11th Sunday In Ordinary Time: Cycle B

 
by Fr. Simon
 
1. The publishing industry is an annual multi-billion dollar business. Governments and co-
operations publish hundreds of thousands of pages of reports each year. The book
industry publishes fiction: horror, action, science, fantasy, mystery, and romantic thrillers;
it also publishes non-fiction: biography, history, political science, etc, etc. Not to mention,
the body of literature published throughout history: some of the greatest writings are in
the English language.
 
Yet, the greatest of any of these publications had to begin with something as small as
the 26 letters of the English alphabet.
—Some of the greatest things begin as some of the smallest things—
 
2. This principle is what is behind today’s parable in St Mark’s Gospel about the Kingdom
of God. The mustard seed is among the smallest of all seeds, so small we can hold
1,000 of them in the palm of our hand; we need a magnifying glass to see each
individual mustard seed. Yet when the seed is planted it becomes one of the biggest
bushes that is able to give shelter to the birds for their nests from the sun’s heat. So, too,
the Kingdom of God.
 
Jesus told this parable to the disciples who were becoming depressed about the future
prospects of the Kingdom of God. Thy had joined Him in the hope of a new age, the
dawn of the Messianic Kingdom; yet, there was no sign of Jesus trying to establish an
army to overthrow the Roman occupiers of the Holy Land. In fact, He was going in the
opposite direction—a Kingdom of Peace; and yet the more He preached, the more
opposition grew from the religious authorities, the less likely the Kingdom’s arrival. So,
the Lord told this parable to encourage the apostles: “yes the Kingdom is small, but all
great things begin small, you wait and see, God will make it great” he seemed to be
saying.
 
Mark’s Gospel which we just heard from was written about the year 70AD. Around this
time Mark is Bishop of the Church in Egypt, it is about 50 years since the Resurrection.
The Christians of his community listening to his Gospel can look around the Roman
Empire and see the fulfilment of Jesus’ prophecy in this parable of the mustard seed.
The Church is flourishing in the Roman Empire: in Egypt, the Holy Land, Syria, Turkey,
Greece, and in Italy.
 
By the end of this weekend some 1,000 people will have come through the doors here at
St John XXIII Church. On the day of the resurrection the Acts of the Apostles tell us there
were only 101 followers of Jesus—quite a difference now?! Not to mention all the
Churches here in the Archdiocese of Toronto, Canada, the Americas, and all the Catholic
world. The Kingdom of God has blossomed as promised by Jesus in Mark’s Gospel
today.
 
—God’s Kingdom is a story of small beginnings
in our hearts growing into a great and flourishing Church—
 
 3. One commentator on today’s Gospel tells us that the parable of the mustard seed is also
about conversion of heart. He mentions there are two kinds of conversion: the
conversion of Christ’s enemies and of His friends.
 
Jesus’ enemies, when they receive the gift of grace, of mercy, to turn and repent usually
experience an immediate and shattering conversion. Everything they have believed
and held to be true is suddenly turned upside down and they have to painfully come to
another way of life, another framework of belief. The classic example of this conversion
was the experience of St Paul: so great and so shattering an experience was his
that he was physically blinded for a few days until Annanias, through Christ, healed him.
 
However, when it comes to the conversion of the friends of Christ it is more of a day by
day, minute by minute, hour by hour, week by week, year by year conversion process.
The Kingdom of God grows in their hears slowly and gradually. The example of this
process belongs to two recent saints: Sts. Popes John XXIII & John Paul II beatified this
past Fall. From the time of their infancy they were friends of God, never once leaving
him. They grew in the grace and love Christ to the point where the world could see God’s
Kingdom and its fruits in their lives. Hence their beatification by the Church.
 
A fundamentalist Christian once said to a well-known Christian, “Have you made your
peace with Christ?” That famous person responded, “I did not know I was His enemy”.
 
You and I, are friends of Jesus Christ. We are not His enemies. Perhaps we are not
saints yet but the Kingdom is about the growth of the grace of Christ in our hearts.
 
—From the smallest of things comes the greatest of things—
 
4. This past week I listened to a CD entitled, “The God-Sized Hole”. The presenter pointed
out that humans are among some of the smallest of God’s creatures. A billion of us
could fit into Toronto. That’s how small we are relative to some of the creation; Canada is
way bigger than ourselves, we are minute compared to it; then there are the continents,
the oceans, and the entire planet—we are so small in comparison. The presenter went
on to extend the comparison to our solar system: the millions of solar systems in our
galaxy; the trillions of galaxies in the universe. Yet, our presenter says, not one of these
gigantic creations of God, not all of them together, can fill the “God-sized Hole” in our
hearts. Only the un-created existence, the unlimited God can fill the hole in our hearts.
Only the grace of God satisfies the eternal longing of the human heart. St Augustine put
it well, “Our hearts are restless, until they rest in you”.
 
—One of God’s smallest creations—the human heart—is one of the Divinities biggest creations
when God’s grace is manifested in it, when the Kingdom of God flourishes in it—
 
In a moment, bread—the communion host—will become the body, soul, and divinity of Jesus
Christ. The eternal, infinite God will enter our space and time and limit Himself to this small little
piece of bread for our sakes so that we may filed with His infinite life.
 
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Bible verse of the day

Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.

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