Sunday Sermon for June 17, 2012, the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

Readings: Ez 17:22-24; 2Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34

In the second reading today St. Paul states that we walk by faith and not by sight. He says this in the context of our bodily death and everlasting life. We have the promises of our Lord, but when someone dies we do not see the person going to judgment. We do not have scientific proof of souls entering Heaven, Hell or Purgatory. While we have many accounts of Saints and other holy persons, there is no absolute scientific proof regarding these realities. We have the teaching of the Church and the witness of the Scriptures, but these require faith, not science.

Since we do not have objective, tangible evidence we can certainly say that we walk by faith and not by sight in this regard. However, there are also many other areas where we need the same faith. Each of our Lord’s promises must be accepted on faith; of course, the truth that Jesus is God also requires faith.

Our Lord tells us in the Gospel that the Kingdom of God is like a seed that is planted in the ground and springs up without the farmer understanding how. It begins small and starts to grow and develop until it is time for the harvest. He also speaks of the mustard seed which is very small but grows into a large shrub. In each of these examples we see the need to operate by faith because, at the time of our Lord they did not understand the workings of the seeds or the plants.

Today we understand how seeds develop and, therefore, think that we no longer need to walk by faith. Perhaps this kind of thing explains why, as we are told at the end of today’s Gospel, Jesus always spoke to the people in parables. In other words, He planted a seed within them that they did not fully understand. However, with some work and the grace of God they would be able to grasp the deeper meaning of the parables.

Fortunately for us, He explained things to His Apostles and they wrote down the explanation so that we would benefit from it. Sometimes we do not understand them and they go in one ear and out the other. At other times we do not want to change our lives to be in accord with our Lord’s words, so we ignore them or brush them aside. In so doing we fail to allow the word to take root in us and begin to grow.

This is the problem with needing proof before we move forward. Today we think that just because we can explain things scientifically that it implies that God had or has nothing to do with it. Understanding things scientifically does not eliminate God from the equation. This is the point that is all too often overlooked.

God, knowing our human nature and our propensity to doubt and look for natural level explanations, tells us in the first reading that He is going to cut off the top of a cedar tree and plant the top on a mountain where it will take root and spread. He goes on to say that He will bring low the high tree and lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree and make the withered tree bloom. There will be no scientific explanations for such occurrences which is why He says that all the trees of the field shall know that the Lord has done this.

The days are drawing near when we are going to see the Lord at work in ways we have not seen before. If we try to control what He is doing we will be in the way, if we try to explain what the Lord is doing by reference to natural phenomena or scientific proofs, we will not only be at a loss, but we will like get crushed in our effort to walk by sight and not by faith.

St. Paul tells us that we have to be courageous; the context again is the preference to leave the body and go home to be with the Lord. The courage we need first and foremost is to walk by faith and to believe in everything our Lord has told us. This requires courage because it goes against the modern current. It also requires courage because we cannot see or control what the Lord is doing. It takes courage to admit that God is real and that He does not need our permission or understanding to act in this world. It takes courage to believe in the face of denial and to walk with Jesus when so many are walking away from Him. Pray for the grace to go against the grain, to walk by faith and not by sight.

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