There was a lot of talk about the “God particle” last year. This was the nickname given the subatomic particle formally named the Higgs boson. Scientists say this particle gives mass to matter. Scientists with faith the size of a Higgs boson might say their faith is the real God particle and its power gives mass to the raw materials of human character: wisdom, strength and courage. And though all three of those start out in us as tiny as a Higgs boson, with constant exposure to faith they grow huge.
Our readings this Sunday put such supernatural growth in a natural context.
In the first, from Ezekiel (Ez 17:22-24), we can see ourselves in the fragile and tiny shoot of a cedar tree that God plants.
“It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the LORD, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”
A tiny shoot of faith releases the necessary wisdom, strength and courage to serve a great purpose—in this case, to offer protection to other living things. The same model for growth with purpose applies in our gospel reading (Mk 4:26-34), only this time the faith within all of us is like the tiny mustard seed Jesus talks about.
“When it is sown in the ground, [this] is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth,” Jesus says. “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.”
The God particle of faith is a seed sown in our heart that gives us the potential to do great things. But it is up to us to nourish it through prayer so wisdom, strength and courage can grow from it. As Paul tells the Corinthians in our second reading (2 Cor 5:6-10):
“We are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”
Without strength and wisdom, courage can be channeled for evil. But with the galvanizing force of faith, those three elements will grow in mass great enough to support the kingdom of God.