11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Jesus said to the crowds, 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 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. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come." He said, "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 springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade." With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
Introductory Prayer: Lord, I believe that through Baptism you planted in me the seed of your word, and called me to partake in your life and to strive to extend your Kingdom throughout the world. I hope in you because you are the first one who wants that seed to bear fruit. I love you because you showed me the power of your love before asking me for mine.
Petition: Lord Jesus, help me to treasure your gift and make it grow and bear fruit.
1. The Kingdom of God: Jesus returns to speak of it time and again. It was his theme right from his first public sermon; it was the purpose of his teaching, healing, dying and resurrection; it is the core of the mission he gave his apostles.
A man plants…, and goes off to sleep! Of course we know that he did a lot more. He had to till the soil first, clean away the rocks, fertilize and prepare it, and then after planting he had to irrigate it and as it grew keep the animals away, etc… All of his work is necessary, but what Jesus is bringing home to us here is that the real power is in the seed itself. The other work is necessary, but it is the seed that actually grows and bears fruit because of the power it has within itself. So he is telling us that our cooperation with him is necessary, but the real power to make the Kingdom come is in the seed itself, in the seed of Christ’s life that was planted in us in Baptism. It is there. The Kingdom is in our souls, our cooperation is necessary but the true power is there in the seed, in our sharing in the divine nature (2Peter 1:4) that happened in Baptism. The power to believe has been given to us, the power to place all our trust in him and throw ourselves into living life as true Christians, the power to love God above all things and our neighbor as ourselves—in other words, all the transforming power of the Kingdom—has been placed in our lives, we need trust in that power, cooperate, but not think that we and only we are doing the work. The seed of the Kingdom is the ability to live in a Christ-like way, the growth of the Kingdom is when the presence of Christ becomes more and more apparent in everything we do.
2. The Mustard Seed grows from modest beginnings into the largest of plants and in turn serves other creatures’ needs. The Kingdom of God is like this. The Kingdom, in his Church, is like the mustard tree, providing a safe haven for us living in its branches: we feed on its fruits, dwell in its shade, rest on its branches, and find protection there from all harm. It would be foolish of us not to accept all that God gives us through her.
The mustard seed is also an image of the growth of the Kingdom within our own soul. We should not get disheartened looking at the small beginnings, looking at how little God seems to have to work with. Neither ought we get anxious when it seems we are not progressing in the spiritual life as fast as we would like. God moves us along little by little. The life of our relationship with Christ does not depend solely on us, but on him. Again, we have to be like good farmers who do our part to make sure the conditions are good for the seed to grow, but it is the Creator who makes the growth happen. Too often we look only at ourselves. At times it is our difficulties and patience that do more good to others than our successes; they certainly do more good to us. We rarely have the satisfaction of seeing how big those branches actually get, how much grace for souls we merit by our small sufferings and acts of supernatural love. We don’t get so see the spiritual shade and solace we cast for souls, the long-term effect of our prayer or the nourishment that others receive from God through our cooperation. Often we do not perceive the work of God in our souls until much time has passed. However, he is constantly there, tending his plant with love, and we must forge ahead full of trust.
3. He spoke as they were able to understand: Even though he is God, he keeps adapting to us. At another time, Jesus contrasted the behavior of the powerful in this world with the way his followers were to act (Among the gentiles it is the kings who lord it over them…with you this must not happen…the leader must be as the one who serves…Luke 22:25-26) and the reason now becomes plain: that is the way God acts with us. He serves us, Jesus is focused not on his own glory but on the growth of his apostles, he is not set on showing off how much better he is but rather on patiently leading them to the truth. A lesson well worth learning and following. All too often it is our pride and our desire to be in the spotlight that most hinders the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. How can we expect people to even hear the message if the very messenger is overbearing or full of himself, making too much noise about himself?
Conversation: Lord Jesus, thank you for planting your life in me. Help me to nourish this seed so that through it your truth and life, your Kingdom, can reach many others.
1. What am I doing to help the seeds of Faith, Hope and Love grow in my life?
2. Am I patient and persevering in trying to grow in Christ?
3. How self-centered am I as regards building the Kingdom, how much vanity in my desire for progress?