Some years ago, I was walking into the little Church in Bethany, situated just a few miles outside the Old City of Jerusalem. In the time of Jesus, Martha, Mary and their brother Lazarus, lived in Bethany. As I did so, a local man, of the Arab Community, placed a small seed, about the size of a water melon seed, in my hand. He said, “This is a mustard seed. Over there is a mustard tree which grows from this.” The tree stood over seven feet high with heavy branches filling it from top to bottom. What an amazing growth!
Jesus said one day, “The mustard tree is like the Kingdom of God. It is the smallest of all trees, but it can grow into the biggest of trees.” These words can give us high hopes for what can take place in our spirits where the Kingdom of God exists.
Perhaps, our gift of courage consists of a splinter of wood. With prayer to the Lord, that sliver can grow into something the size of a redwood tree, some 300 feet high. We lose all fear of life and instead relish challenges that come our way. Life becomes a glorious adventure. We begin to take risks to bring new attitudes of love into our lives.
The spirit of joy in our hearts might be compared to a little trickle of water coming down through the rocks, barely discernible. By expressing our hope in the Lord’s Greatness, that flow of water could turn into a raging torrent of living joy, washing out of our hearts any anxiety. We shout out our happiness!
Our spirit of prayer may look like a tiny flame, about to go out within the Kingdom of God in us. With our unceasing belief in the teaching of Jesus about the mustard seed, the Lord can turn that spark of flame into a roaring fire. We fall in love with live as never before.
Believe in the tremendous possibilities for growth that can take place within us in the Kingdom of God when we take the Lord at His Word. Begin today in this noble pilgrimage of a new kind of life. No need for a dull plodding along in life, each day more deadening that the one before. With Christ, all things are possible.
Fr. George McKenna
Some years ago, the Sister Principal of Sacred Heart High School for Girls in Mokena, Illinois, asked me to come and teach Religion three days a week. During the summer, I obtained a School Year Book and memorized the names along with the photos of the students coming into 2nd, 3rd and 4th years. In September, on the first day of school, I was able to address the girls passing by with their names, precious to them . . . “Hello Judy, Good to see you, Betty.”
Some came up to me to test my memory. I knew them all. They were amazed that anyone would take the time to memorize their names. A relationship of trust can begin when people know each other’s names. Jesus, the Good Shepard, affirmed this when said. . . “I know mine and mine know me.”
Picture the Risen Christ, the Good Shepherd, a name He gave Himself, standing before us as we take our place of worship each Sunday. We may be strangers to those around us. We wonder, are we all blank faces to Him, or just a series of numbers? Are our life stories just mysteries to Him? We close our eyes, and let a peaceful silence come. Suddenly, He begins to walk among us.
In an inaudible tone heard only by the person spoken to, Christ whispers to one person, “Good morning, June. I admire the way you are taking care of your mother. Keep on! I am with you!” To another, “Hello Bill, your unemployment will soon come to an end.” The Lord moves on, “Good to see you here this morning Marge, I will support you in your illness.”
The Good Shepherd speaks to a man next to her, “How are you doing Bob? You may think that I have not been listening to you in your spirit of depression. I have been standing behind you, holding you up! You will have happy days soon. Believe Me!” We, the onlookers, see only amazement and joy on the faces of those spoken to.
What a different kind of life we would have if we made the Risen Christ, the Good Shepherd, really present in our days. We see the Good Shepherd usually pictured holding a small lamb in His arms, close to His Heart. In dark days, make ourselves that lamb. He is closer than our breathing.
Fr. George Mc Kenna