January 26, 2018
by Andy Alexander, S.J.
Creighton University's Collaborative Ministry Office
click here for photo and information about the writer

Memorial of Saints Timothy and Titus, bishops
Lectionary: 520/321

2 Timothy 1:1-8
Psalms 96:1-2a, 2b-3, 7-8a, 10
Mark 4:26-34

Praying Ordinary Time

Blessed are you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth;
you have revealed to little ones the mysteries of the Kingdom.
Matthew 11:25

Timothy and Titus must have been special - to have worked with Paul and to have proclaimed "God’s marvelous deeds to all the nations." (Psalm 96)

I picture them as straitening out a lot of conflicts and of appointing /ordaining a number of priests, as they went from one place to another. I'm reminded of wise bishops today who bring the Good News to difficult, challenging and marginal places, and who appoint pastors for the right situations, who are bridge-builders and reconcilers.

The gospel really moves me and humbles me. How does the Kingdom actually work, grow, flourish? Jesus tells us that it is like the farmer who marvels at the growth: "he knows not how." Jesus says, "It is like a mustard seed." The smallest of seeds bringing forth this large bush.

Each of us could ask, "How is it going to work out that I live my Baptism?" Or, much more concretely, "How is my marriage going to work out?" "How am I going to cope with the conflicts at work?" "How am I going to work through my aging?" Or, how am I going to face this discernment or that decision?" Or, "What are the mechanisms and processes by which I'll become less self-centered and less impatient and judgmental, and more of a reconciler and healer?" Or, "Will I go 'all in' with Jesus and hear the cry of the poor, in my context, and work toward making a difference? And, how will that grace happen in me?"

Like the farmer in the two examples Jesus gives for how the Kingdom will grow - really what all our questions are about - we have work to do. The seeds need to be planted. The soil has to be prepared. But, the rest? We don't know how exactly.

What's moving to me is that I don't need to "know;" I just need to "trust." Things work out differently when I trust. When I expect it to work. I plan that way. I shape a path and am open to it when it arrives and I make steps along it - not confused or reluctantly, but confidently and joyfully. Trust, that the little things I do matters, and trust that God will do the rest, is very powerful. What God needs from me is a little trust, and an open and cooperative heart. That is really insightful and consoling. It contrasts with my too often skeptical and jaded approach. It really contrasts with any form of self-pity which freezes out grace. It contrasts with reluctance born of comfort with the way things are. (All of us have the experience that we'll put up with a lot of pain and misery, rather than be open to any change at all.)

Trust and a cooperative heart anticipate God's creative goodness, all the time - certainly in the darkest and most discouraging times, but also in the day to day. Day to day receptivity to grace is transformative. It sees what I don't see when I'm crabby. It hears hurt and pain in others, who before had only driven me nuts.

God does really care about us, really does desire unity and the "harvest" that comes from our working at little acts of love and heroic sacrifices for the sake of those most in need. All I need to do is remember God's desire and trust that I simply need to cooperate with God's graces and trust in the outcome.

I'm not naive about how difficult it will be. I'm not overlooking that there are people who seemingly not trusting and cooperating. I'm not unaware that sometimes "enemies" are sowing "weeds" in the field to frustrate the harvest. I just know that trusting is better than not. I know that trusting more easily leads me to the desire to fall into the hands of a loving God - no matter what.

Dear Jesus, thank you for consoling us today with this confidence building invitation to trust in you. I want to act on that trust today, knowing that you who begins these good things in me will see them to completion. Calm my fears; sooth my skepticism; fill me with hope - and may your Kingdom come and your will be done in me as you desire it.

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