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11th Sunday in Ordinary Time

11th SUNDAY in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Ezekiel 17: 22-24 + Psalm 92: 2-16 + 2 Cor. 5: 6-10 + Mark 4: 26-34
Holy Spirit Catholic Church: Sunday, June 13, 2021

Today, on this 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, in the Year of Mark’s Gospel,
we return to a consecutive reading of Mark’s Gospel at Sunday Mass.
We left off on our consecutive reading of Mark’s Gospel way back on Valentine’s Day.
Remember the deep freeze of that time and the snow that followed,
preventing many of you from attending Ash Wednesday services
immediately after Valentine’s Day.

Back in mid-February we began the 40 days of the Lenten Season, then entered the 50 days of the Easter Season, and then these past 2 Sundays celebrated important beliefs about who God is as Trinity and how God draws us into the life of the Trinity
through the great gift of the Eucharist.
After all that passage of time, today we return to a consecutive reading of Mark’s Gospel.

The challenge, though, is we are dropped right into the middle of Chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel with these 2 parables: The Seed that Grows of Itself and the Mustard Seed.
It’s like going to sleep in one place and waking up in an entirely different place—
we have to get our bearings in order to understand where we are
and what Jesus desires to teach us through his word.

For we cannot understand what Jesus is trying to teach us without understanding
the context in which the evangelist Mark places these 2 parables.

In Chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus uses agricultural images in speaking about
the mystery of the Kingdom of God.
In doing so, he chooses images from material life
to point to the hidden workings of the spiritual life.
This is how Jesus uses parables, speaking about what is visible to point
to the invisible workings of God’s grace, the hidden movements of the Spirit.

The two parables we hear today toward the middle of Chapter 4 of Mark are connected
to the first parable at the beginning of this chapter—The Parable of the Sower.
The parables we ponder today—the “Seed that Grows of Itself” and the “Mustard Seed” illumine this previous parable about the Sower who sows the seed.
The three parables in Chapter 4 can only be understood together.
In the parable that opens Chapter 4 of Mark’s Gospel, “The Parable of the Sower”,
there are 4 types of soil that the Sower encounters—
three types that do not receive the seed and the fourth soil that is receptive to the seed.
In Jesus’ explanation of that parable to his disciples, away from the noise of the crowd,
he states that the Sower stands for himself, the seed is his word,
and the soil represents the hearts of the listeners.

However, since Jesus did not say much about the characteristics
of the 4th type of soil, he tells 2 more parables shed light on the qualities of good soil.
Since Jesus did not elaborate much at all about the 4th type of person
who is receptive to his word and produces abundant fruit,
he tells 2 more parables to about this type of person of faith.

The Parable of the “Seed that Grows of Itself” (productive soil)
and the parable of the “Mustard Seed” (transformative soil)
both point to qualities needed in order for the word of God to take root
in the heart of the listener and produce abundant fruit.

A very important quality of good soil is to cooperate with God’s grace
even when we do not see the results immediately.
For we walk by faith, not by sight. We demonstrate this most powerfully
when we follow the teachings of the Lord Jesus which are contrary to popular culture.
We do what we are commanded to do, even though others tempt us by saying,
“What good does it do?”
So, we are kind, even when others are rude in return.
We are patient, when having everything right now is the norm.
We forgive, when everyone else is seeking revenge.
We are faithful, while others glibly break their vows.
We are honest, even when others who lie and cheat and steal seem to be getting ahead.
We are grateful, while others are never satisfied with what they have.
We worship God with our brothers and sisters in Christ,
which does not appear to produce anything concrete,
while everyone else is at the lake having fun.

Another one of these very important qualities of good soil revealed by today’s parables
is trust!
We must trust that the Sower knows what he is doing,
that the instructions of Jesus are worth following.
So, in trust, we remain open to Him and to his word.
We do so by turning to him daily in prayer, so the water of our baptism can flow freely
in our lives, nourishing the growth of our spiritual lives.
Receiving the Eucharist, week after week, also enables the water of baptism
to flow freely through our life, watering the seed of faith.
We know not how prayer works, we simply know that prayer works.
We know not how the growth of God’s life and love happens in our lives, but prayer,
this ongoing relationship with the Lord, assures us that it is happening.
Spending time with the Lord every day is essential,
even when nothing on the surface appears to be happening.

A quality which takes trust to a deeper level is surrender.
We surrender ourselves and our lives daily into the hands of the Lord,
recognizing that a lot is not in our control.
For this is how it is with the Kingdom of God. Surrender is a deeper form of trusting,
of placing all that we have and are into God’s hands.
When we surrender in love to God,
we admit that we do not need to have the blueprint of our entire life—
only give us today our daily bread, and that will be enough.
Surrendering to God means we can say,
“You don’t have to show me the whole road ahead. Just the next step will do.”

For we only see the mustard seed of our small lives, the mustard seed of our faith,
but when we surrender the little we are and have into God’s hands,
something remarkable happens.
We grow into something beyond what we dreamed could be possible.

We become bread for others who hunger for God.
We become a welcoming shade for those seeking comfort
from the blazing heat of suffering and despair.

Ultimately, being good soil for God’s word is not about individual achievement.
It’s not about “self-help” or “self-improvement,”
but about being of loving assistance to others, producing fruit for the Kingdom of God.

When we do so, we will not be afraid to stand before the judgment seat of Christ
and give an account for our lives.
Actually, we will not need to say a word.
Others will speak on our behalf.
Fr. Joseph A. Jacobi