Sunday, 17 June 2018 : Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday of the Lord, we gather together listening to the word of God through the Scriptures, hearing the readings from the Old and the New Testament, and from the Holy Gospel. In all of these readings lie important teachings and truth about our faith in God. And then, we listen to the priest speaking to all of us, explaining the meaning and the importance of the word of God we have just heard, and how we ought to apply it in our own lives.

This is in essence what we have heard in the Scripture passages we have for this Sunday. In the Gospel passage today, written by St. Mark, we heard the Lord Jesus teaching the people using parables. He told them about the kingdom of God, using the parable of the sowing of seeds and the parable of the mustard seed. But why did Jesus use parables in His teachings?

That is because we have to understand that most of the people during the time of Jesus was illiterate and uneducated. They were simple people, carrying out professions such as farmers, shepherds, fishermen, carpenters, servants, and many others. These occupations do not require them to be able to write or understand complicated philosophies or science. Yet, in each of their professions, they certainly have great knowledge and experience pertaining to their respective professions.

By using the parables, which is actually approximations and summaries of the actual content that the Lord wanted to deliver to the people, something like a metaphor, comparing those content with familiar concepts to each of the professions present at the time of Jesus, such as mentioned earlier, farmers, shepherds, fishermen, and many others.

The parable of the sowing of seeds for example must be familiar to the farmers, as is our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Ezekiel. We should realise that even parts of the Old Testament showed us that God spoke to us through His prophets in terms that are just like parables! He spoke of the kingdom of God in both cases, comparing it to the growing of seeds and the prospering of its branches, bearing fruits and crops ready for the harvest.

The farmers among the people, and even shepherds and others who lived in the community where agriculture was for most, the main staple of the economy and livelihood, will be able to understand better what the kingdom of God is like, by using those parables that the Lord told them. The parable of the mustard seed is also similar in that sense, as they would be familiar to what kind of tree the mustard seed would grow into, a tiny seed that grows into a large and prosperous tree.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now let us all see how God made everything known to us, the truth He had brought with Him and now shared with us. It was mentioned in the Gospel passage today that while the Lord always spoke in parables to the people, but in private He explained everything to His disciples, the Apostles and many of the first leaders of the Church.

And through the Holy Spirit that He sent them, He reaffirmed His truth in them, and gave them the divine Wisdom, that they might be able to preach those same truth to many more people, even after He had died, risen from the dead, and ascended into Heaven, no longer physically walking among us. The Church of God, of which we are a part of, is the custodian of that truth, the Good News that God had revealed to the whole world.

Through the many generations of bishops and priests, the truth present in the Church is kept and passed on, from generation to generation. Our bishops and priests are the successor in the unbroken link of continuity from the disciples of Christ themselves, and therefore, they were the ones who in the Mass, explain the truth espoused in the word of God, the Scriptures, through the homilies as well as through various other catechetical opportunities.

Now, all of us know that the truth of God has been given to us. And we are part of God’s Church. This is in fact, the living and active kingdom of God that the Lord had mentioned in His preaching, that we are part of this kingdom of God. Let us now recall what He has taught us using the parables mentioned just earlier.

The seeds sown in the field represent this truth, the seeds of faith, hope and love that God had sown in us. We are the field of God, the whole race of humanity living in this world. However, seeds need good soil to be able to grow, or otherwise, they will not grow, or else, even if they manage to germinate and grow, they may wither, shrivel up and die.

This is a reminder to each one of us, that our lives must be fruitful and rich in faith. Yes, all of us are sinners, and we have committed in one way or another, deeds and actions that are against God’s teachings. But no one should be sinners forever, and no one was born a saint. Even saints were themselves sinners, but they made the commitment to turn away from their sins, and they repented from the wickedness that came between them and God.

If we are faithful to the Lord, then we will grow and prosper in our faith. This was shown by the Lord through the parable of the mustard seed, in which the small mustard seed could grow to be one of the largest trees in the garden. Sometimes we may be wondering if we are people of little faith, but remember, brethren, that whatever little faith we have in our hearts, we must treasure and cultivate.

How do we do this? First of all, we must show genuine Christian love and compassion in our daily lives. We must do what the Lord has commanded us, that is to love one another just as much as we love ourselves. The problem that many of us currently have, is that our selfishness and pride come in between us and the ability to love as true Christians.

We are often too engrossed in our career, in our pursuit of worldliness, of power, glory, wealth, influence, fame, and many other worldly things that we mankind often crave and desire. It is even quite often that we end up sidelining or cause harm to our fellow men just so that we can satisfy our own desires and wishes. And in the same manner, we end up sidelining God Himself, putting Him far away from our minds and hearts.

How can we then call ourselves as Christians? It is not enough for us to be Christians just by attending the Holy Mass every Sunday. For some of us, we even only come to the Holy Mass during Christmas and Easter. However, what is important is that, when we come to the Holy Mass, we fully immerse ourselves and participate in the Holy Sacrifice offered by the priest at the Mass.

This means that we must be fully centred and focused on God, first of all at the celebration of the Holy Mass, and then, to our own daily lives, every day of our lives. First of all, many of us were regularly present in the Mass, and yet our minds were not filled with the right thoughts and intentions. Some of us grumbled that the priest’s homily was too long, and we could not wait for the Mass to end, before continuing with our own routines.

Is this the love and the faith that God wants each and every one of us to have? No! God wants us to be filled with true and genuine love for God, and this means that we must put God as the priority and as the very focus and centre of our lives. And we do not have to be ambitious, as what is important is the progress we make. Sometimes we are too preoccupied with the results that we forgot to take into account good progress that we have made.

Once again, let us look at the parable, a seed does not grow into a tree in one day. The growth process is slow, but as long as we ensure that the right condition for growth is present, growth will take place for sure. Therefore, it is the same with our faith. We have to nurture our faith, step by step at a time, by doing things little at a time, by extending our love and also forgiveness even to those nearest to us.

We will be surprised at the kind of impact that our little actions may have, but the ripple effect can be enormous. Now, more importantly, let us make the effort to be better Christians, devoting ourselves, our time and attention to the Lord. May the Lord be with us in this journey, and may He strengthen our resolve, and give us the courage to be ever more faithful, day after day, despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter. May God bless us all. Amen.

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