My Dear Sisters and Brothers. The unexpected conversion of Sigrid Undsted, which scandalised her fellow Norwegians, was a sign of the growth of the Kingdom of God. Her decision to join the Catholic Church was growing in her like a mustard seed. The circumstances surrounding her conversion were not easy. It was happening in the years following the devastating World War 1. Her marriage broke down. Her youngest child was born severely disabled and suffering from epilepsy. Her husband, who left his first wife to marry Sigrid, eventually abandoned her too. Furthermore the Norwegian society was not religious at all. However in the midst of all those tragedies and difficulties Sigrid found the living God. She embraced Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour. Her contemporaries were scandalised. For us, her fellow Catholics, her story is another sign that the Kingdom of God has been constantly growing.
When Jesus was telling those down to earth parables about the seed sown in the land or about the mustard seed, his listeners could connect Jesus’ parables to what they observed. Those parables were drawn from their own daily life. For us gathered at this Eucharist these parables are more than some farming connotations. When we hear these parables we see Jesus, as the divine seed, the beginning of the Kingdom of God, being placed in the ground after his death on the cross. His Resurrection initiated the growth of God’s Kingdom. When he rose to life his disciples were surprised. They didn’t expect it. Our faith, which comes from Jesus’ Death and Resurrection, makes us admire and praise God for his mighty works being accomplished in our midst rather than being surprised that God does these mighty works. We are like a farmer watching the seeds sprouting. If the seeds were sown they will grow. Jesus who was buried in the depth of the earth emerged with new life which was first manifested to his disciples. But it wasn’t a one off event. Over two millennia generations of Christians have witnessed the appearances of Jesus’ new life in the people of their own time.
As we remember Sigrid Undsted’s scandalous conversion to the Catholic Faith, and the anniversary of her death on June 10, 1949, we acknowledge that in her life the growth of the Kingdom of God occurred. She was famous indeed before she converted. But it is not her fame that made her conversion special. It is what she did with her conversion that it made it special. When the first wife of her estranged husbanded wanted to send her children to an orphanage, Sigird, who had already divorced the man, offered to welcome them into her own home. In addition to her three children she gained three more whom she loved deeply. When I read today’s Gospel I couldn’t help thinking that in her converted life we see a life-giving image of the Kingdom of God which ‘grows into the biggest shrub and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’ That’s what happened in the life of Sigrid Undsted. We praise God for a wonderful fellow Catholic but there were also three children who because of her conversion didn’t end up orphans, they found shelter in Sigrid’s home like the birds in the parable told by Jesus. They found a loving mother in that scandalous woman. By the way, after her conversion some people started calling her names. Do you know how they insulted her? They called her: ‘The Catholic Lady.’
My Dear fellow Catholics. Rejoice that you are part of this Kingdom of God. Receive the Holy Communion at this Eucharist so that in you and through you this Kingdom may grow too, so that you too may be called ‘The Catholic Woman’ or ‘The Catholic Man.’ We need more scandals like that, don’t we?