God's word on Sunday: We can foster growth of God’s kingdom

  • June 16, 2018

11th Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 17 (Year B) Ezekiel 17:22-24; Psalm 92; 2 Corinthians 5:6-10; Mark 4:26-34

The recent wind storm caused the demise of many majestic old trees in the Toronto area. It is a bit sad to see a tree older than oneself cut up and carted away for firewood. 

A closer and broader look, however, reveals many young saplings beginning their journey towards maturity. Life and death, loss and gain, and growth and decay are all part of the rhythm of life, and this realization can even bring a sense of acceptance and peace. 

Trees are often used in Scripture in a variety of ways. A tree can symbolize strength and longevity. When its roots are sunk deeply into hidden streams of water, its vibrancy and fruitfulness speak of the nourishment of the divine spirit. In Chapter 22 of the Book of Revelation, trees of life grow along the banks of the river of God and their fruit is for the healing of the nations. 

Ezekiel uses the tree symbol to illustrate the way God shapes the nation and its people for the benefit of the world. God takes a small cutting from a mighty cedar and plants and nourishes it Himself. It is separated from its origins and surroundings, so that its growth, and what it is to become, are entirely God’s doing. God’s intent is that it become a noble tree, providing shade and comfort for many. 

This rather vague imagery describes the care that God shows each one of us when we are willing to receive it. We are given the experiences and graces necessary to become compassionate, just and holy people. This empowers us to be a source of blessing, courage and hope for others. 

As with the tree, fruitfulness is all that God asks, but often that is the last thing God receives. Many are dealt difficult hands of cards in this life, but no one can claim to have a losing one. Perfection is not demanded, but being good for something and someone is a sign that we are not totally closed off to God and others.

It may seem at times that we have lost all sense of direction and that there are no familiar signposts to guide us through life. Paul recognized the difficulty but disagreed with the pessimism. Faith is our inner GPS — not doctrines or creeds, but absolute trust in the goodness, mercy and guiding presence of God. 

If we stop to try and figure everything out, we will easily become lost. If we follow the heart — a deep, inner sense of God’s loving presence — we will be led home. True faith is continuing to press on even if the road before us is not all that clear.

Jesus always used similes and metaphors when describing the kingdom of God, for it is something beyond normal human comprehension. As with the sprig from the tree in the reading from Ezekiel, all that is noble, majestic and holy begins with something very small. 

God’s transformation of the world occurs right in front of us. Most of the time we don’t even notice, for we are enamoured with whatever is big and flashy. 

A cynic might ask where God’s kingdom is, for the images bombarding us from the media are filled with darkness, suffering, fear and despair. The very idea of the kingdom of God can seem like a cruel joke at times. We may have the desire to jump in and do something, but what and how? 

Some turn away in disillusionment and disgust and take no interest in our world. Most feel helpless and overwhelmed. We are not a patient people and patience is necessary in the evolution of the human soul and the world. God works 24/7, and the divine plan continues to evolve whether we are present and aware of it or not. 

We need to take a much broader and longer view of the drama unfolding around us. The good that we do today might take generations to grow to fullness. We do not “build the kingdom of God” (as we hear so often) — only God builds the kingdom. We can participate in it and we can foster its growth. 

We do that most effectively by remaining faithful and faith-filled, and exercising unceasing kindness and compassion. 

We are both the sower and the seeds in the redemption of the world. 

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