In the first reading from the prophet Ezekiel, Ezekiel prophesied as the Babylonian empire conquered Jerusalem in the sixth century BC. The Israelites believed that God would protect Jerusalem and its temple, but Ezekiel warned that God would leave his holy city in the hands of their enemies as punishment for his people’s sins.
In the second reading, St. Paul tells the Corinthians, we need courage. Our faith makes us strong, and it is proven in our deeds. He reminds us that we will be judged by the ways our faith manifest itself in works: “so that each may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil.”
In today’s Gospel, Jesus appears reluctant to reveal his identity as the Son of God. After performing miracles of healing, he warns those cured to tell no one. Also, when preaching, Jesus chooses to speak to the crowds in parables, leaving them to discern his message. Only to his disciples does he explain the parable’s meaning.
Jesus often teaches in parables, sayings or stories that compare God’s ways to ordinary life. The images get our attention, and the puzzling conclusions keep us thinking about their meaning. If we are open to God, we come to understand. Today’s parable speaks about the seed growing on its own. It has the power. The planter does not know how or notice the growth beneath the soil. He can be anxious or fret, but it is not his power that makes the seed grow. The parable of the mustard seed speaks about the very small beginnings of God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom growth from those who heeds his words. Most people do not understand about God’s kingdom. But the Lord keeps taking the disciples aside and explaining to them. Those who are willing to follow the Lord and listen to his teachings will come to understand the truth of the kingdom.
In the Gospel today, Jesus tells two parables that come right after the parable about the sower. People who hear and accept the teaching of Jesus sprout from the seed planted on good soil. Such people become Jesus’ followers. Jesus directs these next two parables to them.
While reflecting on a parable we must remember that parables don’t mean only one thing. A good parable invites people to think about it, talk about it and come to more than one insight. Parables are not allegories. In an allegory each element of the story directly corresponds to something else, which narrows the meaning of the story.
Good parables change the way people think about something. Ideally, parables also change the way people act. One of the reasons Jesus was such a good teacher is his parables inspired people to think and live differently.
In the parable today, the farmer plants seed and then watches it grow through no power of his own. Jesus is like a farmer who plants the seeds of God’s kingdom. If Jesus’ followers wonder how or if God will complete his kingdom, this parable assure them he will. The harvest is God gathering people into his kingdom.
Mustard seeds are only a few millimeters in diameter. Jesus thus creates a clever contrast between the tiny seed and the large tree that grows from it. If Jesus’ followers are ever dismayed by the delay of God’s kingdom, this story encourages them to be patient and remain faithful.
Theme in Our Life
We live in an age of immediacy. We are used to having at our fingertips contact with our friends, entertainment, and information. We aren’t used to waiting. We think of waiting as wasting our time and we look for ways to save time. What is one time-saving device you would absolutely not want to give up, something that you wouldn’t live without? In today’s Gospel, Jesus also deals with time, specifically in Jesus’ description of the kingdom of God. Jesus talks about the tiny mustard seed that grows in to a large mature tree over time. Just as small mustard seeds growth over time, so our small acts of kindness today have the possibility of making a big difference in the future. God’s kingdom is not yet fully established. It is growing and will come to fullness at the end of time. How rewarding to know that we are helping to make it happen.
Preparing for Sunday
To Prepare for this Sunday’s Liturgy of the Word, consider the following:
In your personal life, or small church community, what small thing has become a big or important thing?
What have you done in love and service to help the reign of God?
What must I do to be a follower of Jesus today? What is expected of me?
O divine Savior,
You came into this world to preach your Gospel in delightful simplicity. I humbly ask you to let me learn from your example.
Make me acquire your spirit of simplicity and by your grace spread it around in a simple and direct manner for the spiritual well-being of others.
May I thus promulgate your word, spreading it wherever I go as your good and faithful servant.
O my dear Savior, pour out your spirit of simplicity into my heart so that I may be your true apostle by always fully cooperating with your grace. I ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen