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Eleventh Sunday – Year B – Ordinary Time
Readings: (Ez 17:22-24; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34)
Reading 1 (Ez 17:22-24):
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar,
from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot,
and plant it on a high and lofty mountain;
on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it.
It shall put forth branches and bear fruit,
and become a majestic cedar.
Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it,
every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.
And all the trees of the field shall know
that I, the LORD,
bring low the high tree,
lift high the lowly tree,
wither up the green tree,
and make the withered tree bloom.
As I, the LORD, have spoken, so will I do.
Reading 2 (2 Cor 5:6-10):
Brothers and sisters:
We are always courageous,
although we know that while we are at home in the body
we are away from the Lord,
for we walk by faith, not by sight.
Yet we are courageous,
and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
Therefore, we aspire to please him,
whether we are at home or away.
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ,
so that each may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
Gospel (Mk 4:26-34):
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 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.
And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once,
for the harvest has come.”
“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.
Written by: Fr. Anthony Dinh Minh Tien, O.P.
I. THEME: God’s sovereign power over all human activities
In life, there are many things which exceed human understanding. For examples, we can’t explain the mystery of life or faith because these come from God, not man. Another clear example is the establishment of the Catholic Church. Christ established the Church from the twelve apostles and the Church continually exists and develops more than two thousands years, even though She had to face countless persecution from outside and many division from inside through course of the history.
Today readings want to emphasize on God, the main agent of the history of salvation; human beings are only His instruments in this plan. In the first reading, God is the one who took the crest of the cedar from its topmost branches, and planted it on a high and lofty mountain.It shall become a majestic cedar so that “birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.” In the second reading, St. Paul emphasized on the role of faith in human life. If the faithful let their lamp of faith guide their life, they shall overcome all obstacles and live a life that pleases God. In the Gospel, Jesus compared God’s kingdom as the seed which is sowed on earth. No matter if the farmer knows or not, the seed continually grows: first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.When the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come. Jesus also compared God’s kingdom as the mustard seed; through it is a smallest seed but has potential to be a big tree so birds of the air can make their nests in its shadow.
1/ Reading I: God is the main agent in searching for, planting and empowering the crest of the cedar.
1.1/ It shall put forth branches, bear fruit and become a majestic cedar.
All prophets, especially Isaiah and Ezekiel, emphasized God’s sovereign power in creation, providence and salvation; people have a small role which is to co-operate with God to bring salvation for themselves and to preach God’s salvation to others. The image of the crest of the cedar which God chose and planted can be compared to the image of Isaiah’s image of “a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom” (Isa 11:1).
This crest of cedar is mainly Christ and secondarily the Church which Christ established. According to Ezekiel, Christ, the Messiah, shall become a majestic cedar and replace all kings of David’s line to govern not only Israel but also all nations of the world. This can be seen in his description, “Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs.”
1.2/ As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do: In the plan of salvation, God is the One who plans, executes and brings it to perfection; human beings have only a secondary role in it. Once He executes His plan, no power nor government can prevent. God has sovereign power to choose, to make growth and to destroy, “All the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.” People in all generations must recognize and obey God’s sovereign power.
When one reads the prophetic Books, one can see one thing which all prophets kept repeating the sentence after God’s oracles: “As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.” The Scripture certified the fulfillment of these oracles and God’s fidelity to His promises. For examples, His promises to give Abraham descendants and the Promise Land; His promise to give humankind the Messiah; and His promise to establish a New Covenant, etc.
2/ Reading II: For we walk by faith, not by sight.
2.1/ The role of faith in the believers’ life: According to Paul, there are two periods of our life: on earth and in heaven. In our life on earth, we can’t see God; but we courageously go forward because of our faith on God’s promises. Many authors compared faith as the light tower which guides the ship of our life in dark nights. In the past, we had countless witnesses of faith, such as: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, the Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Joseph and all saints. They courageously went forth because the firmly believed in God’s promises, not because they saw God and their rewards. They believed because they learned through the course of history that God always does what He promised.
