Friday, 15 June 2018

GOSPEL   Mark 4:26-34
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio
Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’
Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.
The Gospel of the Lord.
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The readings this week present analogies from the world of agriculture. When a farmer sows a seed, it develops a shoot and produces its fruit according to the rhythm of the creator, not according to our impulses. And so it is with the spiritual life. We must respect the rhythm of God in our spiritual development. Just as a farmer cannot expect a plant to produce its fruit instantly, neither can we expect to become like St Francis overnight. And we shouldn’t expect anyone else to become saints in a few easy stages either! It is very damaging to try to force progress in spiritual matters, whether in ourselves or in others. In bioethical matters, it is extremely grave to try to make ourselves the masters of life, deciding when it begins or how it should evolve. And the same is true in matters of faith. God is the author of all things and we must respect his plan and his timing. Our task is not to coerce how things move along, but to respond to what the Lord is doing in our lives. Don’t worry if things begin humbly and appear to be moving slowly! The things of God are often of this sort but become solid, mature and fruitful. The things that are not of God, by contrast, often begin spectacularly but end in disaster. Let us allow ourselves to be carried along by the designs of God!

The liturgy this week presents us with analogies from the world of agriculture
The readings for Sunday speak about horticultural matters. This might seem a banal theme but in reality it is a very serious one. In the first reading from chapter 17 of the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord puts an analogy before his people. He will take a shoot from a cedar tree and plant it on top of the highest mountain. It will become a magnificent tree and demonstrate to all that it is the Lord who makes short trees grow tall and humiliates the great trees. The Lord alone governs these matters. Similarly, in the Gospel. Jesus presents two facts from the world of agriculture. When a sower throws seed on the land, the harvest that results has little to do with the qualities of the man who planted it. The seed produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the grain in the ear. Jesus also holds up the example of the mustard seed, which is tiny but becomes the greatest of shrubs.

Jesus uses parables from everyday life because the life of faith has a dynamism that reflects the rhythm of other things in God’s creation
What is his point? At the end of the Gospel we are told: “He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.” There is a sense in which the discourse of Jesus is veiled and is in need of interpretation. The reading from Ezekiel and the parables from Mark point to the fact that life has its own internal mechanism. Life has a dynamic of its own that cannot either be forced or disregarded. The mustard seed does not jump from being a seed to being a great tree in a single stage. It must first produce a shoot and go through other stages before becoming fruitful. And our spiritual life has a similar pattern. Jesus speaks in parables because – as John Paul II explained in a beautiful homily – all of the world is a parable. All of the world speaks to us of what the Lord wishes to accomplish in us. Life in general has a dynamism that parallels the life of faith.

Just as a seed evolves through its various stages, so too our spiritual lives must be allowed to evolve gradually. It is damaging to try to aspire to the spiritual heights before we are ready
The first point is that life belongs to God. It is God who makes the little tree grow great and brings the great tree low. We like to think that we are in control of our existence. We yearn to govern the progress of our lives, but so often we find that the control we seek has slipped away from us. We discover that life has a rhythm that is different to the one that we would like to impose on it. When we seek to rebel against the logic of life – and this is also a very grave bioethical issue - we find that life rebels against us. We have the delirium of thinking that we can govern and manipulate biological life in all of its stages, failing to realize that life has its own internal wisdom that must be respected. The same is true in the spiritual life. Just as a seed must be allowed to evolve through its gradual stages, so too any forced advancement in spiritual matters is extremely damaging. There is an essential gradualism in matters both anthropological and theological. It is not beneficial to take a person and place him in a situation that is too mature for him. The essential point is that we cannot dictate how things must progress; instead our task is to welcome the situation as it naturally evolves. The spiritual life progresses according to a rhythm that is given only by God. It is a terrible thing when we seek to dictate our spiritual evolution ourselves, aspiring to become like Saint Francis in four easy steps. The illusion that we can attain advanced spiritual development in a short time will only lead to frustration. This consideration is even more important when it comes to dealing with others. We must respect the natural rhythm of spiritual progress. It is damaging to expect them to make a particular spiritual step in response to our hurry. Haste does not lead to productive results, neither in biological matters nor in spiritual ones.

The things of God begin simply but become solid and mature, whilst the things that are not of God often begin spectacularly but end in disaster
That which begins humbly leads to something great. And so it is with the Kingdom of God. We tend to seek that which is glorious and victorious, that which imposes itself upon others, but the Lord wills that his designs begin humbly and evolve in step with his rhythm. Say that a farmer wants his tree to produce its harvest two months earlier than usual: anything he does to try to coerce the tree to deliver up its fruit in advance will have little effect; the fruit comes when it comes. The things of God progress according to his timing, whether we like it or not. These things of the Lord are humble but immensely powerful, whereas the things that are not of God often begin impressively but end in disaster. As with the wedding feast of Cana, the things of the Lord reserve the best wine until last, whilst the things of the world are sweet at the beginning and bitter afterwards. The things of the Lord, begin humbly but become solid and fruitful, whilst the projects that are not of God initiate in a spectacular fashion but disappoint at the end. These mundane things do not go towards eternity but towards death. Let us allow our lives to be carried along by the wisdom of God!

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