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of heaven may at times seem small, insignificant, even hidden. But a little bit of it changes the world. If we allow the Word of God to grow in our souls, the effects are insurmountable. If we cling to God just as He desires we do, and take even just a little bit of time every day for Him, great things can grow in and through us.

Growing together


 

Jesus always used stories to teach the people. This is the same as what the prophet said: “I will speak using stories; I will tell things that have been secrets since the world was made.”

In today’s gospel Jesus tells a story about the farmer who sowed wheat in his field and at night his enemy sowed weeds in the same field so when the plants sprouted there were weeds among the wheat. When his slaves asked the farmer about removing the weeds, the farmer told them pulling the weeds could pull up some of the wheat so wait until harvest when they could be separated without losing the wheat.

What we can immediately see in this parable is the work of the enemy. Jesus’ work, Jesus’ disciples, and Jesus’ Kingdom exist in a world which is under attack from Satan. He will allow no good work of Jesus to go unopposed. His goal is to corrupt, pollute, and undermine the work of Jesus. He wants to dilute the life of witness by the disciples. He uses the cover of darkness to do his vile deeds. Jesus does not leave His first disciples, nor us, under the illusion that His power will make things easy and that people will just flock to Him to be changed. From the beginning He reminds us of the opposition and the problematic issues of false disciples. Jesus is aware that His Kingdom will face corruption from the evil one, so we must be ready as well.

We read how the one who sowed the good seed is the Father, and the enemy who secretly sowed the weeds is the devil. We will learn that Jesus doesn’t want us to try to uproot all the weeds prematurely, lest we damage the tender roots of the good seed He has sown. Better to leave the harvesting—and the discernment of wheat from weeds—to the angels at the end of time! Day after day, Jesus seeks to sow words of comfort, encouragement, peace, and perseverance in our hearts. At the same time, the devil is always trying to sow words of doubt, fear, discouragement, and confusion.

His followers came to Him and said, “Explain to us the meaning of the story about the weeds in the field.” Jesus answered, “The person that planted the good seed in the field is the Son of Man. The field is the world. The good seed are all of God’s children in the kingdom. The weeds are those people that belong to the Evil One (the devil). And the enemy that planted the bad seed is the devil. The harvest time is the end of the world. And the workers that gather are God’s angels. “The weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire. It will be the same at the end of the world. The Son of Man will send His angels, and His angels will find the people that cause sin and all people that do evil. The angels will take those people out of His kingdom. The angels will throw those people into the place of fire. In that place the people will be crying and grinding their teeth {with pain}. Then the good people will shine like the sun. They will be in the kingdom of their Father. You people that hear me, listen!

 

You wish us to walk with you in everything, Lord, yet so many times we want to go our own way and rely upon ourselves. We forget that God is walking with us, wanting to move into our life and bring us his love. No matter how untidy our heart may be, no matter what weeds are growing within, God wishes to dwell there, to be the one to bring us to life and love.

Lord, help us to identify the darnel in our lives, the weeds to be separated out, tied in bundles and burnt. Then we can offer you a rich harvest.

 

 

We can see the allegories of the seeds sown in four kinds of people.


 

Today’s  Gospel reading, Matthew 13: 18- 23, is a common Gospel story, which is found in more than one place and can provide rich messages no matter how often it is used for reflection. Everything that happens in our life is a kind of parable that tells of God’s presence to and His will for each of us. Understanding comes not from ourselves or from the noisy intervention of others, but rather from the Word speaking alone with us in the solitude of our attentive heart. We need to seek solitude of heart if we desire to be a disciple of Christ.

The interpretation of today’s parable reflects the experiences of the early Church as it tried to spread the Gospel. The four different kinds of soil are taken to represent four kinds of responses to the Word of God which it has received. What kind of terrain does God’s Gospel find these days when it hits our soul? Smooth? Rocky? Not able to hold long enough to grow roots?  Or rich, fertile, penetrable with the ability to bear fruit?

The first kind is like the seed on the stony path. The Word of God never even gets started but gets plucked away by the evil influences by which the person is surrounded. In our strongly secular world today it is not easy for the Word to take root with so many competing enticements.

