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On one of the walls in my brother's kitchen
are little black lines with dates beside them all the way up the wall.
They signify the height of my niece and nephews
as they grow up with the corresponding date on it.
It is interesting to see the different lines and dates
where they were and where they are now;
and where Mummy is and Daddy is
and Uncle Brendan is way up here!
There is no kind of set schedule when they measure up
but every now and then, they line up and check.
We did it the other night and they had grown
by some enormous amounts since they had last done it.
Of course, there is the usual dueling between the siblings:
"I'm taller than you are."
"Well, let's find out."
They measured up and of course all the lines spoke for themselves.
Because we grow slowly as a chicken
our growth is unperceivable to us who are growing.
Even others who seen us regularly don't see the difference.
We don't look in the mirror and say,
"Oh my gosh, I've grown four inches this morning!"
We need something to rate ourselves against,
to take stock of how far we have grown;
we need some measuring wall.
Others who do not see us for some period of time
can notice the growth and the difference.
For example, we see it with the students from school
when they go away for the summer,
they come back and some of them are just ginormous.
I don't know what they ate over the summer,
but they are two to three inches taller when they come back for the fall.
The same happens in our spiritual lives.
Because our growth is unperceivable to ourselves,
we often cannot see how far we have grown
unless we reflected about our spiritual lives.
The difference between the physical growth and the spiritual growth
is there is an expectation in the Christian life we continue to grow
and we never stop growing ever.
So there should be no line at which we say,
"Ah, that's it; I'm done;
I've grown and I have fully reached my spiritual perfection."
It would be completely false spiritual exercise to believe we can arrive
because we are always on the journey of spiritual growth.
When we are born into this world,
we are born as human beings that grow physically
and we also grow as spiritual beings.
We have to take a personal ownership for that growth;
to ensure that I am continuously nourished and grow spiritually.
In today's gospel, we hear about the seed that is scattered and planted
and Jesus is referring to the kingdom of God.
He uses parable after parable to explain the kingdom of God.
Repent and turn back to the Lord.
Repent and believe in the gospel.
Some believe that this "the kingdom of God" is some eternal reward
but that is not quite the way the gospel of Mark presents it.
Indeed in all of the gospels,
the kingdom of God was here and now
as well as in eternal life.
For us we were born with the potential to realize the kingdom here
and what our Eastern Catholic brothers and sisters call "divinization."
We are becoming more like God every day
when we cooperate with God.
The land itself cannot yield fruit unless it cooperates with the seed.
If it leaves no room for the seed to grow,
and but insists that it stay exactly where it is with no movement
then it is the same as a rock.
The soil must leave for the seed to grow and expand to bear fruit.
We are called to not only leave room for the spiritual seed to grow
but also to create the growth within our own heart
by nourishing it with constant attention.
What are the aspects of our life if you would that allow for spiritual growth? One is most certainly is coming to the table of Eucharist.
We believe that is one powerful way to continue to nourish us in the spirit
but I do not believe this alone is enough.
It be so but most often we need more.
Spiritual reading is a great example.
We gave the book, My Life with the Saints to everybody for Christmas.
We have to take ownership for the fact
that we are called to deepen our spiritual lives.
Now if one did not know how to read,
then that is not for you but every one of us here can read.
We read other things.
Why would we not read spiritual books?
We read the daily newspaper on the Internet.
Why would we not read spiritual blogs or spiritual matters?
Why must we read only that which is not religious?
Ask yourself: Of all the things we read in the last year,
how much of it has been spiritual?
We are called to feed ourselves spiritually
and there is a need to take ownership for that challenge
and to continuously nourish ourselves with spiritual food.
Some of that comes through spiritual reading but even that is not enough.
The real growth of spiritual nourishment or spiritual growth
is through acts of kindness and justice.
That is where the real growth happens
because it is where we allow the soil to break open
and to allow that seed to grow when we reach out in charity to somebody.
It is not necessarily about money but it includes that.
Moving our heart and caring about other people's plight.
We may not agree as to why they are there
but we care as a fellow human being;
we care about why they are in a difficult spot in their life.
So today, I ask us to take ownership.
Take ownership of our spiritual growth.
There are times when we have to measure ourselves
and we measure ourselves on our spiritual growth
to see how far we have come in our growth.
One has to be carefully about not only growth but also possible decline;
it is probable that we spiritually decline if we do not work on it
and we are not growing and we are spiritually shrinking in old age.
The kingdom of God is here and now.
We are called to taste of it, live in it
and bring that good news to others.
We do so not only at the table where we celebrate today;
we do it also by spiritual reading and growth in our own life and prayer;
we also do it with acts of kindness, charity and justice.
Today, we are called to continue our spiritual growth
and check ourselves against the measuring wall.