All posts for the month June, 2024

June 16, 2024

Ezekiel 17 22-24 + Psalm 92 + 2 Corinthians 5: 6-10 + Mark 4 26-34

We hear Jesus speaking today about the Kingdom of God. Now, thinking about the Kingdom of God as if it were a place takes us nowhere leaving us unable to hear the parables he uses to speak to us today. It if were a place, how could he ever say: “The Kingdom of God is at hand?” Once we get over that thinking, we can we can begin to understand the work of Jesus and what he says to us today in these parables. That work is to awaken us to the truth that the Kingdom of God is found in the hearts and lives of all who are committed to faithful obedience to God with lives of love, peace, justice, and mercy.

To disciples long ago who felt discouraged by the opposition and apathy they encountered Jesus speaks these parables. To that early church community that may have thought the Kingdom of God was going to break into reality at any minute, Jesus peaks these parables.

Just as then, so now today, these are words are welcome to anyone tempted to give up and give in to growing impatient with this world and those who will follow after us. We have to remember that this Kingdom of God is not some fairytale place of castles and royal courts. It is a life style set on love and mercy rather than geography. So, Jesus uses images from this earth to stir up hope reminding us that once the seed is planted what is required of us patience and a willingness to wait. We cannot make the seed grow. We can only prepare the soil, and then let God do what only God can do, bring life.

The parable serves as encouragement for those who think their efforts for the Kingdom are fruitless, and a warning for those who think they can bring about the Kingdom by their own projects and programs. The Kingdom is God’s work, not a human achievement. God brings about the growth, which sometimes is hard to see. We cooperate, but we cannot control or hasten the arrival of the harvest any more than a farmer can harvest grain in January. Farming and gardening require two things: patience and trust.

It may seem sometimes that the whole world is in the grip of tyrants and thugs, bombers and terrorists, that there is no honor in our civic leaders, that consumerism is consuming us, and that hospitality and plain decency are things of the past. To all of that, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is among us, and it is growing night and day imperceptibly. Just because we don’t see it does not mean it is not happening. If you listen to Jesus, there is a note of triumph in what he has to say about God’s reign because the Kingdom is the eternal plan of God, a gift of God, and a matter of destiny.

We must never think that one life is not enough and that a little bit makes no difference. The parable of a tiny mustard seed says that it does. In voting, in speaking up, in a small kindness or a smile, there are always results. Hear these parables as a summons to hope. They reject despair. They call us all to renew to renew our commitment to mercy, justice, and peace in our neighborhoods, this parish, and our families.

June 9, 2024 This Homily was not delivered at Mass as I am out of the country

Genesis 3: 9-15 + Psalm 130 + 2 Corinthians 4: 13-5: 1 + Mark 3: 20-35

In Mark’s clever style, without getting into the dialogue of these verses, we might pay attention to the way he sets the scene because that is as important as the dialogue. Notice that there are three groups of people in this passage. There are two groups outside who should probably be inside. His family is outside, and I think it’s odd that they are not inside close to him. Somehow, they do not seem able to listen to him either because they are afraid of what others will think about their family or because they are jealous that someone from the family gets more attention than they do. Outside with them are those scribes from headquarters, experts in the Scriptures. Instead of being inside engaged in a conversation with Jesus, they are outside fussing over what they heard others were saying that Jesus said. In the meantime, there is that crowd inside sitting with Jesus, listening for God’s will so attentive that they missed lunch because Mark tells us that it was impossible for them even to eat.

Sometimes with the Gospels it is not always the words that speak to us. In this case, these details give us more than enough to ponder as we are left to think about to which group we belong. If we are inside, I wonder if we would be attentive enough and take Jesus seriously enough to even skip a meal, a golf game, or a long nap. The point is, we need to be inside if we are ever going to hear Jesus and listen for God’s will. If we are outside, we might just be there because we are embarrassed or uncomfortable because we know Jesus and are worried about what others may think or say about us if we go inside. There is also that other group picking at and pushing back because someone is asking them to change or give another thought to what they do, believe, and how they act.

As I think more about this scene, it begins to feel like a description of our own times, and why not? The Gospel is timeless. Mark tells us that Jesus is in his home. For now, and for us, that’s the church. There are lots of reasons to be outside. None of them good. There is also a challenge to those who are inside to pay attention – a lot of attention, always in an effort to understand and fulfill the Father’s will.