We are Branches on the Mustard Shrub

Homily for Friday of the 3rd Week in Ordinary Time

The parable we hear today is a simple but powerful simile for understanding the kingdom of God. We can all picture the large shrub that grows from a tiny seed. We know that Jesus is at the core of it growth. Where do we fit it? As members of the kingdom of God, could we be one of the tiny branches, or perhaps a petal on one of the blossoms?

Today is the memorial of St. John Bosco whose life definitely places him firmly among the branches of that shrub. He was not born famous. He did not descend from a royal family or become a world-renowned celebrity. He was born of a poor family in 1815 in Italy and was raised with his siblings by a single mother. He left home at the age of twelve to seek his role in the world. He met a priest who helped him to discern that role.

After he was ordained a priest, John began a ministry among orphans who lived on the streets or even in the prisons. Instead of seeing them as delinquent, he believed in them. He did not see troubled youth; he saw young people with potential. The education he treasured in his own life was made available to them. He became a teacher of young boys, hundreds of whom were removed from a life on the streets and provided with an education and a home. He fostered many vocations to the priesthood and with his mother worked to provide for orphan girls as well.

The work did not go unnoticed. Many were drawn to him and joined him in his efforts. Eventually, he founded an order of priests known as the Salesian Society. Together, they opened several schools to educate the poor. Even today they operate shelters for the homeless and at-risk youth around the world.

Though his efforts, John Bosco allowed an important branch of the mustard shrub to grow and provide the community with many holy lives. Like him, we can all make a difference in someone else’s life. Simple and deliberate acts of charity can change lives and, thereby, the life of the Church.

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

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