· Vatican City ·

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time: 16 June

Doing our part and believing in God’s plans

 Doing our part and believing in God’s plans  ING-024
14 June 2024

In this month of June in the northern hemisphere, we move step by step towards mid-summer; let us wander for a moment among the trees. The Word of God for this Sunday invites us to do so. Crossing the River Tiber from central Rome, you can climb to the top of the Janiculum hill, and walk along the avenues of high plane trees that adorn its summit. The prophet Ezekiel tells us how the Lord will take a sprig from the lofty top of the cedar and plant it upon a high and lofty mountain. The purpose, however, is not exaltation: the noble cedar that will grow from the shoot is there to provide welcome and protection. Any person who finds him or herself in a position above others must remember that the temptation to lord/lady it must be constantly resisted: the Lord brings low the high tree and makes high the low tree.

The Gospel today is explicit about Jesus’s method of teaching: he did not speak to them without a parable. Parables touch our imagination by invoking the ordinary things of everyday life and then challenging us to reflect on how they might have another meaning. The Lord moves today in the world of fields and gardens: we have seed and grain and shrubs. The first parable of the two starts with human initiative and dedication: the sower is the one who scatters seed upon the ground. Then begins the slow, steady and mysterious operation of divine grace (he knows not how) that brings all to harvest. As Shakespeare tells us, “Ripeness is all”.

But what might this seed be? The word of God? Good example? An act of generosity? A worthy project well thought out? A piece of helpful advice? There is no need to limit its possible meaning.

The seed in the second parable is very small: the smallest of all the seeds on earth. We might be tempted to think that something so slight isn’t even worth our attention. Yet the inexorable germ of the divine presence in the mustard seed sown upon the ground pushes forth new life, creating the greatest of all shrubs that, like the lofty cedar of Ezekiel, offers welcome, shade and protection.

So what is the Lord telling us in this eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time? To do our part, however small; to live in hope, trusting that he will do his far larger part, even though we cannot always see either the process or the fruits; to believe in his plans of cultivation and growth; and maybe even to enjoy and protect the beauties of the natural world.

By Fr Edmund Power, osb