Sunday, 17 June 2012

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B, Shaftesbury

Mk 4:26-34; Ezek 17:22-24

Most of us have times when it seems as if God is not present. Perhaps some difficulty or crisis in our life comes and we feel not merely alone but as if God isn’t doing anything.
It is in such moments, or especially in such moments, that it can be important to recall the words we just heard the Lord Jesus use to describe HOW the Kingdom of God works:

We just heard two parables that the Lord gave us to describe “what the Kingdom of God is like” (Mk 4:26). And we might expect that God’s Kingdom would be one of dramatic visible works of power, and it’s true that in other parts of the Scriptures there are plenty of occasions when we read of God working is exactly such a public and visible manner, but here the Lord points out another way He works, in fact the more common and usual way: invisibly.
He compares His working to that of the seed growing underground:
“night and day, while [the farmer] sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know”(Mk 4:27).
But, and this is the point, the seed DOES grow, even underground when the farmer does not see it, even though the farmer may not understand the ‘how’ of what makes the seed grow.

This, the Lord Jesus tells us, is how God works in other ways too.
Like the seed underground we frequently cannot SEE that God is working,
And we cannot know WHAT He is working at any more than the growth of the seed is known until it breaks forth and comes ready for the harvesting.
But the Lord is at work, “His wonders to perform”, as the hymn puts it.

But to turn to the other parable we heard the Lord Jesus give us, of how the little seed grows to become a mighty bush that the birds can shelter in. This was an Old Testament image of might too. Thus the prophet Daniel (4:9-27) describes the powerful King Nebuchadnezzar in order to describe His power and ability to shelter his subjects. And as we heard also in our first reading from Ezekiel. In Ezekiel it is Israel, the chosen nation, that is described as the mighty tree of shelter, indicating that this dwelling place of God is a dwelling to which all can turn in order to find shelter. In a fuller sense, this applies to the New Testament ‘Kingdom of God’, and the Church Christ founded:

It is in this ‘dwelling’ that we can come to God, that we can rest in Him, be fed by His sacraments, strengthened by His grace. And surely, obviously, this is one of the reasons we come here to Mass now, to shelter in the Lord, to be strengthened by Him.

So, when we feel that God is not present, let us not be surprised, let us remember that we are not the first to fear so, but let us remember even more the promise of the Lord:
That He works even when unseen, as surely as the seed grows unseen underground;
That He works as a mighty shelter to which we can turn in our need.

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