Mark 4: 26-34

The Kenyan Wangari Maathai, a prominent environmentalist and founder of the Green Belt Movement, through which she planted more than 40 million trees throughout Africa, creating more than 3,000 nurseries tended by some 35,000 women, is known as “The Tree Woman”. Her work earned her the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004, the first African woman to do so. It all began with a dream: to fill her country with trees. Thus, from a small tree-planting project, over the years, it became the great “Green Wall Project”, which aims to halt the advance of the Sahara towards the south of the country and prevent its desertification. The titanic work of “the Tree Woman” was not born and developed without difficulties. She herself wrote that: “there were times when I was not even sure why I was going on… Service for the common good may have been difficult, even dangerous at times, but the Source (that is how she named God) and values were powerful forces that kept us on our feet, moving forward” (M. Wangari). This valuable woman died in 2011, her legacy lives on in the now known “Green Belt” of Africa. This motivating testimony makes us think of what Jesus teaches us in this Sunday’s Gospel: the seed that grows on its own, and the little mustard seed. Good spreads without our realizing it, and grows beyond our short expectations.

In many moments of his life Jesus taught through parables. With this literary form he spoke of the presence (of the Kingdom) of God through examples from everyday life. He uses two parables on this occasion: the first is centered on the growth of the Kingdom without our knowing how, as happens with the seed that grows by itself (cf. Mk 4:26-29). The second parable, centered on the imperceptible beginning of the Kingdom itself, as happens with the tiny mustard seed (cf. Mk 4:30-32). In both parables we find the idea of the Kingdom seen as gift and task; a Kingdom that we can translate as the germinal good in the world, which demands our commitment for its development, but also our patience and trust in Providence for its expansion. While both parables speak to us of this “providential growth of the seed”, the second, referring to the small mustard seed, reminds us that every sowing, however insignificant it may be, in the end is capable of harboring life, of offering shelter and protection.

What a beautiful teaching Jesus gives today to those of us who more than once have fallen into discouragement and the temptation to give up on our dreams and desires to do good! For example, in the face of the environmental crisis, we often doubt whether we are on the right path because we think that our small actions, such as taking care of water, energy, etc., do not contribute anything effective in the face of the massive destruction of our planet.

Certainly the beginnings of every good sown are always humble, almost never spectacular. Pope Francis tells us: “We must not think that these efforts are not going to change the world. They benefit society, often unbeknown to us, for they call forth a goodness which, albeit unseen, inevitably tends to spread.” (Laudato Si’ 212). Good germinates secretly in the human heart, and, for this very reason, we have the capacity to develop it through our work, but above all by trusting in the providence of God, who will make it grow until we become protectors of life. “Let us learn to rest in the tenderness of the Father’s arms in the midst of creative and generous surrender. Let us go forward, let us give our all, but let Him be the one to make our efforts fruitful as it seems to Him.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 279).

Prayer: Thank you, Father, for you teach us to transform the world as the works of your hands are transformed: they spring from the small, but little by little they grow, even if we do not see it. Make us like you. (Homiletic Magazine).

Author: Gladys De la Cruz Castañón HCJC
Catechist Sister of Jesus Crucified.
She has a degree in Catechetics and is a candidate for a Doctorate in Catechetics at the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome.
She is a member of the Diocesan Delegation of Catechesis in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Volunteer for the Global Catholic Climate Movement.