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.
Mark 4: 30-32
Jesus used this and other agricultural images to speak of his work and how God makes it grow despite our small efforts.
Today we remember Bishop Maurice Dingman who had been the bishop of Des Moines, Iowa, who died on February 1, 1992. A beloved bishop I met him and heard him a few times; I was especially impressed by his simplicity. He was a great pastoral man who was also outspoken in his defense of the family farmer, especially in the 1980s when the farm crisis hit many families in Iowa. But he was also not afraid to speak out against war, in particular against nuclear weapons and against the US-sponsored wars in Central America.
In many ways he combined the prophetic and the pastoral in his ministry.
He was a man of vision:
You are to look forward to the future. Make the work of the future your task. It is an immense task, and you do this in three ways: be a spark of light, a center of love, and a leaven in the world in which you live. We can’t do everything, but we can do something. All we really have to do is to open ourselves to these possibilities. I ask you to continue to search for truth. I urge you to continue your lives in a fashion so you can hear the word of God, put it into your own idiom, and then live it out.
May his inspiration move us to pray and work for peace with justice and to be in solidarity with all the farmers of the world, especially those who struggle to make ends meet in order to feed their families.