We've all heard how all we need is faith the size of a mustard seed, but isn't more complex than this?
If you’ve seen the readings over the past few days, you would have noticed a large agricultural theme in Jesus’ parables. Whether it be the parable of the sower and the seed, the parable of the mustard seed, or the parable of the weeds, the way Jesus relates these agricultural terms to our faith is quite beautiful.
“All it takes is faith the size of a mustard seed”
I’ve never been a big fan of the parable of the mustard seed, it always seemed to make faith look easy when for me it was so hard. It made me compartmentalize my faith and judge it based on whether things were going my way. If they weren’t, my faith was smaller than the seed and I was inadequate. If they were, I was a rockstar Christian. This self-depreciative cycle led me to just avoid this passage all together until this past week when I stumbled upon it in the daily reading while praying through lectio divina.
Through analyzing the seed’s journey and what it fully represents I found a new appreciation for this parable. In my head the seed was planted and then.. BOOM! Out sprang this giant plant. This is what truly led me into frustration in the past because I thought that was how my faith and life would evolve once I had that mustard seed of faith. Looking at the growth of a seed into a fruit producing plant through this lens will only lead us to discouragement. Thankfully, this viewpoint is flawed and ignores all the realities of what it takes for a seed to grow.
Tilling the Land
Before a seed is planted, the soil must be properly prepared through tilling the hard and dry spots so that it is ready to receive and house the seed. Much like the hard spots of the soil must be tilled to receive the physical seed, so must the hardened parts of our hearts so that they can receive the mustard seed of faith properly. Throughout scripture we see the heart referenced to as “hard” multiple times. Almost exclusively this phrase is referencing those who are unable, or maybe just unwilling, to reorder their lives and prioritize God through believing in Him and honoring his commandments. Likewise, a good place for us to start when we desire the seed of faith to be planted is to search for the areas of our own hearts that are hard. This way we can reorient our practices and ways to avoid the seed falling on dry land where it cannot sink its roots. This may also lead us into contemplation of why we do the things we do. This is a delicate, but critical, component of preparing the land. This is where we can get down to the root of the issues and discover the greater motivation behind our actions. This allows us to better see the enemy we are fighting, and in turn, fight back more effectively.
Even though the seed may be planted in the finest and most prepared soil out there, this does not mean that it will just sprout into abundant fruit just because the farmer prepared well. Contrarily, now the farmer must water the plant, keep weeds away from it, and ensure it is getting the proper amount of sunlight. This critical part of the growing process was the one I ignored most of my life. This is where the hard work comes into play and really what makes or breaks our ability to blossom into fruitful, life-giving Christians. To take care of the seed of faith a few specific things are needed. First, prayer is the essential lifeblood of the seed. We can view it as the water that the seed needs daily. Deep, contemplative, silent prayer with the Lord is what will allow the roots of the seed of faith to sink deep into our hearts and allow the sprout to continue to grow. This is where the Lord reveals Himself, as well as our true selves, to us. We must allow the Lord time to transform the seed of faith from a mere seed into a blossoming tree. Additionally, there are more critical, and vital sources of nourishment that we must receive via the Sacraments. The Eucharist, Confession, and Adoration have been the three in my personal experience that I can consistently go to and be nurtured. These allow us to grow in intimacy with Christ, who is the one who sowed the seed originally. Going back to these consistently allows God to continue building grace upon grace in our hearts and expand His presence within them. Through His own growth in our hearts via the Sacraments, our hearts will in turn expand and make more room for the roots of the seed of faith to sink deeper and wider into our hearts.
Now there are two ways to think of the harvest and I will touch on both. First, once a crop is ready for harvest it gives of itself so that it may provide life to others. At this stage, the crop is fully nurtured and ready to give of itself instead of take. The beauty of the Christian life is that we do not have to stop receiving, and I stress that we should not! The fruit that we produce is the overflow of God’s love and mercy that we encounter and want to share with the rest of the world. This brings me to the second way of thinking about the harvest. This viewpoint comes from the final judgement when we are reunited with Christ in Heaven. Our entire lives we must keep receiving the nurturing love and mercy that God offers, it is not till death that we can have our roots ripped out from this world and Christ can reap the fruit of our hearts for Himself in Heaven.
All I’m really trying to say is trust the process (shoutout Joel Embiid). The process is long and at times incredibly frustrating, but if we keep our eyes locked on the prize of eventually being reunited with Christ in Heaven, it doesn’t seem quite as arduous.