Gospel Reading / Mark 4:26-34
In the Gospel Reading, Jesus tells two parables about the growth of the Kingdom of God. Each story has a different purpose. The first parable emphasizes the seed’s own growth. The farmer can neither give the seed the power to grow nor make its gradual growth happen. The second parable emphasizes the astonishing fruitful character of a seed.
THE GOD OF SURPRISES
11th Sunday Ordinary Time [B]
Last Sunday neither Jesus’ own family nor the teachers of the Law who had come from Jerusalem could even begin to make sense of what Jesus was saying and doing. So threatened are they that both groups seek to discredit Jesus. His family claims He had lost His mind while the scribes assert He is possessed by the devil.
The unruly response leads Jesus to leave his home and move on the sea. A crowd swells so large in size that Jesus gets into a boat from which he teaches the multitudes who are beside the sea on the land. He teaches them in parables.
Today’s Gospel picks after Jesus’ teaching already had been underway. We hear two of the parables Jesus uses to explain God’s Kingdom (Mark 4:26-34). As is often the case, the teaching stories of Jesus ingeniously connect to the everyday experiences of the people to whom He is speaking.
Jesus’ parable about a man scattering seed on the land draws our attention upon the sure and steady growth of God’s Kingdom. Just as the seed silently, mysteriously and independent of human efforts, so is it with the Kingdom of God. For sure, the farmer spares no effort to prepare the ground well for the sowing of the seed. Yet once the seed is sown there is nothing more to be done until the harvest – the grain develops on its own. Here our blessed Lord presents the awesome power of God’s Kingdom that cannot be contained and will grow continuously on earth until the day of the harvest; that is, until the Final Judgment and the return of Christ Jesus in glory.
This also highlights the action of divine grace in each soul. God’s power silently, mysteriously and continuously works to change us – to make us more faithful, more compassionate and more courageous to do what is right and just. Although we must cooperative with God’s grace or power, the initiative for our living and changing always lies with God. Thus, we place our trust in the Holy Spirit, the Lord the Giver of Life. Docility is the pathway to our very best version.
Jesus then instructs further by means of the parable involving the tiny mustard seed. God’s Kingdom on earth begins very small and grows to be enormous and teeming abundantly with life. Simply recall the pitifully small group of disciples whose faith, hope and love spreads through the centuries to become the great multitude the Church now is in our own day.
The same also holds true for each soul. Our dear Little Flower puts it in this way:
“I will look for some means of going to heaven by a little way which is very short and very straight, a little way that is quite new…It is your arms, Jesus, which are the lift to carry me to heaven, And so there is no need for me to grow up. In fact, just the opposite: I must stay little and become less and less.”
– Saint Thérèse of Lisieux, Story of a Soul