“The Kingdom of God is like. . .”
11th Sunday Ordinary Time
I was curious to see how big a mustard plant could grow, so I “Googled” Mustard Plant (ya’ gotta’ love the internet – the whole world at your fingertips). There were several photos showing a rather rambling, unruly, very large bushy plant. Some were over 10 feet tall, some looked tree-like. I was interested to see that they all appeared to be their own habitat environment; supporting not only nesting birds, but other animals could seek shady homes or refuge from the harsh climate. All-in-all, the mustard plant is quite amazing. It not only serves as home and shelter, but it is edible too. I love mustard on hotdogs!
The mustard plant also serves as a great metaphor for the kingdom of God, but before we go there let’s look at the first parable of the farmer and the seed.
As far as gardening goes, I fall into the category of “accidental grower”. I have house plants that grow and flower despite my interference. I provide water on an irregular basis, dust them off occasionally and, when I remember, I open the shades to let in sunlight. How my plants not only survive, but thrive is a mystery to me. I believe it is only through God’s grace that they grow.
Jesus’ parable of the farmer and the seed is like the church, especially today. Who does not know of the trials of the church in today’s world.
- Rampant secularism,
- government interference,
- scandals that undermine trust,
- internal turmoil and controversies,
- declining attendance at mass,
- lack of understandings of church teaching and
- an abandoning of belief, not only in the teachings of the church,
- but in the very existence of God:
All these and more make the future appear bleak for the church we know and love.
But we, the faithful, should be like the farmer who sleeps and rises, night and day – ever faithful and regular – day in and day out - in prayer, - practice - and participation in the Holy Church. In being so, we sow the seeds of faith through our prayer, - practice, - and participation. Jesus calls us to preach the Word of God to everyone we meet: teaching the Gospel always and if necessary, using words, to quote St. Augustine.
God works in mysterious ways and according to His timetable. We are not to worry or fret, but rely on the Holy Spirit to bring God’s kingdom on earth into the next age.
He makes the seed sprout and rise, not we. He brings forth the grain and the fruit; providing for all his children: as he feeds the birds of the air, - the creatures in the sea - and the beasts of the forest.
Where the church is heading is part of God’s plan. He provides the rain to soften the soil. He nourishes the ground to feed the seed. He prunes the branches; cutting away those unproductive and dead branches off the living vine, so it will bring forth healthy fruit, and bring it forth more abundantly.
The phrase, “Birds of the air” was an old Jewish term used to describe the Gentiles. Those who were not descendants of the tribes of Israel were known as “birds of the air.” I’m not sure, but it may have been because they were not tied to the Promised Land. But this phrase puts a different spin on the second parable of the mustard seed.
Jesus tells us in this parable that the love of God is so great that if only a small part of it was used, a part the size of a mustard seed, it would grow into this enormous bush, “so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
This is evidence that God’s love is for all people, not just for the tribes Israel. Jesus is letting the people know that all his beloved children can find a home – a place of rest and refuge - in God’s house. His love excludes no one, but invites all to come into the shade of his love and find rest.
- Again, God works in mysterious ways. He brings about His kingdom - which is enduring and everlasting. He asks us to remain strong in our faith;
- continuing to sleep and rise,
- night and day,
- remaining ever faithful:
- To pray, practice, participate and, especially to preach the Word of God.
God’s love provides shade for all his beloved children; He builds a house with many rooms in His
everlasting kingdom of life.