“Then Jesus asked, ‘What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds perched in its branches.’” Luke 13:18-19
The kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. In June of 2017, I came to understand the parable of the mustard seed more deeply during my week in Jamaica with Mustard Seed Communities, who pride themselves on caring for the world’s most vulnerable. The week was spiritually transformational and redefined serviced for me. I was exposed to external beauty each day. A resident named Lee-Chin would hold my hand and walk me up the hill to the statue of the Holy Family and sing the “Amen” at the top of his lungs, and proceed to kiss the feet of Jesus and the hands of Mary. The first time this happened, I was in awe of this young man’s spiritual capabilities. He altar served in Mass and did not miss a single beat. As the week progressed, I understood that it is Lee-Chin’s faith that defines who he is, not his disability. Lee-Chin is like a mustard seed. He is one of 100 residents, yet his constant outpouring of love attracts volunteers, caretakers, and other residents and makes everyone’s quality of life at Jacob’s Ladder that much greater. While the trip was filled with undeniable beautiful moments, there were times I questioned our God. Many of the residents were not able to help themselves and as flies swarmed their faces, it hurt to know they could not swat them away themselves. It was heartbreaking, but time after time God’s love was magnified in these situations and our hearts were made whole again. Each of the residents were abandoned and are now cared for full-time by people who manifest God’s unfailing love.
Service is about joy, even in the hard places. One of the residents, Joy, was not able to speak and honestly I am not sure if she could hear. But by the grace of God, I felt closer to her than any of the other residents by the end of the week. I would sit with her for extended periods of time and she would fall asleep petting my hand or arm. I did not feel overwhelming sympathy for Joy. I do not think she would want that. I feel an overpowering love for this woman and her name is no surprise. God wants us to feel true joy, and I believe we felt that together. In service, no matter how much darkness is on the surface, His light shines in joy of the less apparent things. His light was constantly shining in Joy that week. When we left, the verbal residents asked, “Are you coming back?” and of course none of us thought we would be able to see them again. So I said, “I promise I will try.” Within a few months I was blessed enough to book a trip to MSC Jamaica with a group from home. Mustard Seed Communities and all of the events that preceded and followed my trip are testaments to God’s almighty power.
Staying in the mountains and seeing the vast ocean, I was constantly reminded of my smallness, but more than that, the greatness of our God and how incapable I am of comprehending his power and love. The Mustard Seed Communities prayer is written: “Oh Lord, we are your mustard seeds, oh so small and simple! Help us to be generous in giving to others by community, richly by our deeds. We are your children, living richly by our poverty. Help us to grow strongly. That in giving to others by our chastity- We may show unto others God’s perfect charity. As the Lord foretold: Thy mustard seed is the smallest of seeds, but through Thy grace, Thy seed will grow to the largest of plants, giving shelter to all. In this way, as You have proclaimed through Your Beloved Son, we are all your children, but humble and simple souls; but through Thy tender and generous grace, we might grow to be the noblest and purest of souls, spreading God’s joy and giving love to all!”
Why am I telling you about a community of adults with disabilities in Jamaica in a blog about a fellowship to serve with special needs kids in Australia and nuns in the Solomon Islands? It is because the mustard seed is so personal to me. Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed and Mustard Seed Communities represent the potential of service. My experience with MSC is not something I am trying to relive; however, the way I grew and what I learned fundamentally transformed the way I understand service. Like MSC, God puts the vulnerable first. With this service fellowship, I will also strive to put the vulnerable first. I will travel to Sydney and the Solomons with humility and love, ready to serve, maintaining the dignity of the human person. In Sydney, I will be serving children with special needs. The special needs community is vulnerable. They are not always treated with the respect that they, as dignified children of God, deserve. The people in the Solomons are vulnerable because they are materially poor. We are vulnerable in different ways, but God’s light shines in these people in a special way. He shines in the students’ joy, innocence, and love and in the people of the Solomons’ resilience, strong faith, and lifestyle.
Oh Lord, I am your mustard seed, oh so small and simple… But through Thy tender and generous grace, I might grow to be the noblest and purest of souls, spreading God’s joy and giving love to all. With this fellowship, I am going to be present, to love, and to learn alongside the Dominicans and alongside the friends I make along the way, whether they be my host family, my students, or people I meet in the Solomons. I do not intend on traveling to make any great changes, but to simply enter into people’s joys and sufferings. I desire to immerse myself in the cultures, to learn from the people I build relationships with, and to grow in my Catholic faith closer to Christ. Oh Lord, I am your mustard seed, oh so small and simple… But through Thy tender and generous grace, I might grow to be the noblest and purest of souls, spreading God’s joy and giving love to all!
I am here to share my testimony of the mustard seed everywhere I go, whether it be PC, Jamaica, Sydney, or the Solomon Islands.