11th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“When God’s Life Grows In Us”.
The first reading is an invitation to keep on trusting in God always, particularly when our expectations seem to be disregarded and hopes appear to be in vain.
The second reading could be transformed with this theme because it shows the culminating point of this development. At the end of their life, people will see the new person that has developed in them like the seed. This will be the beginning of a new life with God and in Christ.
The tree comes from a little seed, say’s this Sunday’s Gospel, or from a small shoot in the first reading. This is how the Kingdom of God develops in every person and in the world; it begins from a little seed of the Word of God. It is not noisy, it is not showy, but it grows, it produces fruit, and so a person’s life is transformed.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
Ezekiel 17: 22-24.
When Ezekiel made the prophecy that we read in these verses, the people of Israel were going through a very difficult period of their history. The last king of the family of David, Joiakin, had been defeated and taken to Babylon in captivity. This national disaster had weakened the faith in YHWH of many among the people of Israel. What about the Lord’s promise that David and his descendants would reign forever? Joiakin had been removed from the throne of Jerusalem, as a tree is uprooted and carried away by a strong wind. Was God showing he was unable to keep his promises?
Ezekiel replies to these anguished questions of his people by comparing those people with a cedar branch (the cedar tree is one of the largest trees that grow in Palestine). It is true – says the prophet – that the family of David has been cut down like a large cedar tree; but God does not forget the promises he made. He will certainly keep them. How? He will take a shoot from this tree, and he will plant it on a high mountain in the land of Israel. This small shoot will grow and become a very large and noble cedar tree, and many kinds of birds will build their nests in it.
Do we know who this shoot of the family of David will be and what the birds that rest in its branches stand for? The descendant of David is Jesus, and the kingdom of God was planted in the ground with him. The birds are all the peoples of the earth who will find shelter in the Christian communities symbolized by the branches of the large tree.
What can we learn from this reading? What can we gather from it to help us in our daily lives? Do we at times find ourselves in desperate conditions like the people of Israel? Do we know persons who have experienced what looked like total failure in their personal or family life? Do we ever doubt that God will keep his promises? Here is an example: somebody, following Christ’s invitation, has helped, has loved, has forgiven, but what reward did he or she get after all these efforts? ‘Betrayal, ingratitude and even rejection’! Why does God allow such things? Why does he not intervene?
The first reading of today is an invitation to keep trusting God always, particularly when our expectations seem to be disregarded and hopes seem in vain. He is the one who can ‘raise the bent tree high’ and has the power to ‘make the withered (tree) bear fruit’. “He has pulled down princes … and raised high the lowly.” He is the same God who raised life from the tomb. If he did work such marvels, will he not be able to transform all of our defeats into victories?
Psalm 92:2-3, 13-16.
In the Psalm, we are at prayer in the Temple, praying the prayer that the aged Simeon might have made morning and evening (Lk. 2:25). Its tree does not stand for the nation, but for the faithful Israelite who flourishes in his old age because of his fidelity and trust in God (Ps. 1).
2 Corinthians 5:6-10.
Paul was getting old and beginning to feel weary. His many sufferings and persecutions had left their mark on him: In the first part of the reading (6-8), he compares his condition to the condition of an exile. In this world he feels like a foreigner, living far from his country. His mind is constantly fixed on the new country where he expects to be welcomed soon; he yearns to be with God and Christ forever. He knows that this new life can only be achieved by first passing through death, but death does not frighten him.
In the second part of the reading (9-10), the apostle sees that his wish to leave this world may be interpreted as an easy way out of all his difficulties, sufferings and responsibilities. So he concludes that as long as the Lord wants him to be in this body, he will always do all he can to perform his work. He knows that the new life does not spring out of nothing; it sprouts from what one has done in this life.
In principle, we are already saved (Rom. 5:1), but we have to ratify this gift by living the sort of life appropriate for those whose bodies are instruments for righteousness (Rom. 6:3).
In chapter four of Mark’s Gospel there are several parables. Some of Jesus’ followers were farmers and he tells them the parable of the seed growing secretly (vv. 26-28) and of the mustard seed (vv. 30-32). Such stories, taken from their agricultural background are easily understood and people respond to them. The parables of Jesus are meant not only to illustrate a point but also to put before his listeners a challenge that they cannot ignore.
In a parable two things are put side by side for the sake of comparison. The speaker knows both things that are compared with, but his audience knows only one. The purpose is to lead his hearers from the known to the unknown. The known element is an experience taken from their daily lives and the unknown is a new way of understanding God.
The first parable (vv. 26-28) focused on the fact that the seed grows by itself. Farmers do the work of sowing but cannot force the seed to grow. The seed grows even when the farmer is asleep. The end result, the harvest, is therefore, not directly the work of the farmer but of nature. Jesus compares this to the kingdom of God. It is not the result of human effort that it comes about. It is freely given.
