Cycle (A) 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Wis. 12:13, 16-19; Rom. 8:26-27; Mt. 13:24-43

The Battle of Gaugamela took place in 331 BC between Alexander the Great and Darius 111 of Persia.

According to historians 1,000,000 troops of Darius and 40,000 troops of Alexander met in the Battle of Gaugamela. In the battle thousands of men lost their lives. But, the empire that was built at the cost of thousands of lives did not last long. It too sank into oblivion in a short span of time.

In modern times too we have examples of many wars fought at great expense, to retain integrity of the nation or under the pretest of establishing peace. The last Gulf war is a great example for this. The Persian Gulf War started with an extensive aerial bombing campaign on 17 January 1991. The coalition flew over 100,000 sorties, dropping 88,500 tons of bombs. According to the media the Iraqi troops numbered approximately 545,000 to 600,000 and the Coalition committed 540,000 troops. The Cost The cost of the war was calculated by the United States Congress to be $61.1 billion.

Today’s gospel gives a great message that anything that should have a lasting impact should start from within, and it should be founded on righteousness. All the readings of today provided us with a very powerful message. The First Reading from the Book of Wisdom spoke of God's righteousness. The Second Reading from the Letter to the Romans speaks of the intercession of the Holy Spirit on behalf of the children of God. The last Reading from Gospel of Matthew announces the establishment and growth of the Kingdom of God.

The phrase “as small as the mustard seed” was common among the Jews. Jesus himself used this phrase when he spoke of the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Inn Palestine the little grain mustard seed did grow into a tree of 12 – 15 feet high tree. Further, it was a common sight that such mustard trees were surrounded with a cloud of birds, for the birds love the little black seeds of the tree, and settle on the trees to eat them.

Jesus said that the kingdom was like the mustard seed and its growth into a tree. The Kingdom of Heaven starts with from the smallest beginnings, but no man knows where it will end. In eastern language and in the Old Testament one of the commonest pictures of a great empire is the picture of a tree, with the subject nations depicted as birds finding rest and shelter within its branches.

It is the fact of history that the greatest things must always begin with the smallest beginnings.

An idea which may change the civilization begins with one man. Gandhiji was very much distressed over the way human beings were treated by the colonial rulers, at the same time he could not imagine a bloody battle that will cause misery for all. So his thoughts made him settle at the idea of non-violent resistance. With this powerful concept he was able to bring together 500 warring states, with different customs and traditions to stand behind him to demand freedom for India.

Ideas that revolutionize the world begin with one man. During the 18th and 19th centuries, scientists and the public all believed that it was not only impossible to fly using an artificial wing, but an act of folly to suggest that you could. This did not discourage the English gentleman scientist George Cayley, even though his contemporaries - including his own son - were embarrassed by his efforts. George Cayley knew how to make a plane a century before the Wright brothers took off.  But this small thought made possible planes that super-seed even sound.

A reformation begins with one person. One of the great stories of Christian Church is the story of Telemachus. He was a hermit of the desert. But something told him that he must go to Rome. He went. There was a gladiatorial game in which men fought with each other, and crowds roared with the lust for blood. Telemachus found his way to the games. Eighty thousand people were there to spectate men slaughtering each other. Telemachus leaped from his seat, right into the arena, and stood between the gladiators. He was tossed aside. He came back. The crowd was angry; they began to stone him. Still he struggled back between the gladiators. The prefect’s command rang out; a sword flashed and Telemachus was dead. There was a hush and the crowd realized what had happened; a holy man lay dead. Something happened that day to Rome, for there was never again any gladiatorial games. By his death one man had let loose something that cleansed an empire. Someone must begin a reformation; he need not begin it in a nation; he may begin it in his home or where he works. If he begins it no man knows where it will end.

Jesus had a small group of twelve men with him. Sometimes they must have despaired. Their little band was so small and the world was so wide. How could they ever win and change it! Yet, with Jesus an invincible force entered the world. HG Wells wrote, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very centre of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.”

In this parable Jesus is saying to his disciples that there must be no discouragement, that they must serve and witness each in his place, that each one must be the small beginning from which the Kingdom grows until the kingdoms of the earth finally become the Kingdom of God.
“Though few and small and weak your bands,
Strong in your Captain’s strength,
Go to the conquest of all the lands;
All must be His at length.”

The church invites us to make our small beginnings, and to continue to build. Our work will bear fruit.