February 1, 2019
It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground,
is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth.
But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants
and puts forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade. (Mark 4:26-34)
The Baptism rite calls for the reading of a gospel passage followed by a brief reflection. When I preside over baptisms, I use the parable of the mustard seed. It offers an overview of our faith journey and our responsibility to nurture the faith of others.
I once heard baptism described as “the mustard seed of faith being planted in the heart of a child.” I think this presents a beautiful image. With baptism, original sin is washed away and the child is welcomed into the Church and begins his or her personal faith journey.
I use this passage to challenge those in attendance. It is the responsibility of the parents, godparents, and all those that love this child to nurture that faith – to provide rich soil for the seed, to offer plenty of sunshine or shade as needed, to feed it, to pull weeds that could possible impede its growth, and to prune the developing plant to allow for continued growth.
The faith of a child cannot spring up and become the largest of plants on its own; it needs our help. Then, and only then, can that faith fully mature. That child develops into a faith-filled adult that understands his or her obligation to put forth large branches,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade – to nurture the faith of others.
Faith has a life cycle. It grows from its mustard seed beginning because of the love and support of a caring faith community. Once mature, it assumes responsibility for nurturing the faith of others.