The second kind is like the seed that falls on the rock. The Word of God is received with great enthusiasm; the person becomes a devout and active Christian. But, if obstacles arise which make the living of the Christian life difficult, the person falls away, maybe quickly, maybe gradually. As the Gospel says, the person has no roots; the faith has not gone deep, it is has not been really assimilated. This must have been the case with many in the early Church who enthusiastically embraced Christianity but when persecution came, abandoned their faith. In our own time, we see this often enough when people, for instance, are removed from a protected environment where it is easy to live the faith to one where the faith is ignored or even ridiculed.

The third kind is like the seed that falls among the briars and brambles. I would suggest that a very large number of us are touched by this category. Anxieties about many things and the lure of material goods can gradually choke off our commitment to the Gospel in its fullness. Our witness becomes seriously compromised and “there is no yield”, that is, we make no real contribution to building the Kingdom and changing the world. We sit on the fence and try to have the best of both worlds; we try to serve God and mammon, which Jesus says is not possible. I am sure many of us have matter for reflection here.

Finally, there is the fourth kind of seed which falls on good soil. This is the one “who hears the message and takes it in”. These hear the Word, accept the Word, make it their own and it overflows into all they are and do and say. Much fruit for the world comes from such persons.

These four types can still be found and it is for each one of us to determine to which group we belong. If we examine ourselves in the light of each example, we can discover why His word does not penetrate our hearts or if it does, why it does not go deep. We will come to realize the role that distractions play in replacing our meditation on His word with worry and wealth’s deceit. We need solitude to examine ourselves and this solitude is found in a resolute detachment of the heart from earthly things and the freeing of the heart is achieved and measured by dying to self and to self-will. There we find the rich soil in which we can hear the word and understand it.

Parables of the Kingdom


His disciples are confused. Why do you speak in parables? Why are you telling stories? Why don’t you just spill the beans — tell the people what they need to hear?

Jesus answers them saying, in essence, “You were chosen from among all people to hear the truth as it is. You are to be the teachers and the ministers to the entire world and I can speak these truths to you. But these others, poor people, they do not have the ability to understand, to see into the depths. You must help them.”

It would be possible to interpret Jesus’ reply as meaning that He speaks clearly to His disciples but to the people in riddles because they are outsiders. This would seem to contradict the purpose of speaking in parables which is to use helpful and familiar images in order to lead towards a better understanding of a deeper message.

In contrast with the closed attitude of many Jews who witnessed Jesus’ life but did not believe in Him, the disciples are praised by our Lord for their docility to grace, their openness to recognizing Him as the Messiah and to accepting His teaching. Jesus was not deliberately confusing his listeners but He was aware that some who heard His parables refused to understand them. It was not that they could not intellectually understand them, but rather, their hearts were closed to what Jesus was saying. They had already made up their minds to not believe.


Besides, parables–as indeed any type of comparison or analogy–are used to reveal or explain something which is not easy to understand, as was the case with the supernatural things Jesus was explaining.  One has to shade one’s eyes to see things if the sun is too bright; otherwise, one is blinded and sees nothing.

Similarly, parables help to shade supernatural brightness to allow the listener to grasp meaning without being blinded by it. God can only reveal the secrets of His kingdom to the humble and trusting person who acknowledges the need for God and for His truth. The parables of Jesus will enlighten us if we approach them with an open mind and heart, ready to let them challenge us. If we approach them with the conviction that we already know the answer, then we, too, may look but not see, listen but not hear or understand.  God’s word can only take root in a receptive heart that is ready to believe and willing to submit.  If we want to hear and to understand God’s word, we must listen with godly fear and reverence.

St. Declan and Home Sweet Orphanage


Today, July 24th, the Church commemorates the Feast of St. Declan.  And talking of Declan, we cannot forget to pray for our much-loved priest, Fr. Declan O’toole, the Mill Hill missionary who was murdered in Northern Uganda 10 years ago. At 31 years, he was a brave man who used the pen instead of weapons to bring peace to Uganda. Fr. Declan’s enthusiastic commitment to peace made his tragic death all the sadder. Fr O’Toole was shot in the north east of the country along with two native companions as they returned home from a peace meeting.

Fr.Declan loved his missionary life. He brought hope and good news to so many during his five years of missionary work. His memory will live on for ever in the area of Uganda where he worked and with his family, friends and the people of his native Claran. He loved to laugh and for his sake we must keep on smiling even in times of hardship.

