11th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Simham)
Dear Friends in Christ,
It is only natural that when we hear similes regarding the reign of God, or the Kingdom of God, we translate them into terms of our human experience. We have no other frame of reference. Imagine God reigning, or God’s kingdom. Naturally, we think in terms of earthly monarchs. We see a king or a queen sitting on the royal throne, commanding whatever a king or queen commands. No wonder we see the Father and the Risen Son in royal splendor, with golden crowns and purple robes, holding the scepter of authority. We have seen glorious icons to substantiate that. Is it any wonder that some are eager to cast those in authority in the Church in similar light? Alas.
Recently I was in conversation with a friend who told me how difficult it is for her to remain a believer, not only in the Church of which she has been a part since her infant Baptism, but also in God and the Lord Jesus. Very little is going right in her life. An abusive husband abandoned her. She lost the job she had held for over a decade and that had paid well. Add to the mix a period of poor health that has resulted in a struggle with depression. Where is God in all of this. If God is omnipotent, she asked, why doesn’t God do something about my situation and come to my rescue?
She feels distanced by the church that had been previously the source of comfort and support in her faith struggles.
I listened and empathized. I told her that I did not have easy answers to her questions. I believe that in spite of all the contrary signs, God continues to work in her life and to embrace her with unconditional love. God continues to work in the world to bring about the salvation of all, and to establish what we call the Kingdom of God.
Ezekiel tells us in today’s first reading that God promises to plant on a high and lofty mountain a tender shoot from the cedar tree that will become a refuge for birds of every kind. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high trees, lift high the lowly tree…and make the withered tree bloom. As I, the Lord, have spoken, so will I do.
The Israelites present situation may look dark and even hopeless, but God will oust the oppressors and will restore Israel. There will be wonders again that manifest God’s presence in the midst of the Chosen People.
St. Paul challenges us in today’s reading from his second Letter to the Corinthians. Many of the Corinthians did not admire Paul. They were embarrassed by his diminutive stature and unimpressed by his weak voice and his many woes that they took to be signs that God did not favor him. Paul proclaimed that God seized him in that amazing encounter with Christ on the road to Damascus. The Spirit sent him to proclaim Christ, crucified and raised. Paul challenges the Corinthians and us to live the faith that he taught and to walk in that faith until we come before the judgment seat of Christ.
Hear Paul remind us that God does not judge according to human standards. What is the scandal of the cross to some, in the reality of faith proclaims that God is present to the vulnerable, the weak, the suffering and lifts them up to new life, just as he raises the dead to the fullness of life in Christ. Therefore, we aspire to please (the Lord)…For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may receive recompense, according to what s/he did in the body, whether good or evil.
Jesus teaches with parables. Deceptively simple in language and construction, parables open the doors to the mysterious ways of God. Because their language is ordinary and the images recognizable, they reveal God’s working in the here and now.
It is also true that many of the parables are problematic and cannot be easily resolved. Perhaps it is grappling with those problematic elements that will lead us deeper into the realm of Mystery and the wondrous God who seeks and saves us – even in the dark times.
Farmers might smile as they hear the first parable in today’s gospel. They can appreciate the wonder that happens following the sowing of the seed up to the day of harvest. The sower has no control over the grain’s development. Time must pass before it is ripe and ready for reaping. That is the way faith works. Some may feel helpless as they watch events in the Church and the world. They may blame themselves for not being effective witnesses to the coming reign of God. But the seeds of faith sown in every age take root in people’s lives and mature eventually to full stature. We must live in faith and trust that the promise will be fulfilled.
The second parable is one long and complicated sentence, and for the original audience, very problematic. Most of us do not know that much about the mustard plant. We know about mustard, but not much about the plant that produces it. Those first ones listening to Jesus knew that the mustard plant is a weed that invades fields and wrecks havoc with crops that are planted there. It is not the smallest of seeds. It does not grow to become the largest of shrubs. But it is true that the birds can rest on its branches in its shade.
And the harvest will be great if we live the Gospel and by our lives proclaim God’s love for all. Believe it.
Fr. Showreelu Simham