The mustard seed

By Denise Seibert Townsend

Catholic Charities

In late October, I had the honor of joining the graduating class for one of the Neighbor To Neighbor courses hosted by Catholic Charities. Neighbor To Neighbor graduation is a big deal, and something that we look forward to with each group that completes the program. It is an opportunity to celebrate the participants, reflect on the progress made by each person and share their hopes for the future.

As I listened to the group’s discussion, I thought of the parable of the mustard seed.

“He said, ‘To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it?  It 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’” (Mark 4: 30-32)

In this parable, we learn that a tiny mustard seed can grow into a large plant. We are reminded how God can use small things to do great works. When we think of the beginning of the Church, we realize it was very small and humble. It began with Jesus and a small group of loyal followers. Now, the Church is a large tree with members all over the world.

Just as the parable of the mustard seed demonstrates that great things can come from small and humble beginnings, I am reminded each day – through our services at Catholic Charities – that even small acts can have lasting impacts in our communities.

Catholic Charities provides hope, and empowers individuals and families through programs like Neighbor To Neighbor. The goal of this faith-based, life-skills-education program is to help participants move away from financial dependence on social-service agencies and toward self-sufficiency. Participants focus on goal-setting in the areas of finance, faith, health and community. Upon successful completion of the program, participants earn a voucher toward their rent, utilities or other appropriate expenses. The intent is that this voucher will help the participant move forward to achieve his or her goals.

As I attended the Neighbor To Neighbor graduation, I listened to the participants share the goals they had set for themselves to move forward. I could see that these small goals were the first steps on their journeys to lasting change. Just like the mustard seed in the parable, the first steps for many participants are small. However, I am confident that, as the participants continue to work with Catholic Charities in the coming months, their progress will be like the mustard seed growing into a larger tree.

I also thought about the mustard seed as I observed our dedicated volunteer facilitators and Catholic Charities staff members. They are caring, compassionate and humble. Many times, our facilitators see their acts as small roles within the program, yet this graduation was a testament to how small acts lead to great works.

I ask you to consider the parable of the mustard seed the next time you complete an act of kindness, service or justice.  May you be reminded that great things can come from humble beginnings. Our work at Catholic Charities is a reminder that small acts can have lasting impacts for individuals and families, and, ultimately, in our communities.​