"All truly fruitful things begin in this world with what is small and hidden."—Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (Pope Benedict XVI), Ministers of Your Joy
Original piece by Sushobhan Badhai on Unsplash.
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Across the entire spectrum of created life, new life always begins in a small, humble way. From a microscopic single-celled human baby (zygote) growing in the womb, to the tiny seed of a giant sequoia just a few millimeters long. Some life stays small, and some grows to relative immensity, but it always starts from imperceptibly small origins.
Despite the size of life or its capability at any stage, it doesn’t render that life insignificant. Life is so complex and delicate that it must start from humble beginnings.
Even Jesus Christ himself began as a microscopic little human in Mary’s womb. Much the way he ascended into heaven, Christ could have just descended down to Earth at age 30 and began his earthly ministry, but he didn’t. In his jaw-dropping humility, he chose to fully enter into the human condition. So no one can ever accuse Christ of not knowing what it’s like to be human. He experienced life to the fullest and handed it over at the ripe age of 33, perhaps the ripest stage of human life.
There’s also perhaps a lesson to be learned here: he spent 30 of his 33 years living outside of the public eye, seemingly a nobody in the eyes of man. He lived simply in tiny Nazareth, a devout Jew serving his mother and father.
As we grow, we must be rooted firmly in what we believe and what we are here to do. We can only know of our mission by the Word of God, which is like a seed planted upon our heart. How it grows is up to our willingness and faith. Is the soil of our heart hardened, rocky, thorny, or fertile? Let’s call to our hearts and minds the parable of the sower and its meaning (emphasis added and reformatted for readability):
“A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed,
- some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And
- some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And
- some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And
- some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.”
As he said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God.
- The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, that they may not believe and be saved. And
- the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy; but these have no root, they believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. And
- as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. And
- as for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bring forth fruit with patience.
—Luke 8:5-8,11-15 (RSVCE)
A keyword here is patience. Sometimes the birds come, or rocks are thrown our way, or the thorns threaten us, but we must persevere against all odds. It is perhaps these very threats that help weather us and, in collaboration with God the sower, teach us how to rise above the adversity.