Sunday Sermon for June 13, 2021, the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Ez 17:22-24; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-32
In the readings today we have two complementary perspectives regarding the Kingdom of God on earth. One is more objective and focuses on the Church while the other is subjective and focuses on each person. Regarding the Church, God tells the Prophet Ezekiel that He is going to break off a shoot from the top of a cedar tree and plant it on the mountains of Israel. This shoot is to grow into a majestic cedar and bear fruit. The shoot that was broken off from the cedar and transplanted is the Church.
Research has demonstrated that cedar trees can be started from even a sprig from another tree. God was not going to start something entirely new, nor was He going to take a seed from an already existing tree. Instead, He determined to use the truth and charity He had already given to Israel. This truth and charity had grown and developed into a mature tree, but the Lord desired an even greater fulness. He would take the very top of this mature tree (the fullest development of the truth God had revealed to Israel) and use that as the root and foundation of the Church that would embody the totality of God’s revelation.
In the Gospel reading today our Lord tells us two parables regarding the Kingdom of God. Each parable describes a planting and the growth of the plants. In other words, these parables describe how the Kingdom of God is planted within us and grows and develops as we mature. In these parables, the farmer or gardener plants the seeds, which grow as God provides the rain and the sunshine. In our own lives, however, God is the One Who plants the Kingdom within us, and we need to cooperate with God’s grace to grow and mature.
The Church has grown and matured over the past 2000 years and has borne abundant fruit. Some development comes from the minds of theologians who reflect upon the revealed truths and help us to see the fullness of what is contained in those truths and how they relate to our lives. But the fruit also comes from individuals whose holiness is put at the service of the Church. In other words, the growth of this tree we call the Church comes from within. By the witness of their words and actions, each member fulfills his or her part to bring Jesus into the world to build up the Church.
Before any of us can build up the Church, the Kingdom of God must grow within us. We need to make the choice to believe what God has revealed, to pray, and to live what we profess through acts of charity. Belief in God’s revelation develops our minds to know and understand the truth. Prayer brings us into a loving union with Jesus. Our actions express outwardly our interior dispositions of truth and charity.
Each person who lives the Faith in this manner is like a living cell in the tree that is the Church. The growth of the individual cells causes the whole tree to grow. From inside each cell flows out truth and charity. Working together, these cause the whole tree to develop and grow. The new growth on the tree is the fruit of the growth of the cells, individually and collectively. As the cells mature and die, new cells are added, and the tree continues its upward momentum.
This movement upward culminates in our final perspective regarding the Kingdom of God. The first two perspectives we mentioned focus on the Church and her members while on earth. The final aspect is the Kingdom of God in Heaven (and Purgatory) which consists of the Church and her members who have been brought from this world into the next. St. Paul says in the second reading that we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.
St. Paul tells us each must appear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive recompense according to what we did in the body, whether good or evil. We have all sinned and fallen short of the Kingdom of God, but thanks be to God for His mercy and for giving us confession so our sins can be forgiven. We know that God’s mercy is infinitely greater than our worst sin, so if we come before the judgment seat of Christ on earth in the confessional, there will be no fear to appear before His judgment seat in Heaven. In the meantime, we should be working to remove sin from our lives, to practice works of charity and mercy, and to grow in holiness and virtue. This will build up the Kingdom of God within and prepare us for entrance into the fullness of the Kingdom of God in Heaven.
Fr. Altier’s column appears regularly in The Wanderer, a national Catholic weekly published in St. Paul, Minn. For information about subscribing to The Wanderer, please visit www.thewandererpress.com.