It was a gesture of conciliation, albeit a small one, but with enormous consequences, when South African president Pieter W. Botha chose to meet with Desmond Tutu on June 13, 1986. Attempts to quell ongoing social unrest by force were unsuccessful and so too were attempts at nominal reforms.
What prospects did a small gesture of conciliation hold? Only in hindsight, for at the time it was deemed to have failed.
Jesus, in this Sunday’s Gospel Reading from Mark 4:26-34 tells a parable about a mustard seed, “which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade”.
In hindsight, indeed, that meeting was a mustard seed. Gradually apartheid was dismantled, South Africa became independent and the tremendous work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Tutu, facilitated healing of the bitterness and hatred of so many decades.
Everyone can be or grow that mustard seed in one’s respective community. That is all we are called to be and do.