Readings (Year B)
Reflection: Mustard seed spirituality
The year 2020 was tough. The world came to a stop from the pandemic while at the same time overt racial injustice became the norm. I sometimes got mad at myself. I hated the realization that everything around me was out of my control; nothing was progressing at the speed at which I wanted it. And yet, paradoxically, when I looked through the lens of Ignatian spirituality, this experience substantially helped me to develop a more patient trust in God.
As a religious who has taken a vow of obedience, before 2020 the words “wait” or “not yet” often caused me internal conflict. I wanted tasks to be accomplished at my speed—which meant “now!” In 2020, however, I was forced to learn patience; I gained confidence in God’s timing, for I had no choice but to wait and trust.
As it says in the gospel today, 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” (Mark 4:31). Seeds start small, and they cannot be hurried. There is nothing we can do but wait for them to grow into something visible, something green and life-giving. This “mustard seed spirituality” is one of trust and patience.
Ignatian spirituality articulates “trust” as a new paradigm that leads to spiritual growth. In Ignatian spirituality, I have found a way to not only cope with the current world’s challenges but also to grow from them.
You may ask, “But why begin here?”As I’ve pondered that question, I’ve realized two things:
- Ignatian spirituality is built on possibility; it has the audacity to transform something out of nothing.
- Ignatian spirituality works to always create something new and transformed out of something broken.
Ignatius of Loyola’s voice travels across cultures and centuries. It is a voice we desperately need now—because it is the voice of patience and trust.
Teilhard de Chardin, S.J., said:
Above all, trust in the slow work of God. We are quite naturally impatient in everything to reach the end without delay. We should like to skip the intermediate stages. We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown, something new. And yet the law of all progress is that it is made by passing through some stages of instability—and that it may take a very long time.
The spirituality I have learned during this difficult time has helped me to renew my faith in God as I have come to trust in God’s slow works. It has expanded my understanding of Ignatian teaching, opening me up to a larger conversion that empowers me to love and hope in a new way . . . to even imagine an anti-racist workplace, a new method of protest, an energized and hopeful fight for justice.
Ignatius invites us to a new hope that is grounded in trust and patience. In this time of COVID-19 and racial unrest, he calls us to be aware of the kingdom of God present in our world—a work that begins as a “mustard seed.”
Today, when spiritual awareness is in short supply, when patience and trust are rare commodities, and when the sin of racism has damaged America’s identity, we need to trust in the slow work of God.
A version of this reflection appears in Patrick Saint-Jean, S.J.’s new book The Spiritual Work of Racial Justice: A Month of Meditation with Ignatius of Loyola (Anamchara Books).