And what about the Home Sweet Orphanage? This orphanage was started in memory of Fr. Declan by his Ugandan friend. Fr. Declan helped this young man in his times of hardship as an Orphan and there was no better way to remember him than founding up an Orphanage.

The Orphanage though going through a series of hardship, is a now home for 50 Orphans and vulnerable children

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It is unfortunate that due to lack of resources, this Orphanage was about to close early this year. We thank God for the generosity of friends, the situation is slowly getting back to normal.  We are still in dire need of help, and I hope after reading this post, you can consider sending us a donation HERE

The needs of the Orphanage are numerous, but here I will mention the significant ones so that:

  • Food: The children should be served at least 3 meals a day, but as I write, there are many days that the children will only have one meal! Breakfast usually comes in form of Maize Porridge with sugar and on some cases with a yellow banana when it is available. It would be more nutritious for these children if it were mixed with milk, put the Orphanage cannot afford that now.
    Lunch and supper usually come as Posho, Matooke , or Sweet Potato served with Beans or G.nuts. These children like Rice and Beef and we are doing our best to make sure that they can have it at least once in 2 weeks, but it is still not affordable.
    In total food costs up to $1200 every month. The Orphanage is  yet to acquire a fertile peace of land so that food is cultivated to save on the cost of buying food.
  • Water: The Orphanage is blessed with an underground water well that was constructed with aid from some friends some years ago. However for water to get into the storage tank above the ground, it is pumped by a diesel generator. Diesel worth $20 can be used to fill the storage tank to capacity, and the tank is used up in a week’s time. This means that at least $80 is needed every month to pump water. When this safe water cant be pumped, the children can only fetch water at a nearby stream, though this water is dirty and unsafe as you can see in one of the pictures above.
  • Domestic and Scholastic needs: The domestic needs that these children often use are soap, toothpaste, and Vaseline.  Those children who are of age are sent to near by schools to study, and though they can access the government universal free education there, they will always need scholastic needs like books and pens. Periodically, the children also need new clothes.Domestic and scholastic supplies cost up to $300 every month.
  • Bedding: Currently the Orphanage only has 5 double decked beds and not more than 20 mattresses. Most of the children have to sleep on the floor and share bedding. We are currently fundraising to but more beds, mattresses, blankets and bedsheets. We need at least  $500 for this cause.
  • Poultry project: We are also fundraising to start a poultry project so as to supplement the diet of the children. The project will also big enough to bring is some income through the sale of eggs and chicken. At least $1000 is needed for this cause.

Help us to help them. Send us your donation now. Click HERE and you will be there. Remember to leave this note, Donation to Home Sweet Orphanage”.

Remember that every day 5,760 more children become orphans. Every 15 seconds, another child becomes an AIDS orphan in Africa.It is estimated that many orphans will spend an average of 10 years in an orphanage or foster care program. Infants may stay as long as 18 years while children who become orphans at an older age stay a shorter time.250,000 children are adopted annually but 14,050,000 orphan children will grow up and age out of the orphan care system.3 That means that every day 38,493 children will age out. That’s one orphan every 2.2 seconds who will leave an orphanage or foster care with no family to belong to and no place to call home. Less than 1% of all orphan children will be adopted. Who will care for the rest of the millions of orphaned, abandoned and homeless children? These are not just numbers and statistics, these are CHILDREN! Distressed, struggling and with little hope in the world.

Thank you and may God bless you.

.Do we think of ourselves as the mothers and brothers of Christ as identified in today’s gospel?



“While speaking with the crowds, His mother and His brothers appeared outside, wishing to speak with Him.  Someone told Him, ‘Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, asking to speak with You.’

From what we know of Jesus, we expected He would go immediately to them. Instead He points to His disciples and says, ‘Here are my brothers and sisters’. He adds, ‘Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.’
In the context of Matthew’s narrative, Jesus seizes the moment to share with His listeners and with us a profound truth. He identifies with His new family, those present and those through the ages committed to the will of His Father as He made it known. He assures us this new family is one with Him in a personal, intensely loving relationship.

