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Hear the Word! by Bill Ayres: Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time


A reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel
(Chapter 17:22-24)
 
Ancient Israel was a largely agricultural society, so the great Jewish prophets and Jesus himself often used agricultural images and allegories to convey deep truths. Here, Ezekiel uses the image of a majestic cedar tree. “Birds of every kind shall dwell beneath it, every winged thing in the shade of its boughs. And all the trees of the field shall know that I, the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree, wither up the green tree, and make the withered tree bloom.”
 
Ezekiel wants his fellow Jews to know that Israel and all nations will recognize God’s power, as difficult it may be to believe in the face of powerlessness and oppression. “I the Lord, bring low the high tree, lift high the lowly tree.” Sometimes, we may feel like the lowly tree, but God will lift us high. It is a helpful message for us to hear in our troubled world today when we seem threatened in so many ways.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 92:2-3, 13-14, 15-16)
 
“Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” What are you most thankful to God for today, right now? How do you give thanks to God, in word and deed?
 
A reading from the Second Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians
(Chapter 5:6-10)
 
“Brothers and sisters: We are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith not by sight. Yet we are courageous.” It does take courage to walk in faith, doesn’t it? And sometimes our courage weakens, because our faith weakens. It all becomes too much for us, too much suffering, too many disappointments, too many of our loved ones who have died or are suffering, too much loneliness or emptiness. Then, clearly, we need to “walk by faith” and stay tuned in to the power of the Spirit within us who is our partner in life and our guide through the tough times as well as the joyful times.
 
The Holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 4:26-34)
 
This is one of the many seed-growing parables of Jesus. “This is how it is with the kingdom of God, it is as though a man would scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day and through it all the seed would sprout and grow, he knows not how. On its own accord the land yields fruit.”
 
Then later he says, “To what shall we call the kingdom of God, or what parable can we use for it? It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade.”
 
Jesus came to preach the coming of the kingdom of God and he used these agricultural images, because people would understand them. The kingdom starts off small, like a little seed, even a mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds, yet it grows silently, powerfully, and winds up being a tree that can house so many different birds or, in our language, all the peoples of the earth. The kingdom of God has that amazing power to grow from almost nothing to almost everything. You and I are part of God’s kingdom even when we do not sense the power that is right in our midst. It is a power that thrives in weakness, in conflict, in suffering and seeming defeat; yet it does grow in ways we may not have imagined and we are the seeds, we are the branches, we embody the kingdom which comes from the power of the Spirit within each of us.
 
You and I, at our seemingly least powerful moments have that power within us and all around us. The kingdom of God is within us.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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