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The Word Embodied
11th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Year B
June 13, 2021
John Kavanaugh, SJ

We walk by faith, not by sight. (2 Cor 5:6)

Imperceptible Life

A tiny sprig is planted. It becomes a mighty cedar to shade and shelter life.

We scatter seed on the ground. We sleep and rise day after day. Through it all, the seed sprouts and grows without our knowing how it happens. First the sprout, then the ear, then the ripe wheat.

Life, like faith and love, resists most measurement.

A mustard seed, among the smallest of the earth, slowly rises and erupts. It unfolds to reign as the largest of shrubs, ample enough for birds to nest and hatch in.

The reign of God, this matter of faith, hope, and love, this kingdom for the ages, need not measure well in isolated moments. It is a living and growing thing.

So also our lives. Life is slow and subtle. Love takes time to show and grow. In life, little acts count. In fact, that is what a life is all about, a long parade of moments deceptively inconsequential.

Children grow before our eyes. But they age imperceptibly. We recognize growth only after it has happened. The full truth of the child is seen after the child is child no more.

We ask ourselves: have we made progress? We are almost never aware of it. Only with effort and discipline do we become fully conscious. If we keep a journal, now and then we are startled when we peruse past entries. Worries, fears, preoccupations of the previous year seem to have evanesced. The greatest terrors and strongest urgencies of five years ago now surprise, embarrass, or encourage us. Was this me? Why was it that I could not gauge it as it was lived?

Life, like faith and love, resists most measurement. As it develops, it is rarely noticed. We seem not to do these things by sight. Our changings are unmarked as they happen.

This is why, perhaps, a daily examination of our awareness can be so life-enhancing. Examination applies the lens of believing to the blur of daily particularities. It is to notice in faith. It is to pay attention lovingly, gratefully.

Like sowers, we scatter our activities, our tiny acts of faith, flung out far and profligate, some taken by the wind, all landing somewhere. We sleep our nights and do our days, and the growth takes place. We may not even be conscious of the flowering.

Sometimes, by the grace of journey, whereby we depart and then return, we suddenly come to see the child now strong and true, the sapling broad and expansive.

But journey outward is not the only way to understand the present. In a journal, we move inward. We penetrate the present with conscious faith and love. We remember our destiny in Christ so that it might inform each present moment and quicken it with slumbering life. The import of life's every day, as St. Paul suggests, is revealed “at the tribunal of Christ.”

  “We continue to be confident. We know that while we dwell in the body we are away from the Lord. We walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:6)

John Kavanaugh, SJ
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Father Kavanaugh was a professor of Philosophy at St. Louis University in St. Louis. He reached many people during his lifetime.
The Word Encountered: Meditations on the Sunday Scriptures
Orbis Books, Maryknoll, New York (1996), pp. 78-79.
Art by Martin (Steve) Erspamer, OSB
from Religious Clip Art for the Liturgical Year (A, B, and C). This art may be reproduced only by parishes who purchase the collection in book or CD-ROM form. For more information go
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