Sunday, June 14, 2015

of mountains and molehills

May my words be in the Name of the Holy & Undivided Trinity: + Father, Son, & Holy Spirit. Amen.

'The kingdom of God ... is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs.'

Things that at first can seem small and unimportant can often to turn out to be of far greater significance that was first thought. Our Lord is speaking here of small things growing into things great and wonderful. But small things neglected can also turn into things dangerous and disastrous. The molehill can grow into an actual mountain … that turns out to be a volcano that destroys all around it!

For example, I remember, when I was working in Revenue, one audit like that.) A very small company*, whose history on our files showed a very low level of business turnover, had submitted a claim for a huge amount of VAT. Not surprisingly, my bosses were curious to know what was going on; the claim was put on hold and I was dispatched. The accountant was not pleased to see me – did I not understand that this was an important tech start up business with many companies, of which this one was very small and quite insignificant? When I pointed out the huge claim this 'insignificant' company was making, he was quite dismissive of my concerns. It was a holding company which had made a very large purchase on behalf of the group.

A very usual arrangement in big business. So would I please stop wasting everybody's time and just certify the repayment?

Very politely I explained that I had been sent to audit the company and audit it I must. So with no great grace I was provided with a desk and the books. And indeed it was a small company, the books were very slight, and I was able to go through them in about five minutes. I asked to see the accountant again. He had left the office, but his secretary came to see me. I explained that the books were in order. There was one slight problem - the receipt for the purchase on file was a photocopy. And on a claim of this size, I really had to see the original. She said she'd pass the message on.

I left expecting to go back in a couple of days, spend two or three minutes examining the invoice, and that would be the end of the matter. It didn't happen that way. I received many irate letters and phone-calls demanding repayment over the course of many months, but an invitation to come and see the original invoice never came. Apparently he thought I was being most unreasonable.

Finally one Friday I got a phone-call from someone else – his boss. He was not pleased with me. Apparently I was putting the entire company at risk; a huge amount of their money was tied up in the repayment I was refusing to certify; and the company’s cash flow was in a very bad state indeed as a result. I explained about the invoice. There was silence at the end of the phone. 
'Hello?' I said. 
'All you need to give us our money is an invoice?' he said. 
'Yes indeed.' 'Can you be in our office on Monday morning?' 
'I most certainly can.' 
'It'll be there.' 

And it was. While I was there, I asked about the accountant I had been dealing with. I was informed he was no longer with the company.

Truthfully, I can not say why the accountant did not simply give me the document when I asked for it and continued to refuse to hand it over for all those months. It would have been a simple matter to do so. Was it arrogance – he was a big-shot accountant with a massive company and he wasn't going to take instructions from a lowly civil servant? Was it pride – having refused to hand it over at the beginning of the affair, he couldn't bring himself to admit he was wrong and yield to my request?  Perhaps he had so many other matters on his plate that seemed so much more important than this … and he didn't realise what it was growing into until it was too late? Maybe he was playing some kind of a game with his company – deliberately pretending there was a huge issue with Revenue, which he was planning to 'resolve' and emerge as the saviour of the company. Whatever his reasons, it clearly never occurred to him that his boss would decide to take matters into their own hands … and would very unimpressed that his behaviour had turned a molehill into a mountain that had nearly brought down the  company.

How many I wonder behave in a similar fashion when it comes to their spiritual life? They neglect what they think of as small things … and before they know it, the molehill has become a mountain that threatens to bury their immortal soul. Perhaps it is being careless with their prayer life; perhaps they think themselves too busy too find even a few minutes of a Sunday to keep holy the Lord's Day by attending Divine Services? Or worse, perhaps they do attend, but partake of the Blessed Sacrament unworthily, which, as St Paul tells us and the Articles of Religion remind us, is to eat and drink condemnation upon ourselves? Perhaps it is small transgressions of God's laws hardening their hearts and leading to ever greater ones? Always blissfully unaware of how the molehill is growing.


So do not neglect the small things, my friends, especially the small seed of faith that God has planted within you. Tend it so that it may become the great mustard bush with branches large and strong – a support to you in this life … and a strength that leads you to life eternal. Amen

* (Even though this was a long time ago and the company in question is no longer in operation, details have been changed to prevent the possibility of its being recognised.

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