Although it was decades ago, a memory fragment of mine pops up now and then. I must have been about four or five years old when my mother brought me to our parish church, St. Joseph’s, in Middletown, New York. I recall her leading me up the aisle toward the sanctuary so I could get a close look at the altar and its immediate surroundings. I remember asking her, “Where are we going?” That is all I remember, but I assume she was just getting me used to the environment, because she had decided I was old enough to start attending Masses with her and would be quiet and well-behaved. Perhaps it is a good question for each of us to reflect upon in our spiritual life journey: “Where are we going?” or even better as we mature: “How are we growing?”
In gospel passage read at today’s Mass, Matthew 13:31-35, Jesus refers in his parables to the tiny mustard seed and remarks how it produces a large bush; and he refers to yeast and how it makes the flour mixture grow. Experience teaches that we can grow in good ways and not-so-good ways. Unlike certain, natural anatomical growth that happens spontaneously, spiritual growth is something we can nurture and pursue.
My mother took me near the holy place in the church, the sanctuary, so I could get a close look. It is important to take a little detour now and then from our normal routine and take a close look at our path to holiness. Could it be that holiness itself is a stepping away from the familiar, normal, material world so that we can come closer to the Lord? That is one reason why daily prayer time is important.
It is so easy to become distracted and caught up in mundane habits. I look around and see people walking with what looks like a growth on their chin and it is really their cell phone being held up to their mouth as they continue their walk or other activity. I hear people seemingly talking to themselves, but really they have earbuds in their ears as they talk to others who are not near them. There can be several people seated at a restaurant table all staring down at their cell phones and not socializing with the diners so physically close to them. If we get out of touch with people near us, how are we growing closer to our Savior who is actually closer and more lovingly available than anyone?
Just like the parables’ seeds and yeast, we can start small in our quest of spirituality. So long as we water the prayer seeds and stir in the little biblical yeast tablet, day by day we can promote growth. Here is a good scripture passage to consider:
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,
virtue with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance,
endurance with devotion, devotion with mutual affection, mutual affection with
love. If these are yours and increase in abundance, they will keep you from
being idle or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:5-8).