11th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Mk 4: 26-34) “Planting Mustard Seeds in Canmore” PDF Version
Homily for the 11thSunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2018): Mk 4:26-34
My favourite summer job during my university and seminary studies was to work in a small greenhouse near my parents home in Millarville, Alberta. Though small in comparison to commercial greenhouse operations, ours had the distinct honour of providing much of the flowers for the planters at the Calgary Stampede grounds, and while I have never been a huge fan of all things Stampede, I did take some pride in knowing many of the flowers I helped grow and plant would be enjoyed by those who would visit the greatest outdoor show on earth!
Among the flowers we grew were begonias. If you have ever tried to grow a begonia from seed, then you know that they are among the tiniest of seeds, not much bigger than the poppy seeds you will find on your bagel or muffins. It costs a small fortune to get a package of high quality begonia seeds, but if you know how to germinate them properly and care for them in the right conditions, you can yield a very prosperous crop of flowers!
I am reminded of those tiny begonia seeds whenever I read Our Lord’s parable about the mustard seed. They too are among the tiniest of seeds, most notably among the plants and shrubs that grew in the semi-arid lands of Judea and Galilee. However, despite being small in size, a mustard seed can grew to be among the most dominating shrubs in the lands that Jesus walked upon during His 33 years in Palestine.
In fact, when a mustard tree seeds itself in an open landscape such as a fertile hillside, then mustard trees can quickly dominate an entire region, so much so that it overtakes other vegetation around it and some have said becomes a noxious plant of sorts that if not controlled can quickly spread without restrain.
It is telling that Our Lord would compare the Kingdom of God to the mustard seed, a kingdom that begins small and humble in the heart of a believer who desires to proclaim the reign of Our Lord, but when united the faith of other believers can begin to spread and grow, working with Christ to fulfill His universal salvific will that all men and women be saved through His Church and baptism in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Every parish community should reflect on the ways in which they began from small mustard seeds of faith to grow and continue to grow into a living portion of God’s Kingdom. In addition, new mustard seeds of faith can continually be sown within a parish community, helping it to grow and change with the passing of time.
The first mustard seed of faith that was planted in the Bow Valley and Spray Lakes region was by the intrepid Jesuit Missionary Fr Pierre de Smet when he crossed into the Spray Lakes valley in 1845. During his brief stay there, he baptized six children and one elderly man whom he also buried according to Catholic burial traditions. These where the first baptisms and Catholic burial to take place in what would one day become the Diocese of Calgary and Catholic parish of Canmore.
The mustard seed of faith that Fr De Smet planted in the beauty of this small portion of the Kingdom of God would later grow and be fortified as the town of Canmore was established and Catholic families from around the world began to make Canmore their home and worked to build a parish community and its first church building in 1893.
Each of these pioneer Catholic families carried their own mustard seed of faith and planted it within this new parish community, allowing God’s Kingdom to grow and planting the Catholic roots that would allow for the building of a second church in 1960.
If Fr De Smet was able to baptize just 7 persons in his short stay in this region of the world, then think of all the Baptisms, Confessions, First Communions, Confirmations, Marriages, Funerals and other celebrations that have since taken place in the first two churches that resided in the town of Canmore! Each celebration was yet one more mustard seed of faith planted to help continue in the building up of God’s Kingdom!
And now as we stand on the threshold of the construction of our third church building in Canmore, we can begin planting new mustard seeds of faith.
They will come in all of the Masses and sacraments that will take place in our new shrine. They will come from all those pilgrimages and visitors who seek to find peace and consolation in our new church dedicated to the Holy Mother of God, under whose protection the Christian faithful have found comfort and strength since Mary was given to us by Our Lord just prior to His death on the Cross as the Mother of all the Christian faithful.
They will come through the many ways we will reach out to others in our community and invite them to find peace in new church, be it through a celebration of sacred music by the Rocky Mountain symphony or some form of communal outreach to those in need.
They will come within the hearts of each of us, be we permanent residents of Canmore, weekend visitors from Calgary and elsewhere in Canada or visitors from around the world, each and every person who walks through the doors of the new shrine has the opportunity to bring with them their own mustard seed of faith, and to generously plant it within this community so that we can work together to proclaim God’s Kingdom and help it to grow and flourish.
At the moment it might feel like there are a whole lot of mustard seeds that have yet to find good soil to be planted and begin to grow and spread! This is why we must have faith, hope and charity in regards to our own shrine. Faith that we are moving forward in our construction, hope that our shrine will become something wonderful for the proclamation of God’s Kingdom, and charity in looking to meet the financial and spiritual needs of our parish. But once constructed at the base of Mt. Lady MacDonald, I firmly believe it will become a great mustard tree for the Lord’s Kingdom!
I believe these coming months of construction will be a blessed time for our parish. So let us not tire in praying for one another and working together to build up our portion of the Lord’s Kingdom.