A reading from the book of the Prophet Ezekiel
Here we are, in the Babylonian Captivity once again. It was one of the lowest, seemingly hopeless periods in the history of Israel, and Ezekiel was one of the exiles. This story about God planting a small branch of a majestic cedar (the famous Cedar of Lebanon) on the top of “a high and lofty mountain” is a metaphor for God bringing hope to Israel even in its darkest hour. That hope could have come only from God.
“Lord, it is good to give thanks to you.” It can happen at any time. You look into the eyes of someone you love. You walk the beach and see a beautiful sunset. You are given a true gift that means so much to you. Or it is nothing so profound. You simply open your heart to God for all God’s goodness, and you give thanks.
A reading from St. Paul's Second Letter to the Corinthians
Saint Paul tells us, “We walk by faith, not by sight.” Have you ever walked into a dark room and were unable to find the light? It can be anywhere from uncomfortable to frightening. You don’t want to fall and risk serious injury, so you move slowly, trying to remember the room and where the light is. Life itself can be like that. You have to make an important choice, a decision that will bear weight in your life and that of others. You cannot see the way clearly. It is a time to avoid a hasty decision, to ask for help from someone you trust, and to pray. Faith rarely comes in a vacuum. It is mediated through people who care about you and mostly through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within you but can become lost in all the noise of your life. Prayer can clear your mind and open your heart to the truth and to the power of the Spirit.
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
Jesus said to the crowd, “To what shall we compare 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 of 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.”
Mark likes seed and growth parables to describe the Kingdom or reign of God. Seed sprouts and grows silently underground, gains strength, and then bursts out of the soil. Once it is planted, it is the work of God.
So too, only God can bring his kingdom. It is a pure gift. We did not earn it. But, as with any gift, we have a choice to accept or reject it. The difference here is that we don’t have only one or two opportunities to accept God’s gifts to us. God is always offering forgiveness and unending gifts to us. We may not think of ourselves as worthy. That does not matter to God who constantly offers us unconditional love and a variety of gifts beyond our imagining—our talents, skills, experiences, and resources. The challenge is for us to accept them and then give them away.
Photo by Josh Erfan Afshari on Upsplash.
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 Ayers was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. Bill was a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.