We have been back in the liturgical season of Ordinary Time since we concluded the season of Easter, but the past two Sundays we celebrated important Solemnities that constitute the core of our Christian faith. This Sunday we are back, so to say, on the regular schedule as we celebrate the 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time and we reflect on the parable of the growing seed.
“Jesus’s parables are not nice entertaining little stories. As Jesus proclaims in the first words he speaks according to Mark (Mark 1:14-15), his mission is to announce the Good News of the kingdom, the reigning and transforming presence of God in his person and words, and call the people to faith and repentance. Like all the parables, the two parables of green and growing things we hear today are words of Jesus that tease us into contemplating our own lives and our response to the kingdom.
In the first parable, Jesus compares the growth of the kingdom to the seed that is planted by the farmer who then retires from the scene into the rhythm of his everyday life. Day and night he wakes and sleeps, while the seed, once sown, has its own potential for growth independent of the farmer. The mystery of growth belongs to the seed and the soil, to the gradual “dispossession” of the hard little seed to the nourishing earth, and its consequent unhurried and gradual growth: first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain. The only activity required of the farmer is vigilant patience. In the dispossession that is his incarnation, even Jesus had to accept some unknowing, some surrender of events into his Father’s hands (Mark 13:32).
Perhaps we have had the experience with children who have planted their seeds in the garden and, excited about the possibilities of the flowers or vegetables to come, must be dissuaded from regular and disastrous digging down into the earth to see how the growth is proceeding! The farmer must wait confidently on God’s good time and providence, and eventually the time of growth and the time of harvesting will intersect. Once we have received the seed of God’s word in the soil of our hearts, we must be ready for the dispossession, the gradual unfolding of the seed’s potential that will push into our consciousness and transform our lives, making us a plentiful harvest and enabling us to become nourishment for others. Because the growth of the seed is God’s secret, it can often happen in what, to our limited human perspective, are the most unlikely places: in the lives of the poor, the despised, the persecuted. This was surely a great consolation to Mark’s community, for this was the reality of their lives. It should give the same hope and confidence to Christians today in our personal, communal, or national situations. What seems humanly insignificant, and even a failure, is transformed by God’s power, just as the seed of Jesus’s life fell into the ground of death to be transformed by his resurrection (cf. John 12:24). This is the great encouragement for disciples as we live between the planting and harvesting into the kingdom of God.
The parable of the mustard seed and its surprising growth is also one of encouragement for struggling communities frustrated or despondent because of what seems the small and insignificant growth of the kingdom of God and its impact on the world around them. Jesus makes use of legitimate poetic license in exaggerating the size of the mustard seed (“the smallest of all the seeds on the earth”) and the bush that grows from it (“the largest of plants”), in order to stress the extravagant and disproportionate growth of the kingdom. That God is in all our beginnings and endings is the great and faithful hope of Jesus’s disciples. The mustard bush, we are reminded, does not exist only for itself, but it offers a welcoming refuge for the birds of the air who nest in its shade. So the Christian community should spread out its branches in welcome to others, especially to those who are enduring the heat of suffering, who are searching either physically or spiritually for some “shade” or sanctuary.
We often find it hard to be at home and comfortable with mystery; there is still the primeval temptation to be like gods, to know everything, to overreach our God-given humanity. That we have Jesus’s word to “explain” to us the deeper meaning of God’s action in our lives and our world, is the privilege of Jesus’s disciples.” (Living Liturgy 2021)
This past Monday we received confirmation from the Chancery Office that as of today (Friday), churches in our Diocese can reopen! At the present time we can accommodate 15% of our seating capacity as per provincial guidelines during the time of pandemic, and with all pandemic protocols in place. Here at St. Francis Xavier we will gather for the Lord’s Day Masses at 5:30PM on Saturday and at 9:00AM and 11:00AM on Sunday. Since we are already into the summer months, the 4:00PM Mass will take a break for the time being. Please note that as we are now allowed to have Masses inside the church building, we will not be having the outdoor Masses that were mentioned in my previous email. Also, our parish office will now be more available to you as of Tuesday, June 15. If you would like to visit the office, please call ahead of time to let us know and we will schedule your visit so you are not left outside waiting in the heat of the day for your turn to come inside.
We are continuing to hold online gatherings on Zoom to help parishioners stay connected during this time when our regular ministries and programs can not take place in person. This week’s gatherings are Coffee With the Clergy on Monday evening, hosted by Fr. Claude and Deacon Carmelo and Pray & Chat on Thursday evening. Please visit the online bulletin for more details, and contact Wes at email@example.com if you would like the Zoom invite for either gathering.
Registration is now open for our summer online activities for students! This summer we will be holding two weeks of an online mini-camp for students entering Grades 3-6 in the fall. Each day of camp will focus on a different saint and will include games, prayer, videos, crafts, and outdoor activities! Kits with supplies will be delivered to campers in advance. Students going into Grades 7 and up can volunteer as leaders!
We will also be having an online evening series for those entering Grades 7-12 called Coffee with Jesus. Through stories from Scripture, videos, small group conversations, prayer, and games, this 4-part series will encourage participants to accept Jesus’ invitation to be refreshed and renewed by their relationship with him!
More information for both of these online activities, as well as registration forms, can be found here.
This week on Thursday we celebrated the funeral Mass for Mrs. Evelina Grilli. Please pray for the repose of her soul and also in your prayers remember her grieving family. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May their souls and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Because we have now reopened, the live-streamed Sunday Mass for those who cannot attend in person will be moving to our regular Sunday Mass at 9:00AM with the Rosary prayed a half an hour before. You are invited to join us virtually for this Mass if you prefer to not yet attend in person.
God bless, everyone.