The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

Universal Church: Different opinions, people have a home

Published: June 24, 2021   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

In today’s Gospel we have two parables, the second of which is the famous parable of the mustard seed, something that starts small and then grows bigger, which seems very appropriate for our Alumni Day celebration in which we worship in our beautiful, much bigger church building and bless the Student Center, which we did not bless April 14 when we consecrated the church building and altar itself. We didn’t bless it then because we wanted to save it for when you alumni were here, so that you could share in the joy of this wonderful accomplishment, to which many of you gave generously and for which I am very grateful.

But let’s take a look at this parable. In Jesus’ time the mustard seed stood for the smallest possible thing you could imagine. So “faith the size of a mustard seed” means “the smallest conceivable amount of faith.” And so what does that have to say to us today?

Well, first of all, this parable says we should not be discouraged by small beginnings. St. Leo started small, but look at the growth you have experienced, especially under the leadership of Father Ernie (Hardesty), Pat Buford and Mary Corkins. We have experienced this reality in other sectors of life as well. The Lord has something for us to do, but at the moment what we can do can only produce a very small effect. But we keep at it and if our effort is repeated and repeated, eventually the results begin to show.

When I first met with Father Ernie over a decade ago, he told me about the need and how limited his resources were, and I am sure that he felt overwhelmed. But I reminded him that everything has to have a beginning, and nothing emerges full-grown. A new chapel was not going to fall out of heaven. It was for him to do what he could, and that’s what he did. And his -- and your -- cumulative effort over all these years, each small step when taken together, has produced an amazing result.

Humans make barriers, Christ tears them down

Secondly, this parable speaks about the universality of the Church. The mustard seed grows into a large bush and the birds of the sky dwell in its shade. The Church is catholic -- universal -- in that all kinds of opinions (all kinds of birds) can find a place in the Church. We have a tendency to brand as a heretic anyone who does not think as we do. That is a danger especially that universities have to try to avoid. It is good for us to feel confident that we are right, but that is no reason for us to think that everyone else is wrong. 

And of course, the Church is also catholic -- universal -- in the sense that all nations are united in the Church and in Christ. And here in this university parish, we have students from all over the world. There are no barriers in the church of God. Jesus would never tolerate any discrimination based on race, or language, or age, or sex, or nationality, or intelligence, or looks, or personality, or popularity or anything. Humans make barriers, Christ tears them down.

The kingdom of God “is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” From such small beginnings, our Church is truly catholic, truly universal. We build on what others have planted and others will build on what we do today.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily June 13 at St. Leo University Parish in Russellville.

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