Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed, “the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants…so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade” (Matthew 13:31).
The first Christians understood Jesus to be speaking of his Church, the mystical body that began in the smallest way, but has come in time to be home to the nations of the world. The mustard seed of the Church began with a thirty-year-old man, dying on an instrument of torture, his disciples having fled, and his enemies mocking him. But it grew into the Body of Christ composed of billions of people in every country on the planet, and many more in heaven.
Watch this pattern repeated up and down the centuries. Francis of Assisi was something of a drifter, a young man who had repudiated the way of his father and was following the prompting of the Lord. Most people saw him as crazy, dangerous, and deranged. Soon, he attracted followers, and their number grew into the hundreds. The first Franciscan missionaries were stoned, chased away, or killed. But within a hundred years of Francis’s death, they were a world-wide organization—a mustard seed, indeed.
Mother Teresa left the relative comfort of her convent behind high walls in Calcutta and walked out into the streets of the worst slum in the world. Anyone seeing her with ordinary eyes would have written her off. But soon enough, she attracted followers who established her order in Calcutta, then around India, then in Venezuela, Rome, New York, London, and around the world. Another mustard seed.
This Lent, what mustard seed can you plant that might grow into a great tree where the birds of the air make their nests?