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Jesus tells us that the kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed. It is the smallest of all the seeds yet it grows into the largest of trees. So, what is a mustard tree? It is an oversized weed. They are big, thickly branched, and ugly. If you have a mustard tree in your yard, you are going to rip it out and plant an azalea. Why would Jesus compare the kingdom of heaven to a weed? Can’t he come up with something a little more majestic, like a great cedar of Lebanon or the glorious Californian Redwood? Why a mustard tree? Because in the Kingdom of God, even a weed has potential for greatness.
So there is an eagle chasing a small sparrow. Just before the little bird becomes lunch, it sees the mustard tree and darts inside. The eagle says, “I’m not going into the mess. I will be impaled by one of the branches.” Look at a rabbit. It has nothing to protect itself. It doesn’t have any wings to fly, it can’t climb trees, and it doesn’t have sharp, scary teeth, but it does have a mustard tree. Even a weed has potential for greatness.
Remember Moses. Before God called Moses, he was tending the flock at Midian. The reason why he is in Midian is because he is a runaway slave with a rap sheet for murder. You cannot get lower than that. Picture God looking through his files to find someone who has the potential to march into Egypt and free a nation without any weapons. “Oh, here is someone: a murderer and a coward all in the same person.” Wouldn’t you think that God would want someone with more qualifications? Couldn’t God come up with someone than Moses. Why Moses? Because in the kingdom of God, Moses has potential for greatness.
So there is Peter in his sinking boat full of fish. He is so overwhelmed by the catch that he drops to his knees and tells Jesus, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man.” Peter wasn’t lying. I have no doubt that Peter was telling the truth. Peter was a businessman and a sailor. Couldn’t Jesus walk to the nearest synagogue and find some humble servant who has been doing the will of God the entire life? I am sure there is someone with better qualifications at the temple in Jerusalem. Why Peter? Because in the kingdom of God, Peter has potential for greatness.
So the wicked steward gets caught stealing and then he becomes the hero of the story. How does that happen? Students of the Bible have been scratching their heads for centuries trying to figure out why Jesus uses a cheat, a dishonest man as a model of Christian behavior. So, what does the guy do? He gathers all the people he knows that are in debt and reduces it greatly. Why is that important? In the ancient world, if you had debt you could not manage, they would sell your kids, your wife, even your grandmother into slavery, and send you to jail until you pay off the debt. This guy is a hero to many people, like the mustard weed is a hero to vulnerable and weak animals. He takes a pile of wealth and uses it to help people. Might as well put some of that wealth to good use. That is the point of the story.
I sometimes picture myself entering into heaven when I die. Choirs of angels singing, all the saints applauding, and father Abraham with his arms extended to welcome me. I will say, “Hold it, stop, time-out. Why is everyone so happy to see me, I thought you guys don’t like religious leaders.” And another guy will die and go to heaven and hear singing and clapping and say, “Why is everyone so happy to see me, I thought you guys don’t like tax collectors.” And another person will die and go to heaven and hear the singing and say, “Why is everyone so happy to see me, I thought you guys don’t like divorced people.” And another guy will die and go to heaven and hear the choirs of angels shining and father Abraham with his arms extended in welcome and say, “Why is everyone so happy to see me, I thought you guys don’t rich people.” And when you die and go to heaven and hear the choirs of angels shining and father Abraham with his arms extended in welcome and you will say, “Why is everyone so happy to see me, I thought you guys don’t like…” (fill in the blank here, because you too are flawed).
Here is the Gospel message. God works with limited and flawed people because, in the kingdom, we all have potential for greatness.Back to All Homilies