Small Beginnings

Sunday of Week 11 in Ordinary Time - Year B

Mk. 4:26-34

The blacks in the U.S.A. gained their emancipation in 1864, but it wasn't until 1964, a hundred years later that an act was passed giving them the same civil tights as whites. Between those hundred years they were victims of terrible discrimination, especially in some of the southern states, like Alabama.

This discrimination even included the segregation of blacks and whites on the city buses. But one single incident brought this whole shabby and disgraceful business to an end. On 1 December, 1955, a 42 year old black woman boarded a bus to go home after work and at the shops. She found an empty seat of the start of the block section. At the next stop some whites got on and the driver ordered her to get up and give her seat to a white man. This meant that she would have to stand all the way home. She thought, 'Why should I give up my seat. l'm tired and my feet are hurting.' So she sat there and refused to get up. The driver called a policeman. The black lady, Mrs. Parks, was arrested and put in jail, but later was released on bail.

What she had done was like a spark in a forest that hadn't seen rain for a whole year. Word of the incident spread quickly. Blacks had had enough. A meeting was called and Martin Luther King was asked to address it. The outcome was that they made one basic demand, that passengers be seated on a first-come first-served basis. A boycott of the buses was planned to begin on 4 December. Would the blacks support it? It got a l00% support. People walked to work. Those who had cars ferried their fellow workers to their jobs. Everywhere the pavements were crammed with people walking to work. The buses were empty except for a new whites.

The boycott dragged on all that winter, and through the spring and summer of 1956. They dreaded facing a second winter walking to work. They were spared that hardship, for on 13 December the Supreme Court of the United States declared the Alabama segregation laws were unconstitutional.

Victory was achieved and an unjust situation was put right all because one woman decided to act. It all began with one small act. As the proverb says, 'A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.' Mrs. Parks herself had no idea what she had started.

In today's Gospel Jesus speaks of God's Kingdom beginning in a small way. He says it is like a mustard seed which a man plants in his garden. Even though it is tiny, given time it will grow into a large shrub in whose branches the birds of the air will find food and shelter. What is Jesus teaching us here?

Jesus is saying, "God does depend on us to do our part. The man planted the seed in the first place but it is God who gives the growth and increase." lt we want to change something in our lives or in the world we must make a start somewhere. The start may be very small and appear to be totally insignificant and useless, but it IS necessary. Once we take our first step in what we believe to be a just cause, we must trust God will help us to go forward even though we do not know where it will lead us. We must persevere in spite of delays and obstacles.

This is a valuable and consoling lesson it we want God to reign in our lives. lf there is some area of our life where He does not now reign, when are we going to take the first step to change this situation? ' If there is one unjust situation in the world around me, then perhaps I am the one to take the first step to correct it. Then others will follow and God will help us to see it through.

For God's kingdom to come, a kingdom of justice, love and peace - each of us has a part to play, but it is God who gives the increase. As individuals we may feel that we haven't much to contribute. Yet to plant even one seed of truth, of justice and of peace is a worthwhile thing. We can leave it to God to bring forth the harvest and perhaps others to reap it. Jesus began His great work by calling a handful of fishermen and look what was achieved.

Lord Jesus, Mother Teresa said, 'We can do no great things - only small things with great love.' With Your help the small things we do can be transformed into great and wonderful things.