Doesn’t this passage strike you as odd?  What He is saying here appears almost dismissive of the ones He grew up with – the members of His family, who are at this moment within ear-shot of His words during this Gospel moment.  He is telling His disciples, who represent all who follow Him (including us) that they are to Him as dear as His own Mother! His words, far from being dismissive to His family, are precisely chosen.  A stronger statement of love – love for one’s own family – cannot be found; and Our Lord’s words, in this moment of the gospel story, capture the essence of His mission.  They are like a signature written under the one commandment He passes on to us:  “Love one another, as I have loved you.”

I love my mother and 2 brothers, and I am called to love everyone else as much as I love them.  This of course seems impossible.  But it is not.  That’s what the grace of God is for.  Nothing is impossible for God – living with us, through us, and in us.  Christ gives us the way and the grace to do it if we rely on Him.  Christ shows us how in His own love for all those men, women, and children – including ourselves – the Father places in His life. He died for them, as He does for us.  And in His death, He makes it possible for us to die for love of one another, and for all those the Father places in our lives. This superlative love is what the community of the Church is blessed to give to the world.

And….Do we think of ourselves as the mothers and brothers of Christ as identified in today’s gospel? Christ says that we are if we follow the will of God. Through our baptism we become Christians, a part of Him, and have the honor of carrying out His mission. Elsewhere scripture tells us that if we fail and deny Him, He will not deny us as He cannot deny Himself.

Having a realization of our identity as a Christian should have an impact on how we treat each other as strangers, family and friends. No one in the street is really a stranger, but rather a brother or sister we have yet to meet. Once we realize this, it makes each day a happy challenge. Giving a smile, doing a good deed and listening to others who are troubled, are only a few ways we carry out the mission. Gradually these actions can become a way of life. Christ lives on through us!

We especially need “quiet time,” time to put ourselves back together from frantic, stressful living


Today our readings are all about Shepherds and what God expects of them. In the first reading, Jeremiah takes out after the religious leaders, (shepherds) who have not fed nor led the people of Israel according to their traditions. The people have been sent, therefore, into exile as a punishment. This sets up a second prediction which is hopeful and personal and is meant to announce the coming of the Messiah. God is really angry with the kings of Judah for neglecting the Law, for ignoring the prophets, and leading the people astray. He is so frustrated that through Jeremiah He threatens to fire them all! He Himself will shepherd the people. For the first time, the people hear God’s promise to one day send a Messiah-King. Shortly after this warning, both king and people are led into seventy years of exile in Babylon. Because of their neglect, only a “faithful remnant” will ever return.

In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we hear that this Messiah, Jesus Christ, has come to unite both Jew and Gentile. “You who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.” He has come to bring peace to those whom He has united in His own Body through the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel is about the apostles’ first venture out as missionaries. As they gather around Jesus to report on their success, Jesus can see how tired they are. He tells them to “take the day off.” They plan to go away to a quiet place. We are told that, “They went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. Here Jesus is trying to get to somewhere quiet and peaceful, where He can pray and spend time with the disciples. We’ll be much more effective if we follow Jesus’ advice. We especially need “quiet time,” time to put ourselves back together from frantic, stressful living. Even if it’s not possible to go far away from home, we can spend some time each day in prayer and reading. A quiet time at morning Mass can really refresh and invigorate us.

Unfortunately, the crowds get wind of Jesus and His disciples, and arrive at that same desert place ahead of them. Instead of being angry, Jesus has pity on them, for they are “like sheep without a shepherd.” And He proceeds to teach them many things. The Good Shepherd is ever attentive to the needs of His flock. He gathers them to Himself and keeps them safe from predators who seek to scatter and steal and slaughter. He seeks them out when they are lost and rejoices when they are found. He leads them through the valley of the shadow of death to the restful waters and verdant pastures where they might find rest. The Good Shepherd is not to be outdone in taking care of His sheep.

How can we not be moved by this account of the vast crowds hanging on Jesus’ every word as He preaches at length about the Kingdom of God? His words speak to the heart of every person, for they truly give life to the soul. How blessed we are to have access not only to the words of Jesus as they are presented to us in the Bible, but also to have access to the Word of God, living and breathing in the heart of the Church. Like the members of the large crowd that gathered that day so many years ago, we are privileged to experience the Word of God who becomes flesh and dwells among us