11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

First reading: Ez. 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 Cor. 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: Mk. 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.

In other words

by Fr. Ferdie Bajao, SVD (Rome, Italy)

One of the prayers said by the celebrant as he confirms the intentions of those who will profess the perpetual vows in the Society of the Divine Word goes: “May the One who began this work in you bring it to fruitful completion.” I remember how struck I was by this line that it stayed with me until now. Every time I feel down or think that the religious-missionary life seems to lose its meaning, I go back to these words. For me, they are powerful reminders of my place in the order of grace. This is the recognition that I do not accomplish things on my own. It is a recognition that I am a creature and that God is the creator.

In the Gospel, Jesus speaks about the knowledge of man and the knowledge of God. By knowledge of man, Jesus recognizes the work of man: scattering seed on the land, sleeping and rising, and his awareness of the seed’s sprouting and growing but Jesus underlines: “he knows not how.” This lack of knowledge on the part of man leads to the greater mysteries of what God knows which we do not know; that which is not yet clearly revealed and known, but maybe hinted at. My father told me on my ordination day: “I remember when you were still a little boy that you were so focused on the Mass which I did not see in children your age.” Again, that could have already been the work that the Lord began in me. There is a lighthearted saying that goes: “He is not done with me yet.” Therefore, whoever you see now is still a work in progress waiting to be completed. This is then the deeper lesson for me: I do not belittle my lifework, ministry, profession, my gifts, and my crosses. Deeper still, I do not diminish the presence of people in my life for they too are within God’s project.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI would insist that none of us are accidents, each one of us is willed, loved, and thought by God. Our contributions or their contributions may be a “mustard seed” in the eyes of the world, but in due time, it will grow into a great giant of a tree. Again, the grace of God, and the power of God who can do all things: “I bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, Wither up the green tree, and make the dry tree bloom.” He will bring everything to fruitful completion even if it looks like nothing is happening on the surface. Like the disciples who toiled all night but caught no single fish, life could be so hard that way—we exerted all effort but seemed fruitless. Saint Paul tells us to be courageous, for we walk by faith and not by sight. To the world, wealth is always flashy gadgets and coins, but true wealth is not necessarily visible. That is why in the Collect or Opening Prayer of the Mass today, we pray: “O God, strength of those who hope in you, Graciously hear our pleas, and, since without you mortal frailty can do nothing, Grant us always the help of your grace. That in following, your commands. We may please you by our resolve and our deeds.” Through our cooperation, he could finally bring to full completion whatever work he has begun in us.

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