All Things, Small and Great

There is a notion that ushering in reform or change requires large numbers, majority percentages, and the like, but a passage from the First Book of Maccabees reminds us that Heaven’s math is not always ours:

But Judas said: “It is easy for many to be overcome by a few; in the sight of Heaven there is no difference between deliverance by many or by few; for victory in war does not depend upon the size of the army, but on strength that comes from Heaven. With great presumption and lawlessness, they come against us to destroy us and our wives and children and to despoil us; but we are fighting for our lives and our laws. He himself will crush them before us; so do not be afraid of them.” When he finished speaking, he rushed suddenly upon Seron and his army, who were crushed before him. (1 Mac 3:20-24)

Intensity, dedication, perseverance, and fortitude often win the day even when sheer numbers are lacking. Water spread over a large area quickly becomes a stagnant pond but focused in a narrow channel it can be a mighty stream.

Another well-known story is that of Gideon, whose army of 30,000 was outnumbered two to one. Despite this, God told him his army was too large! He instructed Gideon to dismiss the cowards, those who did not feel up to the battle—20,000 left. God said that 10,000 was still too many soldiers and told Gideon to keep pruning. Eventually, the army was reduced to a mere 300 men. Those 300 defeated an army of 60,000; they won the day because God was with them.

In the Church, reform often comes quietly at first, through individuals who gather a small colony of Heaven about them by God’s grace. As the Church was exposed to the corrupting influences of the world, monks fled to the desert, and others joined them. Monasticism grew like embers in a darkening world. At other times of darkness and uncertainty in the Church, individuals like St. Catherine of Sienna, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. John of the Cross appeared, as if out of nowhere, and small colonies of Heaven grew up about them.

In times like these, remember the mathematics of Heaven, which often uses remnants and tiny mustard seeds to accomplish its purposes. We may have grandiose visions of how God should fix the Church and may want God to bless the things we are doing to try to fix it, but another approach is to find out what God is blessing and then do that. It could be things as simple and old fashioned as getting married, staying married, having many children, and raising them well. It could be Eucharistic adoration, fasting, praying the rosary, teaching the faith, and fighting the battles right in front of us, just as Judas Maccabeus, Gideon, Catherine, and others did.

God has a plan to restore His Church in times like these. Is there perhaps a Catherine, Francis, or Teresa walking in our midst even now? Meanwhile, God reminds us to walk humbly with Him, live the faith, and tend the vineyard He has given us. Perhaps these are small things, but with God small things can bring about great ones.

St. Augustine wrote,

Quod minimum, minimum est,
Sed in minimo fidelem esse,
magnum est

What is a little thing, is (just) a little thing,
But to be faithful in a little thing,
is a great thing.

(De Doctrina Christiana, IV, 35)