Gospel Reflections by Father Gerry Pierse, C.Ss.R.

B - 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Mark 4:26-34

The "Mustard Seed" Sunday

The poet T.S. Elliot observed;
It is strange that words are so inadequate.
Yet, like the asthmatic struggling for breath,
so the lover must struggle for words.

When we move into mystery, into what is a meeting of the transcendent and the ordinary, we need words and images to express what is beyond expression. The deepest mysteries are found in relationship - the relationship of God and his/her creatures, the loving relationships between human beings. Sublime though these may be they are experienced in very simple things. A beautiful sunset, a withering plant, a new born baby may give one a glimpse of the mystery of a loving caring God. A card, a touch, a little thoughtfulness may express and deepen the relationship between lovers.

Today's Gospel uses two images about seeds to express the mystery of God's kingdom, the "where God is experienced." In the first parable once the seed is sown the farmer waits for harvest time. The cycle of growth follows its own secret rhythm; how it happens the farmer does not know. Even though nothing much seems to be happening, the miracle of growth is taking place. The farmer cannot improve the crop by staying awake at night and worrying: the seed is nurtured in it's own silence.

This seed is a great image of meditation. In meditation we just rest in silence with our prayer-word and let the growth to harvest take place. We do not know where this gift, this seed, the desire for silence, has come from. The harvest or the kingdom of God cannot be achieved by restlessly seeking instant results. In prayer nothing may seem to be happening but God's harvest comes in his own good time. It is very difficult for many people to believe this. People will ask, "How can you be praying if you are not talking to God?" But prayer is relating to God. We can relate by just being there. This is what a mother does when she watches her baby. This is what you do if you sit by someone who is very sick. Your being there when he or she opens her eyes is a much appreciated silent assurance. It is an expression of love.

In the second parable Jesus compares the kingdom to the little mustard seed that grows into the largest shrub so that the birds of the air can shelter and nest in it. This can be an image of a self-seeking prayer or of a self-giving prayer. Sometimes when we pray we are seeking God's help so that we can be greater than others, so that our kingdom may come. We want to be so great that others will depend on us - that the birds will nest in our branches. However, I think the meaning here is that something so small as our detached prayer can be powerful beyond all expectation in the sight of God.

In both parables the image of the seed is our inadequate way of trying to express the Kingdom as a gift that comes from God. While it comes totally from God it needs tending and caring and reaping by us. It comes from God yet we must respond to it and nurture it. One of my Jesuit supervisors in spiritual direction used to say that the work of the Kingdom is God's work, but we must be careful because we can muck it up. By the way we tend the seed we can nurture it; or we can destroy or get in the way of its growth.

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Taken from Sundays into Silence - A Pathway to Life. Copyright © 1998 by Claretian Publications

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