Bulletin: June 17, 2018
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
Very few of us have ever seen an actual mustard seed or held one between our fingers. Yet
Jesus’ parable of the mustard seed captivates us today as we imagine an unlikely, tiny seed bursting into fullness. Today’s readings are full of unlikely, unexpected fullness. The prophet Ezekiel praises the Lord who lowers the tallest trees and raises up the small ones, even making “the withered tree bloom.” Believing in this transformational power of God, Saint Paul tells the Corinthians to live courageously; one day, the Lord will accept our fragile, earthly bodies and welcome us home to eternal health and strength in heaven. At some time or another, we have all felt small, outnumbered, discouraged, incomplete, friendless, or unsatisfied. Today’s readings promise that God embraces our smallness and transforms us, little by little.
ONCE UPON A TIME
Let me tell you a story. . . . That sentence enchants us. We feel our bodies relax and our anticipation grow. Let me tell you a story, Jesus seems to say, as he searches for vivid images that will help us love the mysterious reality of God’s kingdom. The kingdom of God, Jesus explains, is like a seed growing. The person who planted the seed doesn’t have a clue how it achieves its fullness. Modern time-lapse photography can record the second-by-second development of a seed into a plant, but Jesus’ contemporary audience had never seen such pictures. To Jesus’ listeners, a seed’s growth—imperceptible yet unmistakable—seemed miraculous. Jesus taps into the knowledge and wonder of his audience to help them have an experience of what he wants to convey: although we cannot always see or prove it, God works for us in all times and places. God’s kingdom is everywhere, and there is nowhere that God does not guide our growth.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus tells many parables to help explain the kingdom of God. Both of today’s parables from Mark’s Gospel involve seeds, strangely enough. Seeds really are a bizarre emblem for a kingdom. Can you imagine a mighty kingdom whose royal banners boast a picture of a tiny seed? Jesus doubles down on the image, however, inviting us to picture first a seed of grain, and then a mustard seed. Jesus longs for us to understand that God’s kingdom is full of unexpected strength. A withered tree blooms, a virgin bears a son, a dead man bursts out of his tomb. Our scriptures are a long catalog of unlikely victories. We walk by faith, as Saint Paul says, and not by sight—we must believe that God transforms all weakness into strength, all death into life. We may prefer swift, demonstrable victories in our lives, but God’s style often resembles the gentle way of seeds.
Today’s Readings: Ez 17:22–24; Ps 92:2–3, 13–14, 15–16; 2 Cor 5:6–10; Mk 4:26–34