Many people declared that they only believe in what they can see. This is absurd because many times in their life, they believed when they didn’t see results. For examples, they obeyed their parents, teachers, religious and civil leaders when they didn’t see results of these people’s promises. If they can put their faith in human beings and do what they promise, why they don’t put their faith in a powerful God who can make things from nothing to exist and nothing is impossible to Him.
Paul’s understanding of the next life is similar to the belief of Vietnamese tradition, “this life is temporary, next life is forever.” As long as we live in a body, we are far away from God; when we are no longer in a body, we shall see God as He is. How can we know this is true? We must believe in God’s revelation and our intellectual reason. The revelation of resurrection and eternal life were confirmed by Christ in the New Testament (Jn 6:39-40). We also find the belief in eternal life through reason of Greek’s philosophers.
2.2/ Each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
To believe and to do God’s will in this present life are our obligation, not an option; because God shall judge and reward us according to what we did in the body, whether good or evil.
(1) If we made an effort to find out God’s will and to do it, He shall resurrect and grant us eternal and happy life with Him.
(2) If we only lived according to our will, we shall not please God. We must pay a dearly price for our life. We shall not live a happy life with God and be destroyed for ever.
3/ Gospel: Human beings can’t fathom all God’s works.
In Mark’s passage today, God’s kingdom was described through two parables. Jesus’ intention was to let his audience know: First, the growth of God’s kingdom is mainly by God, human beings have only secondary role. Secondly, though God’s kingdom began as the small one, but it has potential to be the big one and spread through out the world.
3.1/ God’s kingdom is as a seed which already has the potential of life: Jesus said, “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the landand 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.”
Jesus wanted to emphasize three things in this parable:
(1) Man isn’t the author of life: Life comes from God and is given to all creatures. In God’s creation, a seed has potential of life in itself. Human beings can’t cause life but can help it to grow by caring for it. Similarly, God’s kingdom comes from God and already has the potential to grow. Human beings didn’t cause God’s kingdom, but can make God’s kingdom to come.
(2) The characters of God’s kingdom:
* It’s growth can’t be understood: Human beings can see the development of a seed; but can’t explain its growth. Similarly, they can witness the development of God’s kingdom through the growth of the Church, but can’t explain of this growth.
* It’s growth is gradually developped: Not like human advancing in which sometimes it grows, other time it decreases; the growth of a seed and God’s kingdom are gradually and unceasingly.
(3) The harvest shall come: When people sowed, they expect the harvest shall come. Similarly, when God began to build up His kingdom, He shall bring it to fulfillment. Human beings need to be patient and to carefully prepare for that Day to come.
Faith is compared as a seed which is sowed in human mind. It comes from God, not from human beings; but people can co-operate with God in developping their faith. It has potential to grow big and helps them to firmly believe in God even though they have to face many hardship and suffering in their life.
3.2/ The potential of life isn’t depended on outside appearance: A mustard seed is the smallest seed in all seeds but has potential to be a big tree. A Palestinian mustard seed can grow to be a big tree, not as vegetable as our seed.
At Jesus’ time, all worldly empires were compared as the tree and all of its vassals as branches. Jesus’ intention through this parable is that God’s kingdom was begun with twelve apostles; but has potential to be a big nation which all people of the world shall come and dwell in it. At present, the Church grow to more than one billion and more than half of worldly population believe in God.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– Faith is the most precious gift which God bestows on human souls. We must dearly hold, develop and protect our faith.
– We live this life because we have faith and hope in Christ. If we don’t put our faith in Christ and do what he teaches us, we shall have no hope to attain the eternal life.
– Faith has potential to grow and to do things that exceeds human power. When we can’t achieve what God requires of us, our faith is weak. We need to ask God to strengthen our weak faith.
– We have a duty to help God’s kingdom to grow by preaching of the Good News and setting good examples for people to believe in God.