Readings: Ezekiel 17:22-24; 2 Cor 5:6-10; Mk 4:26-34
This Sunday the readings focus on the mysterious nature and growth of the kingdom of God. In the first reading, the prophet Ezekiel uses the metaphor of a cedar tree whose tender shoot the Lord takes and plants on a high mountain of Israel. The Lord cares for the tender shoot so that it puts forth branches and bears fruits and becomes a large cedar. Hence the Lord speaks through the prophet to describe what God will in restoring the house of David from insignificant beginnings and weakness into a noble significant tree. The shoot taken from the top of the tree will be planted on a high mountain of Israel. There it will flourish, produce branches, yield fruit, and provide shelter for every winged animal. It will be a chosen tree, a majestic cedar, known for its strength and precious wood. This metaphor has a messianic meaning. Behind the use of this image is a biblical teaching that God chooses the weak and the lowly to make them strong. These words of the Lord describe a reversal of fortunes that God is doing. What was once weak and vulnerable will become exalted. That prophecy is fulfilled in Christ.
In the Gospel, Jesus uses two short parables to show how the kingdom of God unfolds mysteriously from very insignificant humble beginnings. In the first parable, Jesus compares the growth of the kingdom to a seed that is planted by a farmer who then retires from the scene going about other duties. The growth of the seed depends on its own potential growth, not on the farmer. The mystery of that growth belongs to the seed and the soil. The only requirement for the farmer is vigilance and patience. Similarly, the seed of the kingdom planted by Jesus Christ grows hidden and mysteriously. That seed is planted in the hearts of each of us, and unrecognized as it grows. However, we need be open to the unfolding potential of the seed as it transforms each of us into something beautiful for God and for the growth of the Church. Because the growth of the seed is God’s plan and secret, that growth can happen in the most unexpected ways, times and place. Even the people that come our way in moments we never planned is part of that growth. The kingdom of God grows in the most unlikely places: in the poor, in the midst of persecution, in our sickness or that of our relatives, in our family trial moments; in times of personal struggle or in doubt. That is the good news. What seems humanly insignificant, failure or impossible is transformed by God’s power and grace into success, and a wonderful experience of God’s salvation. The bottom line is that we need to be open to God’s work; to God’s planting of the seed of his word in our hearts. We must never be discouraged by what seems to be insignificant or failure for God thrives in failure and powerlessness.
©2012 John S. Mbinda