Seed of Life

¡¡¡¡Mass Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34.

¡¡¡¡This Sunday is the 11th Sunday of Ordinary Time. Yet we haven¡¯t had an ¡°Ordinary¡± Sunday since the Sixth (Feb. 14), so what happened? The eighth¨C10th Sundays were replaced by Pentecost, Trinity and Corpus Christi respectively, and the seventh gets skipped this year to make the calendar end before Advent begins (Nov. 28).

¡¡¡¡In Ordinary Time, the liturgy follows the continuous reading of the Bible. In Year B we follow Mark and resume this Sunday with Jesus¡¯ early ministry in Galilee. The second reading follows St. Paul¡¯s Epistles, picking up in the middle of 2 Corinthians. The theme of ¡°seed growing into tree¡± runs through the readings this Lord¡¯s Day.

¡¡¡¡Our first reading is a parable from the prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel 17:22-24), who prophesied during a dark time: the destruction of Jerusalem (587 B.C.) and the exile of Judah to Babylon (587-537 B.C.). God¡¯s unbreakable promises to the House and Kingdom of David seemed to have failed, and the faithful were despondent. Yet even in this darkness, Ezekiel envisions a tender shoot torn off of a great cedar and replanted on a mountain, growing into a great life-giving tree. One day, God will raise up the heir of David and restore his kingdom.

¡¡¡¡Our Responsorial Psalm 92 comes from Book IV of the Psalms (Psalms 90-106), a section of the Psalter that reflects the Babylonian Exile. It affirms ¡°the just one shall flourish like the palm tree, like a cedar of Lebanon.¡±

¡¡¡¡God will bless every just person, but especially the only one who is truly just (see Mark 10:18), Jesus, so this Psalm is about Christ.

¡¡¡¡In our second reading, St. Paul writes to the Corinthians, ¡°while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord,¡± and ¡°we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.¡± Corinth was the ancient Las Vegas, a very wealthy city due to its enormous Temple of Aphrodite (the goddess of love, i.e., Venus) that attracted ¡°pilgrims¡± from all over who came to indulge the pleasures of the flesh. Corinthians were unaccustomed to pain and suffering and feared persecution and death for the Gospel.

¡¡¡¡But Paul comforts them with the reminder: Death is only a leaving of the body and a return home to be with Jesus. The same reminder comforts us today.

¡¡¡¡In the Gospel Jesus tells two parables. In the first, a farmer plants seeds that sprout and grow, regardless of whether he sleeps or wakes. This parable may have inspired Arnold Lobel¡¯s comical ¡°Garden Story¡± in his book, Frog and Toad Together. Toad plants a garden and tries to make the seeds grow by various silly antics, like shouting, ¡°Now seeds! Start GROWING!¡± When exhausted Toad finally awakes one morning to sprouted seeds, he claims it was all a lot of ¡°hard work¡± on his part. We laugh at Toad, but he is us.

¡¡¡¡We think we are responsible to make others grow spiritually, but that is God¡¯s work. We can plant and cultivate, but then we must stay at peace and trust God.

¡¡¡¡The second parable is about the famous mustard seed that becomes a tree of life. This is the Church, that begins tiny with the preaching of the Gospel but grows to fill whole countries, continents and even the world. The Church is also David¡¯s Kingdom, since Jesus is the Son of David. Ezekiel could not have imagined that David¡¯s Kingdom would one day grow to be 2 billion people across the globe.

¡¡¡¡And if the Church seems small and weak where we happen to live, let¡¯s remember it has not lost its potential for explosive growth, if we keep daily planting the seed of the Gospel, by deed and word.

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