11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)


11th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B) Mark 4: 26-34

June 17, 2018

The seed is the Word of God, Christ is the sower. All who come to him will live forever“.

For many years, scientists, more specifically physicists and biologists, have discovered that nature is more complex and difficult to understand than we may believe. Some physicists like Isaac Newton (Laws of Motion, Law of Gravity, Conservation of Mass-Energy, Laws of Thermodynamics), and Albert Einstein (Theory of Relativity, Quantum Physics); and biologists like Augustinian Father George Mendel (Law of Inheritance) have formulated laws that we, upon study and reflection can describe but we cannot explain. Unlike in some fields, social customs and authorities do not determine the establishment of laws in science.

In today´s Gospel Jesus teaches us, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” When the seed is planted in the ground, and with the help of some water and sunshine it becomes a full grown crop. In a human level Jesus is not a scientist, he is very honest to say, we do not know how it happens. This and other mysteries in nature we experience and can describe but cannot explain.

Of course, Jesus is not giving us a lesson about biology or physics, but he is teaching us a more profound mystery, the mystery of the reign of God which is the Church. This shows us the wisdom of parables, the way Jesus loved to teach. As if this comparison were not clear enough, Jesus asks, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it sprints up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”

We hear Ezekiel in the first reading today saying, “I will take from the crest of the cedar (…) a tender shoot and plant it on (…) the mountain heights of Israel. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it.” The Israelites in the Old Testament were farmers and shepherds and they understood agriculture but they knew it was God who gave the growth. Ezekiel´s prophesy was fulfilled in Jesus and in the Church.

We, as well as the people at Jesus´ times, know that we plant the seed, water it, and do our best for a good environment, but it is God who causes the growth; so is the Gospel in God´s hands. We Christians do our best announcing the seed of the Good News, but the success belongs to God. When we hear today´s Gospel we can understand Jesus´ intention of the two parables. The Church began as a humble group of disciples in Galilee and in Jerusalem, and after Pentecost it spread all over the world.

The growing of the Church is like the mustard seed; it needs to be sown by us Christians, but it is the Holy Spirit who is at work. For the process of growing, the seed needs water and light; the Church needs the water and the light of the Holy Spirit to continue growing and spreading. Through the action of the Holy Spirit Christ was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary. Through the Holy Spirit Jesus is present in the Eucharist and in the life of the Church. Like in the mysteries of nature we do not understand fully how scientific laws work, the Holy Spirit works in a mysterious way in the life of the Church.

The story is told about a priest who was appointed bishop. He had no experience on pastoral management. He could not sleep most of the night. It was the day before the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, and read today´s Gospel. He closed the Bible and prayed: “Listen, Lord, this diocese is yours not mine. I’m going to sleep.” The new bishop understood that he had to work hard and learn a lot, but it was the Holy Spirit´s job to make the Gospel grow. Weaknesses and sin are part of our human condition, so we the Church need conversion and renewal; and this is our work and the work of the Holy Spirit.

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