We are blessed to live in such a beautiful place and as we walk or drive through the New Forest we see the miracle of growth taking place all around us in flowers, trees, plants and shrubs. Many poets have tried to describe the miracle and beauty of nature, Wordsworth came close, but words cannot really capture the magnificence of the scene as the cycle of nature blossoms in all its beauty. We don’t have to be professional gardeners or farmers to appreciate that growth is a gradual process. Many plants and flowers have their origins in tiny seeds being buried in the earth and they demand time, tender care and patience for them to blossom and bear fruit.
The readings of today’s Mass are concerned with growth, not physical growth but spiritual growth. They speak of the importance of us coming to God in prayer and good works in order to grow in God’s favour and friendship. God is at work in every age and in each of our lives. The seed of God’s word was first planted in our hearts at baptism. Our task is to water and tenderly care for that word so that it can work powerfully within us. As most of us were baptised as infants, parents have a vital role in nurturing the seed of God’s word in their children. The example good parents set by prayer and good Christian living in the home will go a long way in determining their children’s attitude to life and to God.
The mustard seed reminds us of an important truth of the Christian life: the seed of God’s life within us grows slowly and invisibly. We can’t rush the growth of seed in the earth and neither can we rush God’s growth in our hearts. There’s nothing we can do to hurry it along. Because our path to perfection seems so frustratingly slow at times we may be tempted to lose heart. Some of us may have the uneasy feeling that after years of struggling with the Christian life, we are no nearer to God. There appears to be no mastering of our personal shortcomings. The same old sins keep recurring and prevent our progress on the path to perfection. And yet, how easily we forget that God rewards our smallest efforts, he rewards our ability to keep trying. We fail to realise that God’s grace can work best through our human weaknesses and limitations and can accomplish what is beyond our wildest dreams. We are not going to be able to measure it, but we can be certain that it will happen provided we play our part and are intent on pleasing God.
We tend the seed of the Word of God that has been planted in our hearts by prayer and by the faithful and frequent reception of the Sacraments, especially the Eucharist and Reconciliation, and these, in turn, dispose us to perform good works and acts of loving kindness. In this way we make ready the earth in which the seed of God’s word can blossom.
There is no age at which we cannot grow in God’s grace. So let us realise that life is but a passing shadow and the few years given to us here below are for soul-making. If we don’t grow in moral and spiritual stature while on earth, there will be lots of growing up to be done in purgatory. This is why we should pray for the Holy Souls, for we will be counted among their number when we die. As we pray for them we ask them to pray for us when they find themselves kneeling before the Throne of Glory for all eternity. May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.