In the Gospel reading today, our Lord Jesus Christ compares the Kingdom of God to a mustard seed which He considers “the smallest among all seeds” (Mark 4:30-32). Is He belittling the Kingdom of God? Certainly not. For sure, the Kingdom of Heaven is great and magnificent. It is infinitely greater than the universe, the intricate network of organs and functions of the human body, or the complex and unpredictable workings of physical nature.
He may appear like downsizing the Kingdom of Heaven, but He is, in fact, teaching us a lesson: In all grand undertakings, small matters matter. God’s reign comes to fruition through actions and events that are often too inconsequential to be noticed.
Many of us wrongly believe that our lives are shaped by spectacular events that have an immediate and awesome impact on our lives. Blame this on the pervasive influence of the mass media on our consciousness. They almost always report only those happenings that have enough magnitude to shock, frighten, or disturb us. They look for events that are too big to be ignored.
When a typhoon, a tsunami, or flood sweeps everything in its path, when the peso declines in value, when prices of prime commodities dramatically increase, or when the number of COVID-19 casualty surges — these are what the mass media consider newsworthy. Seldom do they focus on the little dramas that occur in the lives of ordinary people.
In truth, significant changes and upheavals in our world are usually shaped by small unnoticed events, which generate a cascade of wildly, unpredictable scenarios. Often, it is only through hindsight that we realize the immensity of such events. George Herbert’s witty poem aptly describes this. Let me modify it a bit:
“For want of a bullet, the gun is lost for want of a gun, the soldier is lost for want of a soldier, the battle is lost So, the war is lost for want of small bullet”
In a way, we seem to be doing what Jesus wants us to do. We are downsizing everything in the name of progress. Don’t you notice? We are now living in a very small world where, thanks to the internet, distance has been bridged, and time differences abolished. We are no longer separated by land and ocean. Our world has shrunk into a small viewing room where we have become seatmates watching simultaneously at monitors as we surf, watch our favorite sports, movie, soap opera, newscast, and talk show.
Earth has been transformed into a collage of TV channels and internet websites, and we have become anonymous receptors of an interwoven, interactive network of virtual images that we mistake for reality. Our country is no longer a nation of independent individuals. It’s a nation of 110 million cabled, cellphoned, earphoned couch potatoes who are mere statistics in the latest TV or internet viewership survey.
Although many of us still hope for the Kingdom of Heaven as our destiny, many more are looking forward to a new earth where rich countries and big business corporations will provide for all necessities, tranquillize all anxieties, and eliminate all diseases and conflicts. While many of us think of eternal redemption, many more dream of being redeemed from ugliness, bad breath, dandruff, pimples, unwanted fat, and other physical maladies.
Jesus downsizes the Kingdom of Heaven so we will appreciate how small beginnings can lead to greater ends. We are doing the opposite. Our idea of downsizing is to dismantle our world and recreate it according to our requirements. Our vocabulary attests to this. Words that pertain to harmony, necessity of limits, divine justice, honesty, morality, and lasting values, are becoming irrelevant in a culture permeated by technology, science, exploitation, and conquest.