June 14, 2015 — Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
We return to Ordinary Time today, at least in reference to our liturgical calendar. It is well to reiterate that “ordinary” time does not mean “normal” or common or unimportant time. Every Sunday is a Holy Day of Obligation for us. According to the Church’s Congregation for Divine Worship, there are six liturgical seasons in our Church Year. It begins with Advent; followed by Christmas; then comes Ordinary Time after the Baptism of Christ; Lent; Easter; and Ordinary Time after Pentecost. Various feasts and celebrations may occur on different Sundays and Holy Days in those seasons, but the aforementioned seasons are the keys for our worship. The term “ordinary” only refers to the fact that those Sundays are numbered, not that they are less important.
Today’s readings reflect the importance of our faith and our hope. The prophet Ezekiel wrote during the time of the Babylonian exile (he wrote between 593 and 571 BC). Like his fellow prophets, Ezekiel was able to see more deeply into truth than others. Prophets like Ezekiel see “into the hereafter.” Today’s reading is a poetic vision of the Messiah to come and the promise His coming holds for us. The metaphor of the tree, with Jesus as the branch who will bear fruit, the fruit of salvation, is presented in these verses.
Our second reading is drawn from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. Paul spent as much time in Corinth as he did almost anywhere during his missionary journeys. In some cases he spent only a matter of days and weeks in a place, but in Corinth he spent three lengthy times measured in months and years. Corinth is a coastal city south of Athens, Greece about 40 miles, and was a major city in terms of trade and business activity. It was Paul’s center for missionary work in Greece. Nevertheless, it is, of course, what Paul is trying to teach the Corinthians which is most important to us.
Paul speaks of going “home to the Lord.” Being present with Christ is, in Paul’s opinion, what heaven is all about. That is the reason for our faith; that is why we are filled with hope. “For we walk by faith, not by sight.” Walking may not seem that remarkable to us. It is a relatively common activity for most of us. However, to walk by faith is to take it to another level. It is our faith in the promises of the Lord that occupies our lives each day in everything we may do. St. Paul also intimates that the goal of our lives should be to “please” God. “We aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away.” It is this desire to please God that leads us to lives of discipleship and stewardship and service.
Our Gospel reading from St. Mark naturally connects to Ezekiel’s vision and Paul’s call to faith. There are two parables included in the Gospel: the Parable of the Growing Seed and the Parable of the Mustard Seed. The basic point of the first parable is that we plant seeds, but only God can make them grow. When we virtually “plant a seed” it is our trust and belief in God that makes us confident that it will grow. Only God can make that seed grow and make the result bear fruit. It is that belief which continues to inspire us.
Of course, the Parable of the Mustard Seed follows closely that line of thought. Faith, no matter how small or minute, has the capability of producing great results, not because of us, but again because of the Lord. The Kingdom of God, although perhaps small and unnoticeable in the beginning, becomes great and fruitful. It is our faith that nurtures that Kingdom, and it is our lives of stewardship that can produce incredible harvests.