Growing in Faith
‘BEING A CHRISTIAN is not a matter of making a lofty choice about an ethical idea, but the encounter with an event, a Person, which gives life a new horizon and decisive direction.’ Benedict XVI That Person, Christ Jesus, came to show us what God is like and what we can be.
Christianity is not so much a religion, more a relationship. Jesus offers us the security of God’s loving rule in our hearts, the kingdom of heaven. In saying what this is like, Jesus uses many parables. Two of them are about seeds, giving the idea of hidden growth and development. Mark 4.26f
These parables speak about hope and about trust in God. As Christians, we can easily get discouraged when we look at the world around us, when we look at the task facing the Church, when we look at the situation in our own lives.
It can sometimes feel as if the Church is fading away in the Western world. We’re told that as a group we are losing numbers, that the message we preach is stale. We say it’s Good News, but for many it seems neither news nor good for today’s world.
And we can sometimes feel just as discouraged when we look at our own lives. What difference does my faith make to my life? Does it really make me a better person? Why don’t I seem to make any progress in my efforts to be a better person, to love my neighbour, to pray to God?
Jesus tells these two stories about
seeds to encourage his own small group who were facing the same questions and anxieties. Yes, we are tiny in number and the task is huge. Yes, the world seems to ignore us. But like the tiny mustard seed, from our small beginnings something great can grow. Yet as with all seeds, the process of growing is hidden from view.
When we get discouraged because we don’t seem to see much result of our efforts, we need to remember that it is God who provides the growth, God who decides when it will be time for the harvest. We’re living in the ‘in between’ time – the time between the scattering of the seed and the final reaping. The harvest time is not yet.
When we are faced with discouragement and doubt, these two parables about the seed should encourage us. We need to persevere, allowing God’s word, God’s love, to penetrate our lives. Like the first disciples, we need to spend time with Jesus in prayer.
The Gospel is not just about knowledge, about simply hearing and remembering. It’s about allowing the power of Jesus’ words to enter our hearts and to change us. It’s about allowing God to place the seed of his love in our hearts, then patiently allowing God to give us the growth, to let his Word bear fruit in due time.
We must never forget that we are not relying on our own strength, but on the power of God’s love and forgiveness working through us.
Peter Knott SJ