14 February 2011

The Church as the Mustard Seed

Canon Michael K. Wiener, Rector of St. Francis de Sales Oratory, was kind enough to allow me to publish his sermon from yesterday, which is based on the parable of the mustard seed from Sunday's Gospel.

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed it in his field.

The Roman historian and natural scientist Plinius the Elder wrote in the first century:

“Mustard ... is extremely beneficial for the health. It grows entirely wild, though it is improved by being transplanted: but on the other hand when it has once been sown, it is scarcely possible to get the place free of it, as the seed when it falls germinates at once."

God took time to prepare the grounds of our souls for the coming of the Word of God: “Though the world was awaiting the lessons from His divine lips in order to be born again to life and light – says Mother Louise Margaret Claret – nevertheless Jesus allowed thirty years to pass without manifesting His sublime wisdom.”

The man who sows is by most understood to be the Savior, who planted in this world the world to come - by establishing the Church and giving to her the truth of his teachings and His examples, by giving her His sublime presence in the Eucharist and the celebrations of the sacraments in the divine liturgy.

“When His time finally had come, He sowed the divine seed in souls with full hands and with full heart and He left to the Spirit of love the care of making it germinate and of bringing it to maturity.”

“The truth of God is unchangeable and cannot be altered. Holy Church possesses it in its entirety. Truth can make itself more precise, it can be more firmly established, it can be defined and explained through the slow but incessant unfolding of the truth by the Church. Really new truths, especially truths in contradiction with divinely revealed truth, cannot exist.”
Once the mustard seed has been received by the surface of the earth the tree starts to grow and it grows quickly: After one or two years the black mustard tree, which was common in Palestine at the time of Jesus, has grown up to its fullness.

“He first did and then He taught”, we read in the Acts of the Apostles. What the ear cannot be always hearing, the eye can see, and the impression received through the eye is normally stronger. It is the recollection of His sublime virtues practiced by Our Lord which makes us want to imitate them. Man is so deeply wounded in his nature - by sin - that only the model of man recreated in Jesus gives us the desire to make use of the gifts we have received in baptism.

In this we find strength in our families and in our social circles: in trusting that God may use our life as a mirror of divine truth and goodness. “We give thanks to God for you all … being mindful of the work of your faith and labor … for our gospel has not been unto you in word only, but in power also, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much fullness …”, says the apostles in today’s Epistle.

Living in the shadow of the mustard tree, being a citizen of the kingdom of God gives us access to the superabundant gifts of the everlasting king: The Eucharist, the nourishment of our souls celebrated in the divine liturgy.

“The Blessed Eucharist is for you … Rejoice, o man, your Christ, your priest, is eternally living with you. You are going to find Him at your side in all the needs of your life. If you are thirsty of truth, He will instruct you and pour light into your intellect. If you are suffering, if the sorrows of earth press heavily on you, He will console you”, says Mother Louise Margaret Claret, a spiritual daughter of St. Francis de Sales.

Nothing will plant the seed more firmly in our society, in today’s world as a fervent and generous Eucharistic culture in which we receive the Lord with reverence and respect.

In the conclusion of his book “Dominus Est – It is the Lord” The Most Reverend Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop in the Archdiocese of Astana in Kazakhstan, writes:

“Allowing oneself to be fed like a baby by receiving Communion directly into the mouth ritually expresses in a better way the character of receptivity and of being a child before Christ Who feeds us and nourishes us spiritually. An adult, on the other hand, takes the food himself with his fingers and places it into his own mouth. … The gesture of receiving the Body of the Lord in the mouth and kneeling could be a visible testimony to the faith of the Church in the Eucharistic Mystery and even something that heals and teaches our modern culture, for which kneeling and spiritual childhood are completely foreign phenomena.”


The mustard tree, the Church, is continuously cultivated and renewed in the celebrations of the divine liturgy. The liturgy is above all a gift of the Lord to allow His Mystical Body to be part of His supreme act of Adoration, Thanksgiving, Propitiation and Petition. It will profit the whole of us, the members of this Mystical Body, when all individual members are deepening their faith and their knowledge with regard to the liturgy.

The more we all are able to see the true spiritual roots of the mustard tree the better we are defended against a purely ideological or human perception of the liturgy. The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest cultivates the splendor of the liturgy to bring us the Lord. This is certainly counter-cultural, but being counter-cultural is not the first reason for the Institute to exist. The first reason for us to celebrate the liturgy and for the Institute to exist is to nourish and cultivate the mustard tree planted by Our Lord and entrusted to us and all generations before and after us. Amen.

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed it in his field.

In the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Dear Timman,

So glad to see Canon Wiener's sermon on your site. Canon's insights are extremely helpful to me in my daily life and I have always hoped that he would one day have his sermons (and homilies--now that I know the difference) in print. How blessed we are at the Oratory.

Anonymous said...

I am also thrilled to see
Canon's sermon in print...we are very very blessed to have his leadership and practical wisdom to refer to when we need it.
Canon, we pray for you ----keep plugging!