The following is a reflection given by Sister Janet M. Peterworth, OSU at Saint William Church in Louisville on Sunday, June 13, 2021.


I live in the Chatsworth Apartments just off Frankfort Avenue and Ewing in Louisville. Frequently, as I am waiting for traffic lights to change, I see men and women who are partially sighted or completely blind walking along Frankfort Avenue, or crossing that street, using either a white cane or holding onto a harness that is attached to a Golden Retriever. And I marvel at the confidence and trust that these partially sighted or blind women and men have in a cane or a dog. It must take remarkable courage. It must take remarkable faith in their guides. Truly, they walk by faith and not by sight.

As I have gotten older and have read more and have had more of life’s experiences and perhaps have gotten more cynical, I have come to appreciate the wisdom and value of that phrase from Paul to the Corinthians: “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” Now, I hear it as an admonition, ”Janet, walk by faith and not by sight!”

As I have tried to understand the great mysteries that we have all just lived through in this liturgical year—A resurrected dead person? A body being taken up into a cloud as people watched? A Spirit coming upon human beings in flames and winds, and then those same people being understood by all present in their own native tongue? A God that is three yet one? Simple bread and wine being a real body and blood of someone who said, “Do this in memory of me” centuries ago? A church that was once a tiny mustard seed, but is now a huge bush full of strange and different kinds of birds?? And I must say to myself and to anyone who will listen to me, “I must walk by faith because I am too blind, too dense, too stubborn to grasp it all in my sight. It is all—all about faith for me.

And faith means I do not understand and that I do not need to even try to understand. And that reminds me of a story —whether legend or fact I do not know—but it is a story of the famous St. Augustine, that Bishop of Hippo, who for better or for worse influenced the theology of our Church for a long time. The story goes that one day Augustine was walking along the beach, and he was trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity. He was deep in thought and frustrated because he could not unravel this idea of God. As he walked, he noticed a young boy running back and forth from the ocean’s edge with a pail full of water and emptying the water into a hole that the boy had dug in the sand. Augustine watched as the boy did this over and over. Finally, Augustine said, “Lad, what are you doing with the water you are getting from the ocean?” The boy looked at Augustine with some disdain and said, “Well, I am emptying the ocean onto this hole.” Augustine said, “Son, you cannot do that. It is just not possible.” Then the young boy looked at Augustine and said, “Then neither can you, Augustine, understand the Trinity.” And the boy vanished.

We walk by faith and not by sight.

Over the last 30 or so years, I have been a farmer of sorts. However, unlike the farmer in today’s parable, I do not scatter seed. No, I plant the seeds exactly as it says on the package. If the package says six inches apart, then six inches apart the seeds will be. But scattered or deliberately planted, the outcome is the same. Just like the farmer, I go to bed and get up and go to bed and get up and you know what? The seeds sprout! First a little bit…and then more and more and then there are peas or beans or onions…and I don’t know how that happens.

Do you remember “The Color Purple”—either the book or the movie? As Whoopie Goldberg is walking through a field of purple flowers, her character, Celie, asks the question about purple flowers, “How it do that? How it get that way?” I find I ask that same question every harvest season. “How do those seeds do that? How do they get that way?”

And then when I read today’s Gospel passage, I ask “How can one man, named Jesus, take a kingdom and turn it upside down into a kin-dom and have so many strange and different birds like you and me live in the branches. Well, I guess I just must just walk by faith and not by sight. How about you? Are you with me in the walk?

Jesus said to the crowds:
“This is how it is with the kingdom of God;
it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land
and would sleep and rise night and day
and through it all the seed would sprout and grow,
he knows not how.
Of its own accord the land yields fruit,
first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”

He said,
“To what shall we compare the kingdom of God,
or what parable can we use for it?
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,
so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
With many such parables
he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it.
Without parables he did not speak to them,
but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.

Mk 4:26-34