ELEVENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2018
THE MUSTARD SEED AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Readings: 1st- Ezk. 17:22-24; 2nd- 2 Cor. 5:6-10; Gospel- Mk. 4: 26-34
The readings of today present us with concrete and abstract images. The concrete images are things like trees, branches, shoot, mountain, grains, mustard seed, etc. The abstract image is the kingdom of heaven or kingdom of God. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel reminds the Israelites of what God can do using the image of trees. He is the Lord who can transform situations, the God who can “bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom”. This refers to God’s intervention in crucial moments of their lives. The prophecy came when Israel had been subjected to slavery in Babylon. The kingdom of David had been overturned and it seemed as if the dynasty was over. The people became frustrated. Then God called their attention to his supreme power; “As I the Lord, have spoken, so will I do” (Ezk. 17:24). What would God do? To restore the kingdom after several years of destruction.
In the gospel, Christ speaks in parable about the kingdom of God. He described the kingdom of God to be like a man who scattered seed on the land. As he slept and woke up, the seed undewent rapid growth and developments. The blade, the ear, then the grain, each on its own, continued to grow till the harvest.
The second parable is that of the mustard seed. Christ calls it, “the smallest of all seeds on the earth”. The mustard seed springs from the ground and becomes the largest of plants which eventually puts forth large branches. The mustard seed becomes a tree that gives shelter to birds.
In one sense, we can see this parable as describing the gospel message. Christ took twelve uneducated men in Israel. He introduced them to the faith. Christ’s teaching made such an impact on them that they became inflamed by the gospel. He sent them out to make disciples of all nations and to baptize them to believe in the gospel. These men had no money. They had no children. They had no extra property when they went out to preach. Jesus said to them, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so, ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Further, he says, “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse or bag or sandals. Do not greet anyone along the road.Whatever house you enter, begin by saying, ‘Peace to this house…” (Lk. 10:2-5). This kingdom is God’s kingdom. It has spread to all parts of the world. It’s a kingdom that gives shelter and hope to those troubled. It is a kingdom that brings freedom to captives. A kingdom which inspires in the believes a hope beyond the visible things of this world. It is a kingdom that shelters those who have been exposed to the storms and scorching effects of disappointment, loss and grief.
This parable can also apply to our personal spiritual growth. Father Robinson writes in his homilies, “In all the ways we can learn and grow, there is one way that is more important than any other. We have another life ahead of us and we must prepare for it. That’s what Jesus came to teach us. Jesus called it the kingdom of God”. We must continue to grow in our spiritual life because it is the means of achieving the kingdom.
Let’s look at the stages through which our faith develops. We start from baptism ignorant of the challenges of faith. As we get closer, the church introduces and takes us into deeper participation in the sacraments. We receive Holy Communion and Confirmation. We get married in the church or become ordained as priests. We become more involved in the pastoral ministries. We continue to expand our spiritual lives. We experience the works of evangelization. We become disciples of Christ in the faith. Saint Paul reminds us, “If you have been raised with Christ, seek what is above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col. 3:1). Our life is therefore like the mustard seed that started little but has grown to accommodate others. It should be about God’s kingdom.
The second reading challenges us, “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… and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.” Saint Paul reminds us of our eternal goal, of how to bear the fruit that lasts forever. He describes us as migrants who are on a temporary stay in the world. He presents us as strangers who are being hosted by our earthly bodies. Our growth will be fully realized when we unite with Christ in heaven. That’s the kingdom that we strive to attain by faith. It is the kingdom which gives full meaning to our existence here on earth. We grow like the mustard seed by living good lives, helping the poor and the needy. We grow like the mustard seed by deepening our relationship with God through prayer, reflection on God’s word, and the burning desire to affect others through our way of life. We grow like the mustard seed by eager willingness to do the will of God.