But it is important to note that the farmer (sower) has to sow the seed even though the end result is the doing of God. For it to happen, God counts on the initial human effort, which might first appear insignificant. To remain idle because of fear cannot be justified. We might recall the parable of the talents where out of fear the third servant hid his talent. He was not praised by the master in the story (Mt. 25:14-30). Our task is to spread the good seed to our family and our community. Even if we see little or no results, we must trust that God will make it grow in his own good time.
In the second parable (vs. 30-32) the comparison is with a mustard-seed, a very small seed, so small that one would think of it to be of little use. Jesus tells us that when it grows to its full height it is big enough to offer shelter to other creatures. What was thought to be insignificant is not. In God’s family all are welcome irrespective of the colour and size. It is a ‘tree’ that welcomes all ‘birds’.
In the eyes of his opponents, what Jesus does is small and insignificant. The movement that he started some might have thought would disappear altogether because of threats and opposition by those who held earthly power. However, Jesus shows us that his work will not disappear and that something great will come of it. The kingdom of God is not for the few. Everybody is welcome to find a home in it. The small Christian community as an expression of the kingdom of God is a place where all people may find a home.
Great things often have humble and insignificant beginnings. Just as an insignificant seed is capable of growing and giving shelter to birds much bigger than itself, in the same way our small deeds of witnessing the love of God will spread the kingdom of God in way that we might never have thought possible.
This, then, is God’s vision for us, God’s supreme gift to humanity. It comes to us through the redeeming Son and the sanctifying Spirit. This kingdom of God is still unfolding. It is invisible so we find it difficult to grasp. It doesn’t make national headlines, yet it is in our midst, growing in the soil of human hearts. The kingdom of God, that mysterious combination of ‘divine grace and human response’, is sufficiently flexible and subtle to adapt and apply to the changing circumstances of different centuries and cultures. At the end-time, however, it will be emblazoned in the heavens, clear and unmistakable. For God will then be “all in all”. We, as God’s children, will reap the many blessings of the dream – eternally.
This week especially, plant some small seeds. Be kind to those who ‘don’t deserve it’. Forgive wantonly. Be more generous than is sensible. Break the rules in favour of people.
From obscurity and irrelevance comes more than we could ever suspect. The process does not belong to us, only the decision to begin.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
11th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … The prophet Ezekiel confirms that the family of David has been cut down like a large cedar tree, but God does not forget the promises he made. He will certainly keep them. How? He will take a shoot from this tree, and he will plant it on a high mountain in the land of Israel. This small shoot will grow and become a very large and noble cedar tree, and many kinds of birds will build their nests in it. Do we have complete trust in God’s promises?
Mon. … Do we understand that this prophesy of the ‘shoot of the family of David’ is Jesus, and the kingdom of God was planted in the ground with him. The birds represent all the peoples of the earth who will find shelter in the Christian communities symbolized by the branches of the large tree. Where do we look for comfort and shelter; in the many taverns and pleasure havens of the world or in God’s house?
Tues. … In spite of their sinfulness and the trials that they were experiencing, God would rescue Israel and bring them to a new life in a renewed homeland. There is no such thing as ‘hopeless’ in God’s dominion. Even the despair of the Cross is not the end of the road.
Wed. … Paul’s mind is constantly fixed on the ‘new country’ where he expects to be welcomed soon; he yearns to be with God and Christ forever. Paul’s body has taken some hard knocks but he concludes that as long as the Lord wants him to be in this body, he will always do all he can to perform his work. Do you long for the ‘new country’ or are you filled with fear and uncertainty?
Thurs. …Our Gospel theme today is clearly the reign of God, and it’s coming among us. When we reflect on the world in which we live today, one of the basic facts we must take into account is that our world gives stronger witness to the power of evil, and to its stronghold on humanity, than it does to the presence and power of God’s reign. What can we do to help renew the ‘face of the earth’?
Frid. … Where can we find God’s reign? Before we can answer that question, we need to ask ourselves: Are we aware of God’s action in our world? Faith is a way of seeing things, but blindness is a common frailty, even for people with faith. Ironically, it is in our struggle against the forces that often undermine God’s reign when we live by the values of the world and the sword. We need to respond to all situations with love. If only we understood that there is no force more powerful than love.
Sat. …The search for the presence of God’s reign must always begin with the poor. That’s because the poor have such a central part in the Gospel. We come close to God’s reign when we approach the ‘narrow gate’, when we allow ourselves to feel the pain and suffering of the world’s poor. We all see the ‘narrow gate’ ahead of us, inviting us to come in, but we turn away. Why?
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Lord God, help us catch a glimpse of the ‘Pearl of Great Price’, the kingdom of God and grant us the grace of compassion and love that we may see and enter through the ‘narrow gate’ which eludes many of us. We believe that God’s foolishness is wiser than the wisdom of this world because as long as we are willing to listen to the Gospel, His invitation just won’t go away.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.