11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
12 Jun 2024

Ez 17:22-24
Ps 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16
2 Cor 5:6-10
Mk 4:26-34


Did you ever notice the way in which Jesus employs images from the natural world in his teaching? This is true especially in his teaching about the kingdom of God: fields, seeds, trees, grapes and vineyards, yeast. In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, we hear about a farmer sowing seed day after day but not knowing how the seed sprouts and grows. In fact, however, it does grow, and it produces fruit. The small mustard seed grows into a plant so large that the birds find shade in its branches. Jesus shows us how closely connected we are to the natural world. He demonstrates the way in which nature itself can reveal to us the ways of God.

This practice of Jesus reminds us of our close connection to the natural world and our responsibility to care for the earth. Pope Francis continues to summon us to reverence the gift of God’s creation. He invites us to recognize that everything is interconnected. Francis challenges us to see that ecological realities like human caused climate change most severely and immediately affect the poor of this world.

The Bible readings for this week employ images from the natural world to communicate a profound message of hope for us. They speak of tiny, insignificant beginnings leading to abundant growth. The prophet Ezekiel portrays God taking a small, tender shoot from the crest of a cedar tree and planting it on the mountain heights. This was an image of hope for the people of Israel at a time in which their country had been overrun and many were living in exile. They had lost almost everything, and there seemed to be no future for them. Yet the prophet painted a majestic vision of a towering tree growing from the tender shoot. What was once insignificant and vulnerable would become strong and exalted. This was a prophetic promise that God would create a new future for the people.

By pointing to the growth of small seeds, Jesus depicts the way in which the Reign of God, the rule of God’s abundant love, comes to be present in the world. He portrays a vivid contrast between small beginnings and great results. This was a message of living hope for persecuted members of the Christian community for whom Mark wrote his Gospel. Jesus had made the Reign of God present in acts of healing and reconciliation and by welcoming all kinds of people, including outcasts, into communion with God. In the face of the oppressive power of the Roman empire, his actions may have seemed insignificant to some people. But Jesus challenges us to remember that we cannot judge by appearances only. When we live in relationship with Christ, we are linked with the presence and power of God in our midst.

We walk by faith, not by sight, as Paul tells us in the second reading for this Sunday’s liturgy. We believe that the way in which we are called to live makes a real difference. In the face of the overwhelming needs of the world, and sometimes the daunting problems in our personal lives, it can be a temptation to throw up our hands in despair. But the Word of God calls us to trust that the tiny mustard seeds that we plant, by God’s grace, make a real difference in this world and even in eternity. The tiny seed of environmental responsibility in our homes and neighborhoods; the words of forgiveness spoken at home; the gesture of tenderness toward a child or elderly person; the effort to deal honestly in business; the compassion of a health care worker and the courage of a first responder; the letter written to a Congressperson to promote protection of the lives of the unborn, the poor and other vulnerable people in our society. No such effort will ever be fruitless, even if it may seem so at the time. When God’s Reign finally comes in its fullness, nothing good will have been lost. When all is said and done, such actions will be preserved, transfigured, and raised up in the fullness of God’s loving rule over all creation.

As we celebrate the Eucharist this Sunday, let us remember that we are called to live and act for the Reign of God. Summoned to find ways, great and small, to make the rule of God’s life-giving love more present, more real in our world. We do that with the trust that God makes our limited efforts fruitful in ways that exceed our imaginations.

Robin Ryan, CP