“…To what shall we compare the kingdom of God? It 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…” -Mark 4:30-32
Since NET Team 15 arrived in Geneva, Illinois in the Diocese of Rockford less than three months ago, we have experienced growth in every area of our lives. After our four weeks of training at the NET Center were over, we flew to Geneva for our final week of training at the parish, giving us our first glimpse of what the coming year was going to look like. Being on a first-year Discipleship team at this parish holds so much goodness, opportunity, excitement, as well as its own struggles, that differs from being on a traditional NET Retreat team.
Acting as disciples of Christ in this particular ministry requires us to appreciate all of the little moments of growth we witness. Unlike a Retreat team, we get less opportunities to see charismatic encounters with the Lord, but we are blessed enough to see how the Holy Spirit works in people throughout their daily, normal lives. We realized that staying intentional with every person we come in contact with is vital in developing long-lasting relationships that will show God’s love.
For instance, during our last Team Day, we went to a Mexican restaurant for lunch. This day was supposed to be similar to an “off-day,” spent together as a team. However, one of the men on our team, Oscar, was able to strike up a conversation with a cashier at the restaurant. It turned out that they were both from the same city in Mexico and began to bond over coming from the same culture. As the conversation continued, Oscar was able to mention that we are Catholic missionaries and asked the cashier if there was anything in his life he wanted prayers for. At the end of the conversation, the cashier gave Oscar his phone number to potentially meet up again and talk more. Because of Oscar’s intentionality in truly loving everyone at all times, the Holy Spirit was able to use Oscar as a vessel to speak to this young man. As the song says, “They will know we are Christians by our love.”
Not only do we have these little moments to plant seeds, however, but we also have the opportunity to see them sprout and grow as well. Another example is when a woman on our team, Olivia, met a teenage girl during one of our open youth room nights. As we all talked, the girl had offered to play the flute in front of us. After her mini performance, Olivia told the girl that she was very talented and expressed that she wanted to learn the flute after hearing the girl play. The girl then suggested to actually teach Olivia how to play. Olivia was surprised and thought the girl was joking, but a few days later the girl asked Olivia when they could have their first lesson. The two have now started to meet up once a week, partially to practice the flute, but also to talk and get to know one another. Although the goal of these meet-ups originally was not solely to talk about the girl’s spiritual life, Olivia has been able to set up a foundation of trust between the two of them, and the conversations are able to get deeper to the heart with every meeting.
In moments like these, it is often difficult to believe you are making much of a difference to a youth’s life. However, while we may work on one level, God works on a much more deep and intricate level. As a Discipleship team, especially as a first-year team to a parish, we plant the “mustard seed” into the ground. While we can help nourish this seed through the power of the Holy Spirit, it is ultimately the Lord who makes the seed grow into the largest of trees. We are simply the tools that God uses to work through us. This specific ministry is so unique and blessed in that we are able to truly appreciate the day-to-day moments that are full of God’s love. After we leave NET, the hope is that we will have gained trust in the Lord to believe he does have a plan for each moment of our lives and that his timing is always perfect.
Our team encourages you to also trust in His timing and growth. The Creator of the Cosmos does not abandon those who surrender their desires to Him, even if it is the tiniest of our desires. A saint that has been very prominent in our team life is St. Therese of Lisieux and her “Little Way.” St. Therese teaches that the smallest acts of love are often the most impactful. She says, “Miss no single opportunity of making some small sacrifice, here by a smiling look, there by a kindly word; always doing the smallest right and doing it all for love.”
Brothers and sisters, God smiles down upon us and is so grateful when we can show his love in every act we do. He also rewards our faithfulness in those moments, and especially works such goodness when we do not feel like we are making much of an impact. As long as we are living for His love, God will never abandon us.
Madison, Olivia, Laura, Nina, Chris, Jacob, Oscar, and Josh