Growth, Development, and Transformation
The Book of Wisdom says this about God: “But though you are master of might, you judge with clemency, and with much lenience you govern us; for power, whenever you will, attends you. And you taught your people, by these deeds, that those who are just must be kind; and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.” Let us go back to that last sentence “and you gave your children good ground for hope that you would permit repentance for their sins.” We can trust in God. We will betray him; he will not betray us.
In the 13th chapter of the Gospel According to Matthew we read a parable of Jesus about an enemy who secretly sowed weeds among the seeds of wheat in a man’s field:
“His slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ He replied, ‘No, if you pull up the weeds you might uproot the wheat along with them. Let them grow together until harvest; then at harvest time I will say to the harvesters, “First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles for burning; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”
It is often hard to tell the weeds from the wheat. Two great example of this are St Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, the two great thinkers of the Church. Yet neither one would have been up for sainthood in their younger days. St. Thomas was called the dumb ox, and St Augustine was a partier who had many girl friends and drank a lot. Yet both of them became saints.
The Church is all about sinners on the way to being better. Everyone is welcomed: the greatest sinner, the greatest saint, the geniuses, and the simple.
The chapter goes on:
“He proposed another parable to them. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the “birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.”’”
The Church began very small indeed. At the time of Jesus’ Crucifixion there may have been only 120 devoted followers of Christ. We now have 2.1 billion Christians and well over 1 billion Catholics. The Christian religion grew tremendously in the last two thousand years.
The way our faith grows is also from small to large. Most of us begin as children with a simple and lovely faith. As we grow into our teenage years we begin to question it more. We also become more rebellious. We then usually have some kind of a crisis: a death in the family, a health problem, or a major change in life. In those crises we either grow in faith or lose our faith completely. We continue to grow in faith by attending Mass, by private prayer, and by good deeds, and these lead to transformation.
“He spoke to them another parable. ‘The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed with three measures of wheat flour until the whole batch was leavened.’” In the New Testament, metanoia, or a change of heart, was transformation. What Christ wants is a new and better person. In the above passage 3 measures of wheat flour would have been about 50 pounds. That is a lot of wheat flour, and it was all leavened. We need to know that God does all the heavy lifting. Our job is to ‘let go—let God,’ and do the footwork.
The best example I have of this is something from the alcoholics and drug addicts I used to work with. The first part of the transformation is called the pink cloud. The recovering alcoholic is so happy to be out of the hell of practicing alcoholism that he or she feels they are on a pink cloud. Then something from their past comes up, maybe some hurt they did in a relationship, or being held accountable for laws broken while drunk. It could be hundreds of things. They have a choice. They can either work with that problem or revert to old behavior, which feels better, but actually brings about worse consequences.
If they work with it, they first let go and let God. They let God work on the problem, and trust in God with all their might. But they don’t just lay back and say, “Go, God, go!” They go to Alcoholic Anonymous Meetings, they work the twelve steps with a sponsor, and, when they are ready, they help other suffering alcoholics.
Some aren’t recovering from alcohol or drugs, but do similar things. These too need first to trust completely in God. Then they need to do their footwork. They need to go to Mass, to listen to scripture readings, and pray on their own or go to retreats. A retreat might be a good way to discern a vocation. Even if it is not the priesthood or religious life, everyone has a task or tasks to do. So the kingdom of God consists of letting go and letting God, growth, development, and transformation. If you begin to do these things you may not always be happy, but you will have great and eternal joy.
—Father Mike Van Cleve
Father Mike is a priest for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston.
Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.
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