17 June 2012. 11th Sunday Year B
Ezek 17:22-24. It is the Lord who plants and makes fruitful; who raises up and who humbles.
2 Cor 5:6-10. Paul’s boundless confidence in God, in spite of setbacks and opposition.
Mark 4:26-34. In a parable, Jesus notes the mysterious miracle of growth and fruitfulness.
May your Church be Fruitful
Since this Sunday is also the final day of the International Eucharistic Congress in Dublin, we’ll naturally want to link our Scriptural reflections with the ideals of the Congress: Communion with Christ and with each other. Amid the cordial interaction of so many Catholics of many nations during the past seven days, one could sense a great and positive love for our age-old, world-wide Church, along with a keen desire for its renewal and growth, both spiritual and structural.
Spiritual renewal is the gift of God, through the Holy Spirit and through prayer. As Ezekiel – surely a keen gardener himself – puts it graphically, it is God who does the fundamental planting of his people. The sprig from the cedar’s lofty top is planted on a high mountain, and for a noble purpose. In our tradition, God’s favoured tree is the holy catholic church, called to be a welcoming family, source of both enlightenment and comfort to people of all nations. This tree, of God’s own planting, must be there “in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar” providing shade for creatures of all kinds.
Jesus was a great believer in and promoter of renewal, both of his hearers’ personal outlook and of the structures and priorities of the Jewish religion. In today’s parable, he draws attention to the mysterious miracle of growth and fruitfulness. Yes, of course the gardener must do the initial spadework, and subsequently whatever weeding and watering may be required; but in the end it is the Spirit of God who makes fruitful change happen. So we call on the Pentecostal Spirit to breathe strongly on our Church today, and awaken in all our hearts that loving desire for sharing, for communion, which was the ideal at the heart of the 2012 Eucharistic congress.
And when it comes to rediscovering spiritual priorities in our lives, there’s a wonderful uplift in today’s hopeful message from St. Paul. In the middle of all the turmoil and tension he felt in dealing with dissent in Corinth, he assures us of his underlying confidence in Christ, his invisible, ever-present friend. He feels a great serenity, even at the prospect of his death, when he will be more “at home with the Lord;” and then adds a guiding principle valid for us all: “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.” Without giving up whatever hopes we may have for more signs of collegiality and dialogue in our Church, these must remain subsidiary to our basic trust that it is and will remain the Church of Jesus Christ, whose Spirit will effect whatever is needed so that this Church may grow and thrive.
First Reading Ezekiel 17:22-24
Thus says the Lord God: I myself will take a sprig from the lofty top of a cedar; I will set it out. I will break off a tender one from the topmost of its young twigs; I myself will plant it on a high and lofty mountain. On the mountain height of Israel I will plant it, in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit, and become a noble cedar. Under it every kind of bird will live; in the shade of its branches will nest winged creatures of every kind. All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord. I bring low the high tree, I make high the low tree; I dry up the green tree and make the dry tree flourish. I the Lord have spoken; I will accomplish it.
Second Reading 2 Corinthians 5:6-10
So we are always confident; even though 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. Yes, we do have confidence, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. For all of us must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense for what has been done in the body, whether good or evil.
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.