Readings: Jeremiah 13:1-11; Matthew 13:31-35
Mid-May through Mid-August is bird nesting season in the Shenandoah Valley. After the Assumption, the nests are empty and abandoned. If you search them out you may be amazed, as I first had been, to find some just a foot or two off the ground built into the lightest of wild flowers. No more than that is needed to host a nest. That’s part of the point about today’s Gospel about the mustard seed.
Those of us who are old enough will remember the Douay-Rheims translation of Saint Matthew’s Gospel describing the mustard seed as the smallest of seeds that grew into a great tree, sheltering the birds of heaven. Our present translation (a large bush) is closer to the facts. Well, this is the danger of translators who may be conscientious academics but need to spend more time away from their desks and out in the garden! The mustard seed only produces a bushy herb but that’s just enough for certain birds to nest in.
That illustration is brought to life for me, for example, by some of the simple gestures Pope Francis has made to people pushed to the fringes of the Church or in some tricky situations. How many public figures do we know that identify themselves as sinners or apologize for their errors? A word, a gesture, a welcome. He’s not saying, “Anything goes.” He’s saying, we’re all in the same boat and we need to row it to a better place, so let’s pull together. Let’s combine our gifts, our experiences, our vulnerabilities and move on from here.
That’s what the Kingdom of Heaven is like.