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Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B
Reading 1 EZ 17,22-24 * Psalm 91 * Reading 2 2COR 5,6-10 * Gospel MK 4,26-34
Jesus has told many parables. We might ask ourselves: how does He make them up? No, Jesus is not making up: He Himself has said that He is always telling us what He has heard from the Father.
In fact we have heard the prophet Ezekiel who is talking about God’s plan: He will take a small branch off a tree to plant it in a high place, a spot well visible to everyone on a high mountain. This small branch will become as well a magnificent tree which will take the place of a forest, and will give shelter to the birds of the sky. Jesus develops this image in some of His parables
Ezekiel has told us that, when God is getting to work, He acts in this way: He takes something that already exists, some of His most weak and fragile creatures, in order to surprise us, to perform His wonders. God has seen that His people did not make His love happen, and therefore He decided to replace it. We understand then that the bud, a new shoot, is Jesus, the Son of David of the tribe of Judah. He will be detached from His people in order to build a new people which will be able to give nourishment, consolation and new life to everyone, to the whole world.
Jesus speaks of a tree and the birds of the sky, the image of which had been already used by the prophets in order to represent all the pagan peoples. He uses these images to put together His parables. God is at work: He is of course using something men did, like sowing and reaping, but then He is the one who acts, brings up and brings to fruition what men have only taken and sown. Therefore, we always expect God’s interventions, who is looking after His children. He is thinking not only of His people, nay, His people have been chosen as His own in order to bring to all peoples the love which He has shown and given it.
The parable of the mustard seed, an insignificant seed, fallen and hidden underground, which becomes a tree useful to everyone, is giving us consolation and hope, beside the certainty of being too God’s gift to the whole world. If we want to understand this parable, we need first of all to think that the small seed which dies in the ground is none other than Jesus, the Son of God. For the very reason that the seed dies, hidden and stepped on, it becomes life and gift for the inhabitants of earth. We are the first to enjoy the richness and the surprise of His life as risen.
Then our understanding widens: we are too, as small flock, small Church, small reality despised by the world, insignificant to our very own eyes, thanks to God’s grace and power, becoming bread for the world. When we suffer rejection or persecution from the world, that is the time for God to accomplish His ineffable plans.
Saint Paul, with the few sentences we have heard from the second letter to the Corinthians, is repeating us the same message. We are in exile, he says, but we do not mind it, nay, we desire to be. If our life looks useless for the world and it is opposed regarding its very desire to become love for everyone, we are growing our hope and our trust. We offer ourselves, and God is using us to accomplish His wonders.
He is the Father and He does not abandon us. He is Father and does not let our suffering to be useless, nay, He uses it so we can become the harvest that is harvested in order to become bread for everyone, and so we become those branches where the people suffering on earth may find solace, shelter and new life. Jesus even says that the birds can build their nest in the shadows on the branches of the mustard tree. The peoples will not become a mustard tree, but they can even make Him happy, as the birds, with their songs and their constant presence. So we too, God’s Church, receive the odd glass of water and many other benefits from people who do not know the Father and the Son.
The Church becomes a place of gathering for everyone, as we can see happening in many occasions thanks to the work of the bishops and the Pope, and thanks to the charity of many missionaries and charity workers.