Sunday Sermon for June 17, 2018, the Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B
Readings: Ez 17:22-24; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34
In the Gospel reading our Lord speaks about the Kingdom of God and to what it might be compared. In the reading the Church gives us our Lord uses two similes, both having to do with the planting of seeds. In the first the farmer sows the seed, but the seed germinates, sprouts, and produces fruit by itself, apart from the work of the farmer. In the second example, the small mustard seed grows to become so large the birds dwell in its shade.
If this is what the Kingdom of God can be compared to, then we have to abstract from those examples and apply the principles to our own situation. This is critical for us because we pray every day “Thy Kingdom come.” If we truly desire the Kingdom of God, then it will be helpful to know what we are praying for.
First of all, we notice that the seeds are planted, buried in the ground. Our Lord told us the Kingdom of God is within. So, on earth, the Kingdom of God will one day consist of everyone living according to God’s holy will, thus establishing a society marked by virtue. However, although we have the Ten Commandments and all the other moral principles by which we are to live, when the Kingdom of God reigns, it will be due to each person choosing, by the grace of God, to live in accordance with God’s will. In other words, the Law will come from within rather than being imposed from the outside.
So, the Kingdom of God has been planted deep within the soul of each person who is baptized into Jesus Christ. What is interesting in the examples our Lord uses, specifically in the first one, is that the seed grows on its own without the farmer even knowing how. This said, it sounds foolish to say we have to cooperate to make the seed grow, however, that is the case. Just because we do not know how the seed grows and develops, does not mean we have no role in its growth and development.
Anyone who has a garden knows watering and weeding are necessary. Doing these things allows the seed to grow, but the gardener still marvels and rejoices in the growth of the plants. The gardener is provides the proper environment for the seed to grow, but the growth and development themselves, while dependent on the proper environment, are still separate from the environment.
St. Paul, in the second reading, reminds us we walk by faith not by sight. If we apply the same plant growth analogy to what he says about the spiritual growth of the human person, we could say the harvest is when when the soul leaves the body to go to Heaven. But the time of growth is one of faith. As we saw in our Lord’s words, “the seed will sprout and grow, he knows not how.” Faith, then, is contained within the seed God has planted within us; it is like the trunk and the branches of the plant.
Ultimately, the fruit produced by this plant is charity. Charity also grows within us in ways we cannot understand or measure. We can certainly choose to pray, to do something kind for another, or to act out of the motive of the love of God and neighbor, but it is still difficult to gauge the progress of our virtue. This is the part we need to leave to God; we can only cooperate and trust it will develop in a way beyond our comprehension.
Some people think they are fundamentally flawed and, therefore, unable to love, unable to bear fruit. To this I would say two things: first, our Lord commanded all of us to go and bear fruit, so there are no exceptions. Second, in the first reading God says He will take a tender shoot from the crest of the cedar and plant it on a high and lofty mountain. We are told it will put forth branches and bear fruit. It would seem unlikely that a shoot plucked from a tree would take root, grow, and bear fruit, but this is what the Lord says will happen.
Love is the fruition of the growth of the Kingdom planted within. This fruit is not only borne in the kindness shown to others, but it will bear fruit that is eternal in producing souls who are won for Christ. It produces fruit within us by conforming us to Christ.
Only the Lord can do this, but since the Kingdom is planted within us and we have been incorporated into Jesus, we simply have to make the choice to cooperate. God will use the circumstances of our lives as the environment for faith to be fruitful in charity.
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.