Friday 28th January
(Today may be celebrated as the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas; but what are given here are the readings from Ordinary Time. )
Hebrews 10:32ff. Do not abandon your patience and fidelity. If you do the will of God you will receive his promises.
Mark 4:26ff. The seed sprouts and grows mysteriously. The mustard seed becomes the largest of shrubs.
The Seed Of The Future
The work of God is so full of promise, but comes to fulfillment only after much time, much patient waiting in the darkness of the earth. There is suffering as the seed breaks apart and loses itself for the new sprout to develop and appear on the surface of the earth. We should try linking Jesus’ parable about the seed sown within the dark earth with the reading from Hebrews.
While it is not standard parable interpretation to take an incidental detail of a story as a major element in its explanation, an occasional lapse from the rules may be allowed. The element of “earth” where the seed nestles, breaks apart and begins its new life is foreshadowed in the first readings of cycles I and II. Hebrews was probably written for converts from Judaism, some of them former priests, Acts 6:7, “many Jewish priests… embraced the faith”. These could easily remember – with tears and regret – their former glorious moments of temple worship as they now shared in the house services, the eucharist in upper rooms, with little ritual and no grandeur, Acts 2:42. Their family ties had been disrupted and many of their own household now scorned and persecuted them, Luke 11:51-52; 21:12.
Hebrews faces up to the problem of discouragement over the long trek of following Jesus on our earthly journey to be with him behind the veil in the Holy of Holies. In today’s text we note the tone of persecution and delay; the readers have endured a great contest of suffering; were publicly exposed to insult and the confiscation of their goods. There is the call to persevere: do not surrender your confidence; just a brief moment, for “he will not delay” “the just person lives by faith;” be with those who have faith and life.
We cannot explain how the seed which falls into the ground becomes stalks of wheat to provide grain and bread or becomes “the largest of all shrubs with branches big enough for the birds of the sky to build nests in its shade.” Nor can we understand God’s ways in the history of his servants. Yet just as wheat provides bread and the mustard tree shade, so also their story consoles us secretly and says: God does not surrender confidence in us and does not abandon “patience” in us that the divine will be accomplished and we receive what he has promised. God practices what he preaches and preaches what he practices. Salvation is a patient interaction between God and ourselves. And we must encourage the salvation of each other, by showing patience and confidence in members of our family, community and neighbourhood, through the long dark hours when the seed is in the earth, breaking apart and showing little or no sign of what it can, and eventually will, become.
First Reading, Hebrews 10:32-39
But recall those earlier days when, after you had been enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, sometimes being publicly exposed to abuse and persecution, and sometimes being partners with those so treated. For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.
For yet “in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.” But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
Gospel: Mark 4:26-34
He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.