FIRST READING Ezekiel 17:22-24
Thus says the Lord GOD: I, too, will take from the crest of the cedar, from its topmost branches tear off a tender shoot, and plant it on a high and lofty mountain; on the mountain heights of Israel I will plant it. It shall put forth branches and bear fruit, and become a majestic cedar. Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.
SECOND READING 2 Corinthians 5:6-10
Brothers and sisters: 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. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.
GOSPEL Mark 4:26-34
Jesus said to the crowds: “This is how it is with the kingdom of God; it is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the grain is ripe, he wields the sickle at once, for the harvest has come.” He said, “To what shall we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.” With many such parables he spoke the word to them as they were able to understand it. Without parables he did not speak to them, but to his own disciples he explained everything in private.
My sisters and brothers in the Lord,
Parables! Jesus is often speaking to us in parables. Often we don’t spend enough time thinking about the parables, about the images that He gives us. We need to spend some time with the Lord, listening to His words, and wondering what the words mean. When we do this, we begin to understand Jesus and the Kingdom.
The first reading today is from the Prophet Ezekiel. We have many images in this reading. However, the message is clear: “All the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.” The message is simple: God is God and we humans are not God and cannot control our world or anything in it. We have the appearance of control, but the world spins out of control when we humans no longer respect God nor respect the ways of God for us. This has happened over and over in human history and we humans seem incapable of learning the lesson: follow the Lord and life is very good! Abandon the Lord and life becomes unbearable.
The second reading is from the Second Letter to the Corinthians. The small passage that we read today repeats the lesson from the Prophet Ezekiel: “We walk by faith, not by sight.” When we walk by faith, we listen to the Word of God and strive to form our lives by that Word. If we walk by sight, we no longer believe in the Lord because the present world tells us that God is not necessary, is only a foolish thought of humans, and that life is much better without God.
Once again we are confronted with the truth: With God there is mercy! Without God, all becomes useless and without meaning. The only meaning without God is the human being. The human being is always fickle, always seeking its own good, always looking for please and wealth and power. As our world continues to abandon God, we can expect worse things yet to happen.
Today’s Gospel is from Saint Mark and brings us back to parables and images. What is the Kingdom of God like, Jesus asks? Well, it is something that we cannot control. It is like planting a field and not understanding why the plants grow. The Kingdom of God is all around us and is within us—but we have a choice to recognize it or to ignore it. Whether we recognize the Kingdom or ignore the Kingdom, the process of the Kingdom is still at work: time is given to us to give ourselves to God.
The Kingdom of God is very small and that is why so many cannot see it. Small. Not small in size but small in its beginnings within us and within our communities. Yet it can grow and become so powerful. God never forces Himself upon us. We can always invite God to grow within us and within our communities.
When we see the grass grow or when we see a tree grow, we can think of the Kingdom of God! When we see birds fly in the air, we can think of the Kingdom of God. God is always at work and always loving us. May we open our eyes and our hearts to Him.
Your brother in the Lord,
From the Benedictine Abbey of Christ in the Desert (https://christdesert.org) by kind permission of Father Abbot.