Another happy thought from the Redneck Priest….yeah, right!

 

Why are the Fathers always playing with my head? After all, I went to seminary and spent all that time with those high powered professors. I’ve been a minister/priest for over 30 years, so don’t I know it all by now? Apparently not because every time I read the Fathers, they rearrange my thoughts and force me to think differently. It could be that they are right and I am wrong? No, you think maybe? Take the mustard seed parable for an example. All my life I’ve seen it as a bit of a put down. I had always read that the Lord was saying that if I had more faith, even as much as one mustard seed, I would be able to move mountains. Well, I thought that if that was the case, then my faith had to be like a subatomic particle. (People do think I’m a bit “quarky” anyway). I always had to admit that my faith was small, but my problem was how to get my faith up to mustard size (I believe, Lord, help my unbelief). The Fathers put a different spin on it. It’s not a put down at all. The Lord said in Matthew 13 that the Kingdom of God was like a mustard seed, and then in Matthew 17, he says that I should have faith like a mustard seed. Jesus joins faith and the Kingdom of God together. So, it isn’t a challenge to the size of my faith, but to the quality of my faith. So, what is a mustard seed all about? First, a mustard seed is a very small seed. The Fathers say that the Lord is talking about small beginnings and not so much about the size of faith. The Jews had no idea that a carpenter from Nazareth could be God Incarnate. Walking around with a ragged bunch of fisherman and tax collectors, they felt that certainly this carpenter would never amount to anything. Of course, if you let a mustard plant grow and don’t pay attention to it, it becomes a nice sized bush that could shelter many different types of birds. In fact, mustard trees could become like a weed that is quite a hassle and an irritation. So it would be for this Mustard Seed of the Kingdom; this small group would grow into a mighty tree that would shelter all of the birds of the world. In a way, Jesus was warning them in this parable, though they took little notice of it. Sigh! Here’s the happy thought I promised you. The Fathers say that for a mustard seed to be of any use, it must be crushed. Being small, when a mustard seed is sown, the weight of the earth crushes it. To get the flavor of the mustard seed or to make mustard, the seeds have to be crushed. The Lord would be crushed and sown into the ground, but from Him a mighty tree would grow. In the near future, the little seed of the Church would be crushed by the weight of oppression (The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church), but from that crushing, a mighty tree would spring forth to shelter the birds of the air. So my faith must be like the mustard seed. I like the big tree part of the parable, but I’m not real keen on the crushing part. When I get squeezed by the weight of my life, I don’t ooze good flavors. I tend to ooze things like anger, irritation, resentment and cursing. You can’t make very good mustard with those ingredients. I usually tend to think of this crushing as a sign of God’s anger at me. I’m a bad boy just being punished for being bad. If my faith was like the mustard seed, then I would understand that the crushing is about breaking my pride and sin, so that life can spring forth. Someday, even I could be a great tree under which others can find shade and shelter. After all, I try to sit in the shade of the tree of St. John Maximovitch. If you read his life, you would know how much he was crushed, even to the end of his life. It is good news really, but I wish you could get there without the crushing and burying part. It is the way of the Kingdom of God, and that’s the way it should be with faith. Actually, I was more comfortable with the idea of my faith being too small, so I should try to believe more and do better. Now the Father’s have blown that idea out of the water. Maybe if I just stopped reading the Fathers, I could hold on to my convictions and beliefs with the assurance that I have it all figured out. Hmmmm…no, better not.

2 Responses to “Another happy thought from the Redneck Priest….yeah, right!”

  1. nichole3 Says:

    Fr. John,
    I, too, have always thought I had to have more faith. My faith is most often wobbly anyway. The crushing part , I do not enjoy either. It seems that we get a little rest from crushing and then it starts all over. I’m well aware of being crushed but I would never have connected it the mustard seed passage. I did read a little about St. John Maximovitich…how his parish took him to court accusing him of stealing church money. That would be a horrible crushing.

    I told you in an earlier post that my husband might lose his job. He was spared. But there are 90 families suffering. Please pray for them.

    Nichole

  2. frjohn Says:

    Dear Nicole,

    Thanks so much for the responses! I do pray for you and your husband and for all the families that face these difficult times. May God be merciful to all of us and as we say in our prayers at Liturgy, may God grant to all of us the “abundance of the fruits of the earth.”

    frj

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