“It isn’t much,” the young man thought, as he picked up the bulky, old, never quite in tune 12 string guitar, the echoes of the piano concert from the basement still ringing in his and the rest of the student’s ears. “How can these 12 strings and a five-chord song compare to Bach and Beethoven and Stravinsky played on a Grand Piano by a concert pianist?” But his friend had asked him to play for night prayers that night. “How can it compare, how can it be enough?” he thought? With not even a mustard seed’s worth of faith, he began playing.
She was an ordinary woman. Nothing special about her. Except. Except she saw. She saw that there were things “that wanted doing” as her friend Peter Maurin would say of her. So, she started all kinds of activities: a newspaper, houses of hospitality, feeding programs, communal farms. Her name was Dorothy Day. And she became very popular. So much so, that many admirers came to see her, to look at her, to touch her, if possible. Sometimes, they would tell her that she was a saint. Or say to someone else within her earshot that she was a saint. That would do it. With a sharp turn of the head and voice she would respond: “Don’t say that. Don’t make it too easy for yourself. Don’t escape this way. I know why you are saying, ‘she is a saint.’ You say it to convince yourself that you are different from me, that I am different from you. I am not a saint. I am like you. You could easily do what I do. You don’t need any more than you have; get kicking, please.” And just a mustard seed of faith was enough to propel her into action.
With just a mustard seed of faith, what could you and I do? That is the challenge of today’s readings. We hear from Habakkuk that the vision still has its time, still presses on to its fulfillment. What will we do with the mustard seed that is in us? You see, Jesus tells the disciples that ‘more is not better.” In fact, in regards to faith, less is better, because then we will know that the outcome is not due to our skills and talents, our efforts and trying. To have just a mustard seed of faith – the smallest of all seeds – is enough to change the world. It was enough to make me pick up that guitar in the seminary chapel that night after the concert. I remember breathing a quick: “Lord, let it be enough” prayer, wincing when the guitar was still out of tune, yet being overwhelmed when the place filled up with voices that sounded like the heavenly choirs. Never before or after in my four years of leading music at night prayer, did it sound so beautiful. With not even a mustard seed of faith, God did amazing things.
A sense of things that ‘wanted doing’ and a mustard seed of faith was enough for Dorothy day to begin what became the Catholic Worker movement – still flourishing today. A mustard seed is enough for those who, each Sunday evening since 9/11, have held and continue to hold a peace vigil for our country and our world. And with a mustard seed’s faith, a UMSL Newman Center alum left his job and career, and is completely changing the abortion battle through the “40 days for Life program” here to St. Louis.
It is easy to think that we don’t have enough. It is easy to mirror the apostles’ line of thought: We need more – more training, more faith, more education, more…whatever, before God will use us to do his will. Often the truth is closer to what Dorothy Day tells us – get cracking, there is work to be done. So, whether you have a mountain or a mustard seed worth of faith, let it move your heart to act this week.
• Is there some work, some volunteering you have been putting off ‘until you are more ready, more prepared?” Make the phone call today.
• Spend some time writing down the vision that presses your heart – something that keeps gently rearing its head in your thoughts and prayers. And even if it seems crazy, like Brian Westbrook’s dream to end abortion in America, one heart at a time, make sure you share that hope and dream with one other person this week. And then keep sharing it with the Lord in prayer….
• Jesus chose mulberry trees for his image, because He knew they had an extensive root system that twined itself deeply into the earth below it. They were hard to uproot. Ask for the gift of a mustard seed of faith about a struggle you wrestle with that has entwined itself in your life – perhaps it is the addiction to pornography that actually rewires the pathways in our brains; maybe it is sin of gossip that entangles us deeper and deeper into a net of harmful interactions. Whatever the struggle, trust that God wants to uproot that sin like a mulberry tree, and set you free in renewed love and service.
You see, it is not about more, despite the incessant pleas of society to have more. A mustard seed of faith is plenty enough to bring about the kingdom…