FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time ( B )
Ezekiel 17:22-24 | Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16 | 2 Corinthians 5:6-10 | Mark 4:26-34
We return to Ordinary Time in the Church’s year this Sunday with images of growth.
Rabbi Hugo Gryn used to tell of his experiences in Auschwitz as a boy. Food supplies were meager, and the inmates took care to preserve every scrap that came their way. When the Festival of Hanukkah arrived, Hugo’s father took a lump of margarine and, to the horror of young Hugo, used it as fuel for the light to be lit at the festival. When he was asked why, his father replied, “We know that it is possible to live for three weeks without food, but without hope it is impossible to live properly for three minutes.
In our first reading, long centuries before the Lord's coming, God gave His people reason to hope. Ezekiel glimpsed a day when the Lord God would place a tree on a mountain in Israel, a tree that would "put forth branches and bear fruit." The near fulfillment of this allegory centered around the restoration of the nation of Israel. Though it had been humiliated in defeat and exile, God would build it up again. The far or ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy goes far to announce the tree on the hill of Calvary that bears the fruit of salvation. Ezekiel foresees salvation coming to "birds of every kind" — thus, not just to the people of Israel, but also to the Gentiles, who will "take wing" through their new life in Christ.
Enrico fell off a cliff, but managed to grab a tree limb on the way down. The following conversation ensued: "Is anyone up there?" "I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe me?"
"Yes, Lord, I believe. I really believe, but I can't hang on much longer." "That's all right, if you really believe you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Just let go of the branch." A moment of pause, then: "Is anyone else up there?"
Have you ever asked God the question: Why God are you allowing me or my loved ones to suffer like this? Paul accepted the call of Jesus to be apostle to the Gentiles and suffered great hardship for it. He experienced labors, imprisonments, beatings, and brushes with death. Five times he received forty lashes minus one, three times he was beaten with rods, once he was stoned, and three times he was shipwrecked. Against this experiential backdrop, Paul writes in today’s second reading, that we draw courage from faith. He proposes“we walk by faith and not by sight.” Difficulties test our faith, sometimes up to the point of losing hope but faith assures that we are not alone, have not been abandoned and God will see us through. Just as Jesus proved that on the other side of the cross is glory, we too can know the other side of suffering is sweet peace and assurance of God’s presence.
Poland-based Wanda Zarzycka is one of the oldest living and still practising concert pianist in the world. When she was 108 years old he was asked why she continued to practice 6 hours a day. She answered, “Because I think I’m making progress.”
In the Gospel Jesus tells two parables about growth — from seed to full blooming plant. The first emphasizes that the farmer can do nothing to produce or hasten the end of the process. As the one who scatters seed on the land goes about daily life, he finds the seed has sprouted and grown on its own accord. And so it is with the Word of God in our lives. While we can plant and cultivate, the deepening of faith is a marvelous work of the Holy Spirit who grows God’s grace in us! The second emphasizes exclusively the contrast between the small beginnings and the great end. The small mustard seed grows into the largest of plants with shade-giving and fruit-bearing branches. Similarly, God’s word begins as a small seed of faith within us and can grow to bear remarkable, even unimaginable fruit. Our objective is to keep daily planting the seed of the Gospel, by deed and word. <enrique.ofs>
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum